As a foreigner living in Japan, I sometimes get a craving for ethnic food. Sure, when I travel to new prefectures I have to try their local cuisines, but if I happen to stumble upon an interesting looking foreign restaurant, I try to poke my head in their too. Good “foreign restaurants” aren’t that hard to come across, but those that aren’t “Japanafied” are. An example of “Japanafied” is Italian pasta with a squid ink sauce, or pizza with corn and mayonnaise on it. Below I listed some of the best foreign restaurants that I have visited across Japan. They are in no particular order, as the foods at each place are so different, it would be hard to choose.
Pinchos Photo by Katherine Lynch on Flickr
Lizarran is a Spanish Pinchos Restaurant straight from Spain. My one friend studied in Spain for a couple of years, and when she heard that there was a Lizarran in the heart of Tokyo she HAD to go there. I’m glad she decided to take me!
Pinchos are just like tapas except they are on wooden sticks. A pincho consists of a slice baguette skewered together with various toppings. Their pinchos are always changing but some examples of ones that I have seen most often are smoked salmon, tuna and crab salad. Cheeses, stuffed peppers, and a Spanish omelette. They are pretty big, so I can normally only eat about 5 or 6 of them. It’s set up like a buffet. You grab what you want, put your sticks on a metal dish, and when you are finished they charge by the sticks. Long sticks are 280, while short ones are 220.
One of the quirky things about Lizarran are their bells. They make hot pinchos also. When these pinchos are ready to come out of the oven a bell is sounded. Once the bell is rung, waiters come out holding trays with the fresh pinchos on it. They go table to table, and if you want one, you grab it.
Lizarran has an actual menu, that is pretty good, but I would rather fill up on the pinchos. The last thing I love about Lizarran is their sangria. Their sangria is about ¥600 a glass, but unlike most Spanish restaurants, it’s a BIG glass. They also don’t skimp on the fruit. Every time I’ve ordered a sangria from them, it comes filled with fruit. I prefer their red sangria (as I’m a red wine person), but it’s not always on the menu. If you don’t see it as a special, order the white. It’s just as good! Especially because nothing pairs as well with Spanish food like fresh sangria!
Access: Akasaka-Mitsuke Station. Go out of exit 10 and up the stairs. Make a right, and keep going straight. It’s right after the karaoke bar.
El Torito is a great Mexican Restaurant originally from California in 1954. They have been in Japan for over thirty years. This restaurant focuses on typical Mexican food: tacos, burritos, fajitas, and more. Their philosophy behind their dishes is “freshness” and it’s definitely true. I’ve very rarely tasted salsa, and avocado dip as fresh as theirs!
Unlike Lizarran, El Torito is a bit pricey. If you are able to go to lunch (during the weekdays) they have a lunch special which is very cheap. Their dishes at lunch time are around ¥800, and the portions are still huge! I usually get their Macho Combination because you get a bit of everything they have to offer; a hard taco, rice, beans, an enchilada, and a burrito. I also recommend trying their tortilla soup as it is extremely delicious!
Tortilla soup photo by Jazz Guy on Flickr
For drinks they offer margarita’s and a selection of imported Mexican beers such as Corona, Tecate, Sol, and more. I’ve never had room to try their dessert but they offer Mexican flan, mud pie, and postres which all look and sound fantastic.
Phone number: 03-5351-7074
Pepperoni pizza photo by Michael Glazer on Flickr
If you like beer and pizza then Devil Craft is the place for you. Devil Craft began in 2008 when the three owners set out to form their own beer company. Originally they wanted to make a commercial brew for outside sale, but ended up with the idea for a ‘brewpub’. A ‘brewpub’ is a place where beers are brewed in-house and paired with food. They know even have an official brewery in Tokyo!
