When was the last time you dared yourself to eat something out of your comfort zone? If you’re anything like me, you’ve strictly avoided eating food that looks slightly unappetizing or risky for the past couple of years. While there’s no shame in that if you’re willing to shake things up for once, eating a pufferfish may be an option. The pufferfish, “fugu” in Japanese is a notoriously poisonous fish that contains tetrodotoxin, a harmful neurotoxin in its organs. What does this mean? It means that if you eat an improperly prepared pufferfish, it could cause paralysis and in the worst case scenario, can result in death.
In spite of all the danger involved with eating the pufferfish, it is a traditional delicacy in Japan that has been enjoyed for hundreds of years. To this day, the pufferfish is favored by many in Japan, not necessarily because of the thrill that comes with eating a poisonous fish, but more so because of its taste. Many enthusiasts rave that it offers a flavor and texture like none other. To try the pufferfish in Japan, you have to go to a restaurant with a licensed chef. Mastering the art of pufferfish is no easy task as even a single minor mistake can lead up to a catastrophic result. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker at heart or a risk-averse person, I highly recommend you to weigh out the pros and cons before committing to savor this risky fish. If you’ve decided to go ahead and try the pufferfish, here are 10 restaurants that serve exquisite dishes in Tokyo.
1. Fukuji – Ginza
Everyone knows that Ginza is the place to hit up when you’re feeling luxurious and this can be said about the dining experience as well. Considered as one of the best restaurants that specialize in the pufferfish, you can’t possibly miss out on this spot. Fukuji exclusively serves pufferfish from the Bungo channel, which is located between Kyushu and Shikoku. While they serve an array of dishes, you can’t go wrong with their fresh sashimi. The dishes at Fukuji come with a hefty price tag, so make sure you come here with extra money in your wallet.
Address: 5-11-13 Ginza Chuo, Tokyo
2. Sawaichi – Ginza
Serving a range of top-notch Japanese traditional dishes, it’s no surprise that people can’t get enough of this place. This is a great place to stop by, if your dinner companion isn’t keen on trying out pufferfish (Bummer, but it happens), but you are. With dim lights and a luxe-looking counter, the restaurant’s decor is on fleek. Oh yeah, did I mention that the food here is top-notch?
Address: 1F, Main Stage Roppongi, 3-9-11, Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
3. Kikuchi – Yuzawa
Not willing to throw in big bucks for your pufferfish dining experience? That’s okay, Kikuchi’s got you covered. Offering pufferfish from prices as cheap as ¥3,500, it’s no wonder why this place is constantly packed. The cheap price tag and satisfying dishes are what attracts many fans. Beware to make a reservation several months in advance, as the place is very popular.
Address: Ueno 1-12-2, Tokyo
Is it just me? Or is there something promising about a store that’s been running since the Meiji period. While many restaurants have come and gone, Tentake is still loved by many. Sourcing all their food from Tsukiji fish market, the heart of the Tokyo kitchen. Tentake is known for high-quality ingredients. Constantly experimenting with myriad ways of serving the pufferfish, at Tentake, you’ll find unique menus such as pufferfish salad or pufferfish nugget. One of their popular menu is a rice bowl topped with deep-fried pufferfish and let me tell you, it’s a true delight.
Address: 6-16-6, Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
I know what you’re thinking: it’s a restaurant chain, how can it be any good? You’ll be proven wrong as this restaurant chain exclusively serves tiger pufferfish, which is considered to be the “king” of pufferfish. It’s no secret that pufferfish dishes are pricey, most restaurants charge up to ¥30,000 for a full course. However, Torafugutei manages to serve a full course under ¥7,000 complete with a dessert. Now, isn’t that a deal that’s hard to pass up on?
Phone: King Bldg. 1F, 5-6 Maruyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
If you’re willing to treat yourself to an upscale restaurant, Izumi is your place. With a Michelin star under its belt, this place has been garnering attention from foodies. The prestigious restaurant is famous for their specialty zosui, a Japanese rice soup similar to congee. Fully absorbing the extract of the fish, their zosui is absolutely heavenly.
Address: 6 −11−11, Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo
Running for over six decades, Kichisei has continuously provided customers with seasonal delicacies. Changing their menu and tableware every month, Kichisei is all about keeping things fresh and evolving. A 3-minute walk from Ningyocho station, this is a great place to stop by if you’re in the area.
Address: 2-21-5, Nihonbashiningyocho Chuo, Tokyo
The tasty grilled soft roe served at Koyanagi is the ultimate draw of this restaurant. Located in Azabu, the quaint place gives off a warm and nostalgic vibe, making it the perfect place to have dinner after a stressed day at work. Also, while you’re there don’t forget to try their hirezake, a unique type of sake made out of fried pufferfish. (I know a little scary, but definitely worth a try)
Address: 1-5-3 Azabujuban Minato Tokyo
If you’re really into pufferfish, it doesn’t get better than Yamadaya. The Michelin star is internationally acclaimed as a hallmark for quality cuisine. Many chefs devote their entire lives to win one Michelin star, but three? Winning a Michelin three-star is similar to spotting a unicorn ーit’s the impossible. Boasting a Michelin three-star, having a meal at Yamadaya is a true honor for any customer. Take one bite and you’ll experience the craftsmanship that is dedicated to their meals.
Address: B1F, Fleg Nishi Azabu Vierge, 4-11-14 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Out of all the restaurants on the list, Meuga may come across as the most mysterious. Located in the residential area of Shirokane, walking into Meuga feels like a secret hide-out. Meuga doesn’t accept any first-time customers to their restaurant. No, it doesn’t matter if you attempt at making a reservation, you won’t be allowed to join the club until you come with someone that has previously dined here. While this whole concept may seem like a catch-22, it’s totally worth going your connections to find someone that can let you in. Unlike most pufferfish joints, Meuga serves up thick pieces of sashimi, allowing you to truly appreciate the flavor of the fish.
Address: 1−13−5, Shirokane, MInato, Tokyo