Tokyo has 226 Michelin-starred restaurants, more than any other city in the world
Last month, Saveur magazine named Tokyo the "world's best food city"
Chefs say excellent produce and a commitment to excellence are behind Tokyo's culinary success
When it comes to global culinary centers of excellence, one city stands head and shoulders above the rest: Tokyo.
The Japanese capital’s got a mind-blowing 226 Michelin-starred restaurants, leaving it light-years ahead of its nearest rival, Paris, which has a mere 94.
If you think it’s all kaiseki, sushi and teppanyaki however, think again. Many of the restaurants chosen by Michelin are European, with no fewer than 50 Tokyo-based French restaurants holding at least one star.
Another endorsement for Tokyo came when Saveur magazine named it the “world’s best food city.”
While that’s always going to be a contentious call, there’s definitely a dedication to excellence in Japanese kitchens, whether in five-star hotels or humble alleyway “yokocho” noodle shops. So what makes this city such a dining powerhouse?
We asked seven renowned chefs and restaurant insiders to reveal what they think makes the city a Michelin-starred destination:
1. Thierry Marais, Ritz Carlton Tokyo
“You have so many restaurants here – many of them tiny, with just eight or 10 seats – specializing in everything from sushi to teppan, tempura or kaiseki,” says executive chef Thierry Marais, who recently hosted some of the world’s most celebrated chefs at the Ritz-Carlton Asia-Pacific Food and Wine Festival.
“The people working there often own the places and have very few employers – because they know exactly what they’re doing. There’s a consistency and the quality is there day in, day out because they are there day in and day out.”
Marais says size is on their side as well.
“There’s an advantage over restaurants in Europe where there are 50 or more diners in one service, where consistency becomes more challenging,” he says. “A lifetime isn’t long enough to begin to understand the restaurant scene in Tokyo. So many buildings have multiple stories, each with multiple restaurants on each floor. That’s what frustrates me as a chef, that I’ll never be able to try them all!”