The pizza served at Devil Craft is Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. The cooks were actually trained on how to make pizza in Chicago, so the taste is legit! They use a base of mozzarella, parmesan, and provolone cheese on their pizza. They top it off with their original house marinara sauce, and just like Chicago pizza, the cheese is on the bottom while the sauce is on the top! It’s all situated on top of a homemade dough. Since they’re deep dish pizzas, they are filling. A large is 8 slices and feeds 2-4 people, while a small is 4 slices and feeds 1-2. They also offer vegan only options too. If you’re really hungry I suggest ordering their Buffalo Chicken Wings. You can choose either spicy or mild. The spicy is American spicy, so it has a nice kick to it. When I’m craving buffalo wings, this is where I come.
If you are still feel munchy afterwards, I recommend you finish off with their Devil’s Decadent Cheesecake. The cheesecake sits atop of a raspberry sauce. The cake is thick and creamy like a cheesecake should be, and is sandwiched between chocolate crumbs. If you weren’t full before, you definitely will be now.
Meat Lovers Pizza
As I said earlier, Devil Craft is known for their brews. They always have daily specials that consist of brews from their own brewery, other American brews, Japanese brews, and European brews. Even if you drink beer, and have tried many different, unique brands, it’s guaranteed you will find a new one here. If you can’t decide which one(s) to try, try their sample platter! Be warned, if you don’t drink, they have a one drink minimum so you must purchase a soft drink.
Vegetarian Lunch plate photo by GetHiroshima.com on Flickr
Otis! is another Spanish style restaurant, this time in Hiroshima, not far from the Peace Park. Otis originally opened in 1987, and is still owned and run by the original husband and wife couple. They are very passionate about their cooking, but also love live music.
During lunch you can get an organic-healthy vegetarian (or non-vegetarian) Tex-Mex lunch set for around 800 yen. Lunch is run from 12-3, and consists of options such as chili, enchiladas, nachos, tacos, and guacamole. In Japan, it’s hard enough to find vegetarian food, let alone cheap ones, so this is a great option! I got a chance to talk to the owner when I was there. I had went for an early dinner, and we happened to be the first people there. He was telling us how he and his wife loved America, and American food. He and his wife wanted to learn how to cook the freshest food they could, so she studied Spanish cooking. Everything here is fresh and homemade, even the taco shells!
TheBazile on Flickr
The couple also is crazy about music. At least twice a month there are live music events held here by indie bands that play anything from classical Japanese, Blues and Rock music. You can tell that even these artists love Otis! As there are drawings, and writings on the walls with sharpie from each artist. This is a restaurant where you don’t see people on their phones waiting for their food, as the writing on the wall is interesting enough to keep you distracted.
From Hiroshima station take bus number 24 and get off at Koseinenkin-kaikan stop. Or walk south for 5 minutes from the Peace Park.
Andrew Hyde on Flickr
Walking into this restaurant I felt a sense of nostalgia. It’s reminiscent of a classic American Diner, that you can see in American movies. They have knick-knacks placed throughout the store of old American toys and signs. That mixed with a good chunk of foreign clientele, makes you feel like you’re in America.
In Japan, a typical hamburger dish is not a sandwich but rather a meatloaf-like piece of meat. This is a burger, formed into a steak (like meatloaf), with gravy, and served without a bun. This, while delicious, isn’t the same as having a hamburger. Unless you go to McDonalds, or Burger King, it’s hard to get an American style burger. S.B. Diner does not disappoint with their burgers!
Jeff Boyd on Flickr
They have a couple of different choices, my favorite being the Blue Cheese burger. Ranch is a very popular dressing in Japan, but I’m a blue cheese fan, and it’s a bit harder to come across here. When I heard they had a fresh blue cheese burger I had to try it, and it did not disappoint! They didn’t skimp on the blue cheese at all! You can choose from a small size or a large size. Both come with a side salad and potato wedges. I chose the large, but it was too much for me! The burger was huge (I had to squish it down to be able to take a bite), and a lot of fries were left. If you’re not a fan or blue cheese or cheese in general, you can get a regular burger, and even an avocado burger!
The place itself isn’t so easy to find. It’s located in a tall narrow building on the second floor. There’s a small blue sign to signal that it is there. There are only a few tables, and the place is always full, so I recommend getting there early. By the time you’ve waited and are seated you will be ready to eat!
Phone: 81-78-391-8577 (Be warned they are closed on Mondays)