Japan has to be one of the most exciting places in the world to eat. There are so many perfectionists here who do one thing very well, and have been doing so for generations. Everyone is so dedicated; I can't name anyone who's done one thing for generations in our industry in Australia.
We settled on Japan to open The Apollo because if you can do it there, you can do it anywhere. I'd visited several times with the chefs and we did a lot of research for Cho Cho San. Since we've opened The Apollo we can be in Ginza working on a Greek menu and, at the same time, gather Japanese inspiration for Cho Cho San. It's a good flow. Every time we're there we see something new; maybe new cooking techniques, like the way they use charcoal, or something brand new at the market.
Ginza, which is in the heart of Tokyo, is more spread out than other areas, more of a business district. It's close to the fish markets and there are plenty of izakayas under the train stations, which stay open until five in the morning, but there are more formal Michelin-rated restaurants as well that wind up around 10pm, so it's a good mix. You can have a really good meal for $5 or $150 - it's very diverse. In some areas you feel like an alien, it's so incredibly different, but it's great to feel that. I love it.
Here are a few of the places I've discovered that I like the most:
Hashigo for ramen
Hashigo is all about dan dan ramen, a spicy ramen style based on China's dan dan noodles. There's a choice of roast pork, fried pork, chicken or vegetarian with a spicy sesame or soy broth and three levels of heat. My favourite, though, is the cold spicy sesame noodles.
8-10-7 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo
Yajima for sushi
This spot isn't actually in Ginza, but in Shibuya. It's a sushi bar that's been around for 52 years. The husband does all the fish, his wife cooks the eggs and rice. It's very fast paced, to the point where you're told to hurry up if you're not eating fast enough. You have a choice of nine or 12 pieces and you are in and out in 15 or 20 minutes, paying around $40 all up. The secret of the house is ageing the fish.
1 Chome-26-31 Higashi, Shibuya, Tokyo
This is a little izakaya with room only for about 12 people. You have to stand to eat and the guys prepare everything in front of you. My favourite dish is the koshihikari rice with egg, parmesan and seasoned soy.
8 Chome-4-17 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo
Narutomi for soba noodles
At this soba and tempura restaurant, the soba noodles are made in-house twice daily. The tempura selection consists of seasonal vegetables and seafood, and this place is absolute perfection. You'll need to be introduced by a member to get into the restaurant, however - we were rejected the first time we went.
Futaba Bldg, 1F, 8-16-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Ginza Music Bar
Here is a fun little nightclub with different DJs playing every night - all vinyl - great drinks, very small.
7 Chome-8-13 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo, ginzamusicbar.com
The Apollo Ginza, 11F, Tokyu Plaza Ginza, 5-2-1, Ginza, Chuo-ku Tokyo, theapollo.jp