My initial reaction to selecting my favorite Japanese seemed like a quick and easy decision. As it turns out, it is not and blog posts are supposed to be short. And there are so many excellent dishes in Japan. If you consider presentation, I believe no food anywhere in the world rivals Japanese food. So, over the years of traveling to Japan numerous times, here are my absolute top favorites:
Nigiri Sushi - Amaebi (raw sweet shrimp sushi) and almost any other type of Sushi
Miso Ramen with everything. If you are in Tokyo, try Hokuto (3 Chome-21-6 Shinbashi, Minato, Tokyo)
Unagi (or even better, the rarer Anago) on rice
Yakitori when sitting right across the grill and the senior chef
Then there were the restaurants that my Japanese ex-father-in-law (RIP) enjoyed. One was near his offices in downtown Tokyo (near Kanda and Akihabara) and served only tongue dishes (not tongue in cheek, but actual cow tongue). Its an unusual concept in the Western world to have a restaurant focus on only one particular meat category, but it makes them absolute masters in their specialty. That tongue restaurant serves an incredible number of variations of that single part of a cow (including raw, seared, stewed – unbelievable BTW, grilled, preserved, etc.). Best of all, like a lot of Japanese restaurants, it is not pretentious (despite the quality of their dishes and their service).
The other one was a family restaurant very near the Fujisawa train station (way South of Tokyo but close to his home). That's where they served Japanese comfort food (varying by season). The highlight there was the Aji (a Jack mackerel) served as sashimi. They take a live one out of the tank, filet it super fast, and serve it with spring onion, ginger, and soy sauce on top of the filleted fish. That is the definition of fresh when the fish still shakes on your plate. Not everyone's taste, of course, but impressive nevertheless.