photo credit: Frank Maddocks
Welcome to Perfect For, an Infatuation series of ultra-specific restaurant recommendations from people around town you don't know personally, but might wish you did. Today, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda shares some of his favorite spots in Tokyo.
Even if it doesn’t feel like it’s been two decades since you first heard “Numb” blaring out of your Walkman headphones, we’re here to tell you that Linkin Park’s Meteora is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
After touring around the world with the band for years, co-founder Mike Shinoda has spent enough time in cities like Tokyo to have his own list of go-to restaurants. He spent his childhood eating California-Japanese food, and some of his favorite Tokyo spots serve both familiar and distinctly different dishes than what he grew up with.
On his last trip, he also got to try his favorites with his family. “This was our first trip to Japan that my kids will remember, so part of it was doing stuff with them that they would like. Half of these restaurants were spots the kids loved as well.” Check out his recs below, perhaps while you listen to his latest song on your 21st century streaming device.
Kyushu Jangara Ramen
“If you go to Tokyo and you don’t go to Harajuku, then you’ve totally missed out. There are experiences completely unique to Tokyo, like Goro’s Jewelry, where people will wait three hours in line to go into a room the size of your bathroom to buy some silver jewelry.
Right next to Goro’s is a little stairway that leads to Kyushu Jangara Ramen. They open around 11am and there’s always a line. The place only seats maybe 20 to 30 people, but it moves relatively quickly, which is great if you’re just going for a bite.
When I get ramen in the US, I usually don’t love the pork. But at this place, the pork is almost better than the ramen. I haven’t had anything there but the standard ramen—every time I’ve gone in, I’ve said, ‘This time I’m going to try the miso,’ and then I don’t do it, because I smell the standard ramen and I go, ‘I can’t—it’s too good.’”
“In Japan, everything is about the subtlety of the preparation. People work for years to make incremental differences between their dish and the way anybody else does it. Maisen is known for that, specifically for their tonkatsu.
It’s a great place to take kids. It’s not hard to get a reservation, but you do need one or you’ll be waiting in line. There’s almost a Disneyland-style queue that snakes back and forth, but you can also buy it at the window outside and take it with you. It’s very nice with the family and not too fancy, and I always buy a couple bottles of their sauce when I leave.”
“I have a really funny story about this restaurant. My wife will be embarrassed, but I’ll tell you anyway. On the plane, she saw a Japanese businessman drinking this cocktail, and she asked the flight attendant what it was. She says it’s called umeshu, a plum drink, and brings one to her.
A few days later we’re at Seryna, and Anna ordered the umeshu. The server’s eyes got big and she paused before we did the rest of the order. We get our appetizers and food but the drink shows up really late.
The next day, we mentioned it to our friend, and she started laughing hysterically. She said, ‘Well, you were at a very nice restaurant, and they certainly didn't have it. So what happened was the server took your order, gave it to the kitchen, went down to 7/11 or something, brought it back, and made it herself.’ That is very Japanese, by the way, and also shows you a little bit about the kind of service you get at Seryna.”
“Zakuro is a shabu shabu place in Ginza. You can eat at a table in the main hall, or you can do private dining. The private dining in Japan is really, really cool. They have these little doored off, walled off spaces. You take your shoes off and the seating is down at floor level.
Shabu shabu is traditionally a very homestyle kind of cooking, where you have a hot pot in the middle and you boil your meats and your vegetables and everybody shares.
This place is a little nicer—they’ve got a really cool presentation where the server will come in and do it for you or teach you how to do it. It’s interactive and very fun, and if your kids are old enough that you’re not worried about them accidentally burning themselves, it’s awesome to do with them.”
“If you want a little break from Japanese food, the two other types of non-Japanese food in Tokyo that are done well are Italian and Chinese. Tohryu presents as a very homey, nice Chinese restaurant, but there’s a certain care to the way they would take care of you. They were so attentive to every little detail, like the kids wanting to try this or that. They have a stir-fried sweet and sour shrimp that’s a bit sweeter and gooier, which is why I knew the kids would like it.”