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JAPANESE RESTAURANTS

There’s some incredible Japanese restaurants in London now, from sushi to ramen and everything in between. Here’s our pick of the best.

Japanese Restaurants in London Highlights

Jugemu is located on Winnett Street in Soho and if you weren’t looking for it you’d walk right by without noticing. It’s tiny, with just a few stools around the counter and a couple of tables and the day’s sushi menu is scrawled on oblong bits of paper and hung up over one wall. You order via tick box menus and we really rate the prawn dumplings, the takiyoki – chunks of octopus fried in balls of batter – the duck teriyaki, and the eel omelette, and that’s before you’ve even got onto the sushi.

At lunchtime, Yuzu has a conveyor belt system so city workers can grab a quick lunch but at night the belt is covered up with heavy wooden boards and the menu expands to offer a full dinner experience. There’s some of the best sushi in London here, rom tuna nigiri to salmon & avo tobiko and yellowtail sashimi with ponzu jelly.

Located on the Clerkenwell side of Old Street, Monohon serves just six types of ramen, including three soup-less ones, one of which is served chilled. The Spicy Tonkotsu – creamy pork bone broth with thin noodles, bean sprouts, spring onions, slow cooked pork belly and spicy miso pork mince – is a winner and you can customise it to your liking, choosing level of spice, how hard you want your noodles and how big you want the bowl to be.

Sushi is very much the focus here – the clue’s in the name – with the most of the action centred around the long wooden sushi bar on the ground floor where you can see the chefs slicing, blowtorching and plating the fresh fish. The modern flavour combos like BBQ tuna with parmesan, razor clam ceviche with ginger and whisky jelly, and butterfish with a thin sliver of foie gras on each slice is what sets this place apart.

KOYA CITY

Koya City, Bloomberg Arcade, London, UK

At it’s heart Koya is all about the udon noodles. You can choose from hot noodles in hot soup; cold noodles to dip into hot soup; and cold noodles with cold sauce to dip or to pour. Hot noodles and hot broth is the most popular and has the greatest number of options. We went for one of the day’s specials a spectacular kedgeree-inspired number that had a thick curry coup, flakes of smoked haddock, and an egg. Koya’s menu of small plates are no after thought either. The tonkatsu (available at dinner only) we had here was exceptional, easily the best we’ve found in London and even rivalled many we’ve had in Japan. Other highlights were the crispy prawn heads (a regular special from Soho that have found a permanent home here) and the marinated mushrooms.

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AQUA KYOTO

240 Regent St, West End, London W1B 3BR, UK

Aqua Kyoto has had a bit of a makeover, with a new marble clad sushi and robata counter on one side of the room with an architectural mirrored lighting installation behind the banquettes on the other. You can’t go to a restaurant that has a sushi counter and not partake, and Aqua Kyoto has plenty of options on this front. There are sushi and sashimi platters if you’d rather let the chefs choose, otherwise we can defo recommend the tuna and spicy tobiko rolls with avocado and chilli mayo, and the lobster tempura rolls with jalapeno and this insane lobster miso topping. Similarly, you won’t want to miss the wagyu. The F1 wagyu sirloin, which comes with foie gras miso and black garlic teriayki, is as indulgent as it sounds and the buttery meat literally melts in your mouth. If you don’t want to drop a load of dollar on a steak, the wagyu gyoza are also great. There’s no denying that Aqua Kyoto is spenny (so it’s one to save for when the parents are in town) or you can opt for the £29 set menu, which won’t bankrupt you.

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NANBAN

426 Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8LF, UK

Run by 2011 MasterChef winner Tim Anderson, Nanban in Brixton serves up Japanese soul food; that’s Japanese staples like ramen, tempura and yaki-udon reimagined for the local area, resulting in dishes like plantain katsu curry, lazy goat ragu-men and market tempura, which changes according to what looks good in Brixton Market. The chicken karaage and cured salmon with miso sesame sauce are both worth an order, and the tuna poke, which comes with Maui onions, macadamia nuts, yuzu-pickled radish, sesame oil and sweet ponzu,served on gem lettuce rather than rice (although you can add rice, miso soup and pickles to make it a meal) is great if you don’t want a steaming bowl of soup.

YUZU

sushi
7a Artillery Passage, London, E1 7LG

At lunchtime, Yuzu has a conveyor belt system so city workers can grab a quick lunch but at night the belt is covered up with heavy wooden boards and the menu expands to offer a full dinner experience. There’s some of the best sushi in London here, rom tuna nigiri to salmon & avo tobiko and yellowtail sashimi with ponzu jelly. Then there’s the small plates: fresh prawn gyoza; black cod with miso sauce; and pork belly with miso aubergine. Desserts are no less impressive and we love the lemongrass creme brûlée topped with raspberry coulis and the bonsai-tree shaped chocolate with pear.

