A Tokyo Mexican Restaurant Primer

The last thing you’d expect to be eating in Tokyo is Mexican food. In the greatest culinary capital of the world, inundated with myriad options of all types of Japanese food, curious oddities from other parts of Asia, Thai, Chinese, Indian, and Singaporean food as good and authentic as the best found in those countries, why would any foodie consider eating food from Mexico?

Well, believe it or not, there are some crazy folks who, after living in Tokyo for so long, crave other types of sustenance. For those spicy-searching creatures, I’ll take a quick look over Tokyo’s Mexican restaurants. Please don’t be too depressed. You couldn’t have expected Oaxaca.

La Fonda de La Madrugada – Harajuku

Harajuku station: Jingumae 2-33-12-B2.

This Disney-esque mock up of what they want you to believe Mexico looks like will make you vomit. [ed: That was eloquently put.] This mistake of a restaurant is what happens when a developer decides that interior design is more important than food quality and service. Who cares if half the dishes are just tasteless doughy/meaty things soaked in canola oil? At least it’s festive! While the menu is certainly more diverse than most of the local Mexican joints, the food is all saturated in grease, the waiters are untrained, slow, and uninformed, and the food, well… if a waiter doesn’t spill a plate of it on your lap (this happened to my friend), and they don’t charge you for multiple plates that were never ordered (this happened to my other friend), and they don’t mess up your order and bring you other dishes (this has happened to almost everyone I know), the food will probably make you vomit all over Omotesando Street (this happened to me). Still, the mariachi band is nice.

La Jolla – Hiroo

03-3442-1865. http://www.la-jolla.jp/

Hiroo Station: Hiroo 5-16-3, Koyasu Bldg. 2F.

We award our La Jolla our Runner-up prize. A relative newcomer on the Mexican scene, and located in the foreigner haven of Hiroo, La Jolla has in freshness what it lacks in style. The food, while approaching Junkadelic’s grandeur, is served drably and people often complain of feeling like they are eating in an office building. In terms of offerings, it seems like they photocopied Junkdelic’s menu, though they get props for deciding to add more variations, like fish tacos. We expect that as La Jolla grows up, it will focus on its ambiance a bit more, for although the food gets high marks, the complete dining experience is still lacking that bit of excitement.

Junkadelic – Nakameguro

03-5725-5020.  http://junkadelic.jp/

Naka-Meguro station: Kami-Meguro 4-10-4. Open 6pm-2am.

One of the only palatable Mexican restaurants in Tokyo, Junkadelic shines as a (not-so) hidden gem in the backstreets of Nakameguro. Frequently full of the salsa-seekers and huge-ass-margarita sippers of Tokyo’s international community, Junkadelic retains the position for the second year as Tokyo Foodie’s Mexican Restaurant of the Year! The chimichangas, fajitas, and burritos are large, fresh, and affordable and though some complain about the authenticity of the cuisine, the taste more than compensates. Start with a large order of nachos, try a few GIGANTIC and strong margaritas (in flavors locos likeguanabana and mora), order a main dish or 3, and make sure you ask for chipotle salsa – it’s not on the menu, but they will smile their devious smile when you ask, and it will be the wings on your new-found Mexican angel. Junkadelic was started by a Japanese guy who lived in San Diego, traveled around Mexico, and couldn’t find any acceptable Mexican cuisine when he returned to Tokyo. Theinside is decorated like a Mexican courtyard during a family reunion, and they project skateboarding videos on the wall, acompanied by **not-cheesy** mexican music.

Other Ones

I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but there really isn’t that much edible Mexican food in this city. There are other places to be sure; Corporate places based on plasticized Tex-Mex upscale Taco Bells line Roppongi and Shinjuku (La Fiesta, El Borracho, El Patio, Salsita, Rosario) and overpriced attempts at Fancy Mexican Food (The new La Colina in Tokyo Midtown, opened by the aforementioned Fonda De La Madrugada, and just as under-performing, though costlier).

We tried to warn you. It’s not our fault.

We came here for the sushi anyway.


27 responses to “A Tokyo Mexican Restaurant Primer

  1. I must agree La Fonda de la Madrugada SUCKS!
    please don’t go.

  2. La Jolla has been around at least 10 years, much longer than Junkadelic. Also, they sell home-made tortillas to go. A nice addition. I agree with the rest of the review though. I’ve heard there is a nice Mexican restaurant in Daikanyama, and also a popular one in Ogikubo that should be added to the review. Peace

  3. El Rincon de Sam in Ebisu is a great Mexican restaurant. The food is good, and they have reasonable prices and live Mariachi too.

  4. Try salsita in Hiroo or La Fondita in Harajuku…both are pretty good imho.

  5. La Jolla has amazing tasting food and very friendly atmosphere, strongly recommended!

  6. How could you have left Mexico Lindo (down a little side street accross from the ANA hotel) out of your list of good mexican places? It is the best in Tokyo with world class refried beans, amazing spare rib tacos and killer margaritas to name but a few items from the menu.

