Japanese

NÉCCO

A complete lunch in central London for around a tenner is a thing to behold, and although it may not seem like it, they do exist. Nécco (meaning ‘cat’) in Exmouth Market is a Japanese cafe and bar with a super affordable menu of sushi, curries, noodles, donburi, homemade cakes and desserts, beers, sake and cocktails. Head over any time between 12.30pm – 3pm to take advantage of their lunch set deal, which’ll get you two Japanese tapas items, a bowl of rice and a drink for just £10.80.

ROJI

London’s home to a fair few exceptional sushi and omakase restaurants, but few can boast an entrance that gives out the serious Tokyo vibes like Roji, hidden down a Mayfair alleyway. Once inside the tiny restaurant you’ll see a wooden sushi counter that wraps around an open kitchen and stools for just 10 people. In the kitchen there’s husband and wife team Tamas Naszai and Tomoko Hasegawa, who have experience working at some of the best Japanese restaurants all over the world. Roji is their first restaurant together and a real labour of love – you can tell the thought and care that’s gone into this place. The 14-course omakase experience makes use of British fish as well as UK-grown vegetables, and is a series of small plates, then a selection of nigiri, before closing out the meal with dessert, and it’s some of the finest sushi you’ll find in London.

ROJI

56b S Molton St, London W1K 5SH

Husband-and-wife chef team Tamas Naszai and Tomoko Hasegawa, who’ve worked at Tokimeite and Sake No Hana between them, have opened ten-seat Japanese restaurant Roji in partnership with the group behind Chisou and Sushi Atelier. Roji, which can translate to ‘journey’, ‘path’ or ‘hidden alley’, is tucked away on South Molton Street in Mayfair and serves up a seasonal menu of sushi, pickled and preserved dishes, and charcoal-grilled dishes, with a focus on British produce like Cornish seafood and veggies from Nama Yasai farm in East Sussex. The pair are also showcasing crockery made by small family producers in both the UK and Japan.

DAI CHI

Dai Chi specialises in kushikatsu, a form of Japanese street food that involves skewering various meats and vegetables, covering them in panko breadcrumbs and sticking them in the deep-fryer. It’s more of a fine-dining restaurant than it sounds, with some of the skewered combos include venison & shiitake ponzu; courgette flower, miso mascarpone & nori; seabass, shiso & sesame; and scamorza & moromi miso. And you can pair your kushikatsu with one of the creative cocktails or some sake or wine from the international list crafted by their sommelier. This is one to hit up for a real taste of Osaka in Soho.

APOTHECARY

Japanese izakaya Apothecary is a twist on the traditional Tokyo tavern, mixing classic features – a robata kitchen counter and handcrafted wooden screens – with more contemporary elements such as exposed brick and a wood-burning stove. The drinks list carries everything from local and Japanese beers, through hot and cold sake, to Asian-influenced cocktails. Choose from a range of small plates to snack on while you drink, including robata grilled skewers, sushi, sashimi and hirata steamed buns. And drop by on Friday and Saturday nights for disco, funk, soul or electronic DJ sets.

SUSHI ON JONES

Sushi on Jones started life in Bowery Market in NYC in 2016 (with two more branches in the city to its name) and it’s now come across the pond to London, taking up a spot in the Goods Way development in King’s Cross. The premise of Sushi on Jones is simple; it’s a nigiri omakase experience featuring 12 pieces of sushi chosen by the chef, served over 45 minutes, so it’s very much an in-and-out job rather than somewhere for a long, languid dinner. The menu changes depending on what’s in season and what head chef Mattia has selected, and if you’re sat at the counter, you can watch everything being expertly prepped and get an explanation of what each piece of sushi is. It’s £48 for the omakase, and you have the option to order some extras after the main menu has been served. We can’t say you feel full like you would after a regular dinner following the twelve pieces, but the quality of the sushi is outstanding so it’s something sushi fans should have on their radar.

YATAY

Yatay is a robatayaki restaurant inspired by izakayas and street culture of Japan and it occupies a three-storey space in Chinatown, with the restaurant on the ground and first floor and cocktail bar Zoku in the basement. It’s a broad menu, with bites, cold, hot, skewers, meat/fish and veggies/rice, on there so it’s worth taking your time over with a cocktail in hand. The skewers are the main focus but there are lots of tasty things to be found around those, including nutty beef tatare, garlic-ginger chicken karaage with spicy tofu dip, tuna tataki and pulled pork buns, so its best to hit each section. There are twelve different skewers on the menu, ranging from trout with kizami wasabi and koji-cured lam to roasted shallot with miso and cured beetroot with garlic, but if you can’t choose, Yatay has a six skewer roulette where the kitchen picks for you.

THE AUBREY

Bar Boulud closed up shop at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in 2020 when its ten year contract came to an end, and The Aubrey London (the sister to The Aubrey in Hong Kong, one of our fave places in the city) has taken over the spot. The first UK venture from HK-based restaurant group Maximal Concepts, The Aubrey London is an “eccentric Japanese izakaya” restaurant that serves up A4 wagyu sandos, charcoal chicken karaage with yuzu mayo, edomae-style sushi, and crab korokke with tonyu bechamel, alongisde the city’s first omakase cocktail experience.