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JUGEMU

3 Winnett Street, Soho London W1D 6JY

Jugemu is located on Winnett Street in Soho and if you weren’t looking for it you’d walk right by without noticing. It’s tiny, with just a few stools around the counter and a couple of tables and the day’s sushi menu is scrawled on oblong bits of paper and hung up over one wall. You order via tick box menus and we really rate the prawn dumplings, the takiyoki – chunks of octopus fried in balls of batter – the duck teriyaki, and the eel omelette, and that’s before you’ve even got onto the sushi.

AKIRA

101-111 Kensington High St, London W8 5SA, UK

If you’re looking for Japanese food, Japan House (aka the home of Japanese culture in the UK) is a pretty good place to start. Akira, on the first floor of the building, which is also home to a shop and gallery, from Executive Chef Shimizu Akira (also of Engawa) is all about showcasing the best in modern Japanese food, presentation and tableware. The space itself is very sleek, very minimalist, very Japanese, with wooden partitions separating the bar and restaurant, polished concrete floors and open kitchen and counter where you can watch the chefs working the robata grills and preparing sushi. There’s a pretty extensive a la carte menu to choose from but if you want to forgo all that agonising over what to order, there are also three- and five-course omakase sushi and robata set menus, which include a 15-piece bento box of sashimi, side dishes and vegetables plus daily special main courses.

TANAKATSU

10 Wakley Street, London EC1V 7LT, UK

Tanakatsu specialises in katsu (here you can get pork, chicken and prawns) and teriyaki as well as offering sushi and a few other sides – the tuna tataki with a truffle ponzu sauce is particularly great. The main event has to be that katsu though; both the pork katsu on rice with shredded cabbage and pickles, and the chicken katsu curry are spot on.

SUSHI ATELIER

114 Great Portland St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 6PA, United Kingdom

Sushi is very much the focus here – the clue’s in the name – with the most of the action centred around the long wooden sushi bar on the ground floor where you can see the chefs slicing, blowtorching and plating the fresh fish. The modern flavour combos like BBQ tuna with parmesan, razor clam ceviche with ginger and whisky jelly, and butterfish with a thin sliver of foie gras on each slice is what sets this place apart.

MONOHON RAMEN

102 Old St, London EC1V 9AY, United Kingdom

Located on the Clerkenwell side of Old Street, Monohon serves just six types of ramen, including three soup-less ones, one of which is served chilled. The Spicy Tonkotsu – creamy pork bone broth with thin noodles, bean sprouts, spring onions, slow cooked pork belly and spicy miso pork mince – is a winner and you can customise it to your liking, choosing level of spice, how hard you want your noodles and how big you want the bowl to be. Slurping = essential.

ISSHO-NI

185 Bethnal Green Rd, London E2 6AB, UK

Bethnal Green is a bit of a sly dog when it comes to eating and drinking, and whilst it might not be the first place to spring to mind when somebody asks about foodie neighbourhoods it’s definitely been upping its game these last 5 years. Issho-Ni is one new(ish) addition on the site of what was once Noodle King, the place with the police vans parked outside whilst the bobbies filled their faces with steaming bowls of noodles. However unlike Noodle King, Issho-Ni is knocking out super fresh, flavoursome Japanese food and drinks served izakaya style.

We recommend kicking off with some juicy Iberico pork kushiyaki skewers, followed by ponzu white fish tartare with fresh truffle woven through – just subtle enough to taste it without it over powering the dish. Then there’s the salmon tataki, the knock out seared butterfish sashimi, and some great eel and blue fin fatty tuna nigiri. If in doubt order the chicken katsu curry, it’s a big piece of breaded lightly fried meat served with a bowl of curry sauce – yup a bowl of curry sauce. Anywhere that doesn’t skimp on the sauces is A-OK in our eyes.

Great value, delish food and good cocktails. Issho-Ni beats Noodle King hands down any day of the week!

ROKA ALDWYCH

71 Aldwych, London WC2B 4HN, United Kingdom

Roka can be pretty spenny but if you head to the Aldwych branch on a weekend and go for their Han Setto brunch you can try a huge selection of dishes without breaking the bank. Designed for sharing, the menu kicks off with a selection of pickles, edamame beans, and a bellini. The brunch continues with eight sharing dishes, brought out in no particular order, including a selection of sashimi, prawn tempura, beef gyoza, and salmon and avocado maki. AND if you think that’s brunch done, then think again as you also get the choice of a main course followed by the HUGE dessert platter which is Instagram heaven. A boat containing everything from a chocolate Buddha to panna cotta, fruit, truffles and a whole lot more. Add in unlimited wine, you know it makes sense.

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JIDORI

89 Kingsland High Street, London E8 2PB, United Kingdom

Jidori is inspired by yakitori joints across Tokyo, and it’s simple but bloody good. The small plates section includes crack-like addictive Koji fried chicken with nori salt and lemon, crab and corn croquettes and katsu scotch eggs and we loved the tskune minced chicken yakitori. Swing by at brunch time for a monster chicken katsu bun, dirty rice and bacon okonomiyaki.

