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It’s pointless to engage in any debate about which city has the best food without mentioning Tokyo.
Tokyo is the answer I give when friends and I kick around the question, Where would you live for the rest of your life solely for the food? Why? Because Japan as a country is devoted to food, and in Tokyo that fixation is exponentially multiplied. It’s a city of places built on top of each other, a mass complex of restaurants.
Let me rattle off the reasons why Tokyo beats all other cities:
It has more Michelin stars than any other city in the world, should you choose to eat that kind of food. I’d argue that some of the best French food and some of the best Italian food is in Tokyo. All the great French chefs have outposts there. If I want to eat at L’Astrance, I can go to Tokyo and eat it with Japanese ingredients. The Japanese have been sending their best cooks to train in Europe for almost sixty years. If you look at the top kitchens around the world, there is at least one Japanese cook in nearly every one.
Japan has taken from everywhere, because that’s what Japanese culture does: they take and they polish and shine and they make it better. The rest of the world’s food cultures could disappear, and as long as Tokyo remains, everything will be okay. It’s the GenBank for food. Everything that is good in the world is there.
If I want to have sushi, there’s no better place on the planet. All of the best fish in the world is flown to Tokyo so the chefs there can have first pick of it—whether it’s Hokkaido sea urchin or bluefin tuna caught off of Long Island, it all moves through Tsukiji fish market before jokers in any other city get a crack at it.
If I want to have kaiseki, there are top Kyoto guys who have spots in Tokyo, and they’re pretty fucking good. If I want to visit places dedicated to singular food items, from tempura to tonkatsu to yakitori, they’ve got it all. They have street food, yakisoba, ramen. They have the best steakhouses in the world. They have the best fucking patisseries in the world. The best Pierre Hermé is in Tokyo, not in fucking Paris. You know why? Because of the fucking Japanese cooks. I can eat the best food in subways, I can eat the best food in the train station, I can eat the best food in the airport. It’s the one place in the world where I have to seek out bad food. It’s hard to find.
They have no stupid importation laws; they get the best shit. Europe exports their best shit to Japan, because they know the Japanese have better palates than dumb Americans. It’s true. Go to the local department stores and buy cheese. It’s amazing.
The produce is the best. It’s the best in the world, in my opinion. I’d argue Japanese produce is the best because it’s not the equivalent of a beautiful dumb blonde who just looks great. It looks great and it’s got brains. From root vegetables on up, somehow they just grow the best shit.
The best chicken in the world, the best eggs in the world, the best beef in the world (if you like that kind of beef). Shit, the McDonald’s there still cooks their french fries in beef fat. It’s awesome.
I can craft a great meal from convenience stores. A fantastic meal. From properly made bento boxes, to a variety of instant ramen, to onigiri, to salads, to sandwiches, it’s all really good. The egg-salad sandwiches at all the convenience stores are amazing. All the fried chicken, delicious. The chain restaurants, amazing. KFC, Pizza Hut, TGI Fridays, Tony Roma’s, you name it. I’ve been to all of them. Guess what? They’re all awesome. You know why? They care a little bit more. That’s it. They just make better fucking food than anywhere else. It’s awesome.
Now let’s keep it interesting by switching and going over the cons. There really are only a few.
There’s no real Southeast Asian food that I know of. But guess what, I’m not looking for it. If it exists, it’s probably really good. That’s what you need to understand: generally, everything in Tokyo is better than what you can have anywhere else.
They don’t really have slices of pizza. But guess what New York doesn’t really have much of anymore, either? Slices of pizza. Tokyo does have pizza, though. Their Italian food is great.
Tokyo doesn’t really have Spanish food. But you know what I don’t ever really eat? Spanish food. I don’t have to eat paella ever again. Spain’s a country I like to visit, but we’re talking about foods that I generally eat or I want to eat on a day-to-day basis.
I genuinely don’t give a fuck about any other place on the planet. I just want to go to Tokyo to eat. Look at the other food cities in the world, such as Paris. Can’t live there, because I don’t want to eat only French food. It’s great for a week and then you know what I want? Anything but French food. Same thing with Italy and Italian food. I think it’s got to be the most boring food culture in the world. For fuck’s sake, can you eat anything besides fucking pasta?
You know what I eat in New York? Japanese food. And Japanese food that’s based on what’s in Tokyo. I save money to go to Masa. I don’t understand why this is even a question in the Versus Issue. Everyone else should just bow down. Tokyo is like the Borg, because they take from everyone else and they make it better.
Everyone who argues for anyplace that isn’t Tokyo is saying Salieri was a better composer than Mozart. No. Fucking. Way. It’s like arguing that there was a better basketball team in 1992 than the Dream Team. It’s not even worth anointing a second-place winner—it’s ridiculous.
Maybe you’re wondering, If you like it so much, why don’t you open a restaurant there? I’m scared. It would be like being the best basketball player on a European team. I’d feel like Toni Kukoč getting on the court with Pippen and Jordan and being like, Oh, this isn’t fun. I suck. That’s my great fear. It’s not like swimming with sharks. I’d probably be the shark coming to Tokyo. But little fish eat sharks in Tokyo.