Zagat updates guide to Tokyo’s best eateries

by Mark Mccord

Not a single local-cuisine restaurant appears in the 10 top eateries of this year’s Tokyo Zagat Survey, the annually updated eatery guide that many in the West consider the diner’s bible.

The survey of more than 3,000 restaurants throughout the city placed establishments serving French, American and Chinese cuisine above the highest-ranked Japanese restaurant.

This year’s update was launched in early February in New York, where the guide’s publishers, Tim and Nina Zagat, direct their worldwide food and nightlife surveys.

“It shows just how cosmopolitan Japanese tastes are,” Tim Zagat said at the book’s launch in a Japanese restaurant off Times Square. “We in America like to think we have pretty liberal tastes when it comes to where we eat, but we obviously have nothing on the Japanese.”

The top two places remain unchanged from last year: the Park Hyatt’s New York Grill and Ebisu’s Taillevent Robouchon, both of which serve French cuisine. The highest-ranked Japanese restaurant was the Sushi-say chain of sushi bars, which can be found all over the city.

The guide rates restaurants according to the quality of food and service, price and atmosphere.

Japanese restaurants fared better when it came to the quality of food. In this category, local outlets took eight of the top 10 places. Heading the list is Akasaka’s tempura temple Raku-tei.

Zagat surveys restaurants in cities all over the world, including London, New York and Paris. The Tokyo 2001 survey is the second conducted in the Japanese capital. Because restaurants are rated by volunteer diners who pay for their own meals, Zagat is considered more objective and authoritative than many other restaurant guides.

This year’s Tokyo survey, carried out by an army of 3,417 local surveyors, threw up some interesting facts about Tokyo eating habits.

“Most interestingly it showed that more Japanese eat out than anyone from any other city we have surveyed,” said Tim Zagat.

Zagat attributes much of that discrepancy to the longer hours Japanese workers spend in the office.

“It means people just don’t have the time to wait until they get home to eat. They prefer to eat near where they work or in town.”