SAKAGURA

8 Heddon Street, London W1B 4BU, United Kingdom

As well as serving authentic Japanese washoku (that’s cooking to you and us) Sakagura also boasts one of the largest selections of sake and Japanese whisky we’ve seen in the city. The menu has a good spread of dishes, including a tuna tartare served in a traditional fisherman’s tray – a true work of art – yellowtail sushi, short rib katsu curry, and charcoaled blackened lobster with moshio brown sea salt. If you’re new to sake, the sake tasting menu is a great way to learn about the different styles.

HOT STONE SUSHI BAR

9 Chapel Market, London, UK

Hot Stone Sushi

Hot Stone Sushi Bar on Chapel Market specialises in meat and fish dishes that you cook at your table on – yes, you guessed it – a hot stone. There’s also a good selection of sushi, sashimi, maki rolls and snacks as well as a bibimbap section. The restaurant is owned by two very friendly brothers; Padam the head chef is Japanese and trained in Japan before doing the rounds at London’s best sushi restaurants, so it’s safe to say he knows his stuff. With counter dining and a good sake list- with the option of a tasting flight – Hot Stone Sushi Bar has all the ingredients for a great little Japanese dining jaunt.

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CUBE

4 Blenheim Street, Mayfair, London W1S 1LB, United Kingdom

Cubé does things a little differently, with a mix of very traditional Japanese dishes plus some European influences – the bulk of the menu is arranged into Hot and Cold tapas sections, with one dish mixing Udon noodles with black olive and truffle pesto for instance. The fatty tuna and eel sushi were two of our faves and defo go for the small cubes of pork belly, really soft and tender and seasoned with a great big whack of rosemary – we’d go back for this alone.

YAMAGOYA

49 The Cut, South Bank, London SE1 8LF, UK

Japanese ramen specialist Yamagoya is one of our favourite cheap eats in London as it offers what is surely the best value ramen and katsu curry you can find in the capital. There’s always 5 hot ramens on offer and the most expensive is £9.50, way cheapers than the cheapest bowl you’ll find elsewhere. They don’t shirk on quality though; the noodles are freshly made and the broth is rich and flavoursome. Try the Yuzukara Ramen with wood ear mushrooms in a green tonkotsu broth. Yamagoya also does an amazing chicken or pork katsu curry at only £6.50! Take that Wagamama. For a quick bite in town that’s easy on the wallet, Yamagoya is a perfect choice.

GINZA ONODERA

15 Bury Street, St. James's, London SW1Y 6AL, United Kingdom

It’s very Japanese at Ginza Onodera with some private sushi rooms hidden behind wooden sliding doors and a big open kitchen with counter seats and a robata grill on display. The menu also leaves you spoilt for choice; we love the tempura, melt in the mouth Japanese beef, chicken yakitori, and a lightly seared slab of fatty tuna cooked on the robata.

TONKOTSU

382 Mare St, London E8 1HR, UK

tonkotsu | london on the inside

Tonkotsu is the best of the ramen wave that swept London back in 2013 and testament to that, they’re still going strong and opening new sites all the time. The signature Tonkotsu ramen, with its thick creamy broth, fresh noodles (made in house), and slices of pork is a thing of beauty and has got us through many a day and night. One to come back to time and time again.

TOKIMEITE

23 Conduit St, London W1S 2XS, United Kingdom

Tokimeite is a high end joint from renowned chef Yoshihiro Murata, who holds seven Michelin stars across his three restaurants in Japan, and with wagyu beef tartare, soft shell crab sushi rolls and premium sashimi, it’s one to save for a special occasion, or for when you’re just feeling particularly flash.

KANADA-YA

35 Upper Street, London N1 0PN, UK

At Kanada-Ya’s first site outside of central, you can find all their famous ramens plus a handful of small plates, rice dishes and an extended sake list. And you’ll be able to catch all the action thanks to the open kitchen.

MACHIYA

5 Panton Street Soho London SW1Y 4DL

Machiya is run by the same people behind Kanada-Ya although there’s not a bowl of ramen in sight. Order the tsukune, grilled chicken skewers, to snack on before you get stuck into their grilled eel, which is one of the best in London, and their huge tonkatsu. Add a glass of Dassai sake and you are good to go.

SUSHISAMBA COVENT GARDEN

SUSHISAMBA Covent Garden, London, UK

The open-air Opera Terrace balcony takes prime position right in the heart of Covent Garden at SUSHISAMBA, which sits atop the Grade II listed Market Building. With its tranquil garden that takes inspo from Japan, Brazil and Peru, the space definitely ticks those insta boxes, and with a new breakfast menu to go alongside their all-day dining and strong cocktail offering, it’s a bit of a sweet spot. From the scallop ceviche with lychee, crispy cherry and strawberry puree to the pork belly with butterscotch miso to the Brazilian Churrasco Rio Grande of ribeye, chorizo and aged picanha you can expect colourful, bold and exotic dishes that are beautifully presented and easily devoured. New on the cocktails front are the Cherry Blossom Negroni made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, Martini Rubino & Martini Bitter and the Piña Colada Old Fashioned with Bacardi Quatro and Carta Negra rums. Sounds like a party to us. Now everybody, “If you like pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain…”