Is Tabelog App Best Restaurant Search App in Japan?

You like Japanese food, don’t you? There are probably very few people who love Japan but hate Japanese food. And for those obsessed with Japanese food, finding good restaurants can be the biggest pain point. There are plenty of restaurant apps in Japan for foodies worldwide, but the most famous one is probably Tabelog app.

How Is Tabelog App Working

This is what the English version of Tabelog looks like.

homepage of tabelog

The most common way is to enter your current location and find restaurants nearby. However, you can also set other filters for the types of dishes, budgets, purposes, etc.

The users can also post a review with a maximum 5 stars rating, and the average score will be displayed as information about the restaurant. Most users first check it to find the suggested restaurants quickly. Overall, 97% of the restaurants have a rating of 3.5 stars or lower. Although the Tabelog official says that restaurants with 3.5 stars or higher are highly likely to satisfy you, many restaurants also have a much higher budget requirement. In my opinion, borderline is whether it has 3.3 stars or higher when you want to find a decent and cost-effective restaurant. I get the impression that the cheap chain restaurants are around 3.0 – 3.2, and the more popular ones get at least 3.3 stars to some extent.

tabelog list

But these are not much different from other typical gourmet apps.

Is Tabelog App The Best Restaurant App?

Many Japanese people say that the best restaurant app is Tabelog. In fact, Tabelog is number one in terms of the number of monthly users, reviews (37 million), and the restaurants listed (more than 800,000) in Japan*. Furthermore, according to the survey conducted by TesTee Lab in 2018, Tabelog topped the list of the most used restaurant search services with more than 60% overall usage rate.
*As of December 2020

Things You Should Keep in Your Mind

Are those reviews trustworthy?

When we look at Tabelog in the app store, we can see many comments like “I can’t post a review” or “My negative review got deleted”. Based on my experience, I don’t think all the negative comments will get deleted since I often see some critical comments. However, it is true that some restaurants are requesting the deletion of malicious comments from a legal standpoint. In addition, to prevent trolling comments, Tabelog only allows people who meet the following conditions to post reviews.

  • More than 100 characters body text
  • Filling All the required sections such as the month of visit, Lunch/Dinner
  • Reviewers who have posted more than a certain number of reviews

They have these restrictions to maintain a certain level of quality of reviews as per their explanation.

The Difference from The Japanese Version

Tabelog is immensely popular among the Japanese, and I also use it quite often. However, the English version is a bit different from the Japanese one.

You will find a reservation function on the right in the original Japanese version, but the English version does not have it. Furthermore, some parts of the restaurant’s details don’t have translations. Lastly, this may be a tiny thing, but the restaurant’s name is just written in romaji based on the pronunciation, which is sometimes strange.

(example)
Correct: Italian & Wine Bar CONA
Wrong: itarianandowaimba-kona

Conclusion

Overall, Tabelog is definitely one of the most useful restaurant search services, and I highly recommend trying it once. But it’s also a good idea to use Google Maps as well. You might use Tabelog to check out the restaurant’s reviews, the average cost per person, photos of the ambience and food, whether they accept card payments, and then check the restaurant’s information on Google Maps as well, just in case.

Next time you have a chance to have a drinking party (Nomikai) in Japan, why don’t you search for a restaurant by Tabelog app?

Tabelog webpage: https://tabelog.com/en/

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