  7. hey,
    just fyi there´s a very authentic mexican restaurant in sangenjaya “mecha libre”(2 stations on the denentoshi from shibuya)!
    the food is awesome, and the margaritas are fabulous!
    this place is also run by “real” mexicans 😉


  8. Im glad you mentioned Rosario as being crap. I went to that place when it opened in Jyugaoka a couple years ago. Terrible. There is another place in Jyugaoka that is a taco bar of sorts. It is also not so great. Fairly expensive and the margaritas are tiny, like shot glass tiny.

  9. La Jolla has been here since the 80’s. I ate there in 1990 and never went back. Maybe the food was ok but the owner and staff were the rudest. It was a real shock. Never went back and still give them the bird everytime I walk by.

  10. My wife and I ahve been looking for mexican restaurants in Tokyo for so long!

    We only found Zest in Odaiba… it was OK.

  11. Has anybody tried the new Mexican restuarant in Azabu Juban? I heard their burritos are huge and the quality is similar to Chipotle in the US.

  12. I’ve eaten at La Jolla since 1987, so I don’t think “newcomer” would be accurate. I wonder why you thought so.

    The new burrito place (Chipolte copy) is Frijoles.
    Fresh, decent and quick. Just off the A-Z shotengai.

  13. There is one in Kichijoji, it’s small but good priced, and the food is really good as well. Occasionally it has tabehodai offers for 1600 yen. It’s at http://bit.ly/9FOZkw (google maps link).


  15. Just ate at Junkadelic near the Roppongi area (the second store, not the original in Naka-Meguro). It was terrific. A bit on the pricey side but very very good. My wife and I were craving that mexican cheesy flavor that we so missed from the US and it hit the spot. The spicy chicken fajitas were perfect and my wife loved her beef tacos.

  16. There is one, and only one, authentic Mexican restaurant in all of Japan. Tiny Domingo, in the unlikely location Nerimaku, is out of the way –but not too far to be frequented by staff from the Mexican Embassy. Reasonably priced, run by Japanese hippies who studied art in Mexico and learned cooking along the way.

  17. All the places you recommend are TEX-MEX, which for your information is not MEXICAN food.
    The only place I had had anything close to REAL mexican food, is at La fonda de la Madrugada, which you are bashing. If you guys any other place where I can get Pollo con Mole or Carnitas, please share the info.

  18. alexandramuses

    There’s Libre burritos in Ebisu if you’re looking for California Mexican. Quite good and reasonably priced. The only slight weirdness is that the burrito has a faint aftertaste like French salad dressing.

  19. You review is a tad light. With all due respect, I suggest a little more research. (I’ve heard about Tiny Domingo, but never been there.) For my money the best is El Quixico in Nishi-Ogikubo. Homemade tortilla chips, mole tacos and the best, strongest margaritas in town. You also left out the snazy always crowded Hacienda El Cielo in Daikanyama (food is just OK) and Mucho Modern Mexicano near Tokyo Station.

  20. La Fiesta in Roppongi has great jalapeno rellanos and does a very nice fish veracruz style. To suggest it’s “corporate,” or fast-food like in any way is flat wrong. I’d choose it over La Jolla or most of the others any day…

  21. Best place for mexican has got to be El Torito in Shinjuku, absolutely amazing food, all fresh ingredients (they make the guac and salsa in front of you) and lovely entertainment, especially if it is somebody’s birthday! I’d choose that over the other mexican /Tex Mex food on this side of the planet!

  22. Cactus Burrito in Musashi-Shinjo,Kawasaki city has the best Carne Asada. If you are looking for San Diego style Carne Asada fries, the place is the one. I love their enchilada burritos as well. strongly recommended!

  23. Pingback: A Tokyo Mexican Restaurant Primer | Posts

  24. Being from L.A. I’ve had the pleasure of having great Mexican food (obviously prepared by real Mexicans). Heck, even the chains hinted at greatness in some cases.
    Here in Tokyo I’ve got to say the best I’ve had so far is Junkadelic.
    La Fiesta in Roppongi is not bad but it kinda depends on what you order…..I’ve heard good things about La Jolla (Hiroo) but I haven’t been yet. There are many places I have yet to try, and judging from the comments left here, there are hidden gems that need to be discovered.
    About La Fonda de la Madrugada, with all due respect, I found the food absolutely deplorable! very disappointing after hearing all the “hype”.
    At least they had giant margaritas. I guess you need something to get that terrible taste out of your mouth.

    I must say, I’m kinda shocked that La Casita (Daikanyama) wasn’t mentioned. It’s been around since 1976, and the few times that I’ve passed by, it was packed. Definitely on my list of places to try. As mentioned here (and by personal friends of mine), Mexico Lindo, El Richon de Sam, Tiny Domingo, and El Quixico are also worth a try.

  25. I would recommend Tepito in Shimokitazawa. Best Mexican I’ve had in Tokyo (better than Junkadelic in my opinion)

  26. Tepito and La Salsita are my top 2. Anyone w Fonda on their list needs to get their heads checked. Junkadelic in Roppongi was OK not great and surprisingly the mole at La Fiesta was pretty decent.

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