PANTON YOKOCHO

If you find yourself in central craving a proper good ramen, Leicester Square has just the place for you. 70s-inspired ramen bar Panton Yokocho has all the retro feels from neon signs to the Japanese pop soundtrack. They’re serving up regional ramen from across Japan, which includes the classic Tonkotsu, the Sapporo Miso and many of their own London creations including the Vegan Napoli, with grilled tomato, mushroom and vegan cheese. Perfect for a casual lunch or for a few after-work Asahis, these guys are serving up all the noodles as well as epic side and plenty of desserts to satisfy that sweet tooth.

SACHI

The five-storey Japanese/Nordic emporium Pantechnicon (home to Cafe Kitsune and Nordic spot Eldr) also has Japanese restaurant Sachi on the lower ground floor of the building. It’s a suitably slick dining room with lots of hidden cosy booths, a bar area and chef’s sushi counter, meaning that even though it’s low on daylight it feels like somewhere you can happily spend a few hours. Pantechnicon’s Exec Chef Chris Golding (ex-Nobu, Dinings and Zuma) and Sachi Head Chef Collin Hudson (ex-Dinings and Roka) have taken inspiration from regional Japanese cooking for their menu whilst making use of seasonal ingredients produced in the UK. Across the menu there’s Cornish line-caught fish and Scottish hand-picked shellfish as well as British meat from premium heritage breeds and organic Japanese greens grown in Sussex. The sushi selection is top notch, including our favourite ‘otoro’, the prized fatty tuna cut, which is always a must order in our book. There’s much more than just sushi of course, with the hot dish section featuring dumplings, tempura, tobanyaki and if you’re feeling flush there’s also an excellent wagyu A4 grade sirloin served with beetroot and miso that is well worth the price. The quality of the ingredients is plain to see and it’s definitely worth splashing out on for a special occasion.

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HUMBLE CHICKEN

54 Frith St, London W1D 4SJ

Angelo Sato first opened Humble Chicken in Soho in 2021 with a focus on yakitori and ‘comb-to-tail’ chicken cookery, and he won us over with tasty skewers, inventive small plates and quick poured pints of Asahi Super Dry. Instead of resting on his laurels, Angelo overhauled the concept (the look of the restaurant hasn’t changed, so it’s still counter dining) and has turned the yakitori-centric offering into a broader Japanese eight-course tasting menu that takes inspo from his heritage, as well as his time spent in top kitchens like Eleven Madison Park and Restaurant Story. He’s showcasing some serious cooking without taking himself too seriously, with playful nods like chicken chopstick holders and piggy face bao buns and top-tier dishes like oysters with citrus kosho beurre blanc and burnt chicken fat; shokupan with chicken liver pate, fermented red cabbage and miso sesame butter; Wagyu Angus short rib served with pickled daikon, yakiniku sauce, barley miso and lettuce leaves; and chicken achilles yakitori with charcoal fat, daikon and kosho.

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HEDDON YOKOCHO

Heddon Yokocho is a celebration of regional Japanese ramen – there’s a moving noodles and chopsticks model outside the door just in case you were in any doubt. It’s decked out just like a downtown retro ramen bar, filled with lanterns, posters, neon signage and lucky cat statues, so you really do feel like you’re in Tokyo. Obvs, ramen is the star of the show featuring different styles from across the country. We love the Kumamoto Tonkotsu (a classic rich pork broth given extra punch from garlic oil and fried garlic) but the Vegan Miso, their own creation of vegetable miso broth topped with tofu and tenderstem broccoli, is another good’un. There’s also a small selection of sides, sushi rolls and desserts on the menu. It’s a fun place if you’re in the mood for noods and a great spot if you’re treating yourself to a solo supper.

AUN

Japanese tapas restaurant AUN brings the concept of ‘wakon yosai’ – that means combining two contrasting cuisines, creating Japanese dishes with Western techniques and European ingredients – to Stoke Newington’s Church Street. It’s fair to say AUN executes wakon yosai effortlessly, with the menu featuring small sharing plates including oyster ajillo with crispy nori cracker, aubergine with smoky mustard miso sauce and the AUN haccho dark miso gelato. A unique restaurant that’s a great addition to the Stokey neighbourhood.

TEMAKI

12 Market Row, London SW9 8LF

Temaki, London’s first authentic hand roll bar, is overseen by restaurateur A.M Dupee and chef Shaulan Steenson, who has gained experience at some of Japan’s most coveted sushi joints as well as at London’s best Japanese restaurants. The rolls are available individually or in sets and are rolled to order before being handed over the counter. If you order a set – we think this is the best and easiest way – they all start with the akami tuna in honour of the first roll Shaulan had when working in Japan. The unagi (BBQ eel), otoro tuna with spring onion and crab with egg yolk & white soy are also excellent. It’s a handroll bar so naturally these are the main attraction but you definitely don’t want to skip the small plates, especially the monkfish karaage. The quality of sushi at Temaki is right up there with the best in the city, with the added bonus of not costing a bomb and the informal and friendly atmosphere make it great for solo dining.

SUMI

If you like your sushi and don’t mind paying for the good stuff (like dropping £50 on a lunch) then Sumi is well worth checking out. Sumi is in fact, the ‘casual’ sibling to Michelin-starred Endo at The Rotunda, where the 20-course omakase menu will set you back £195 per head. At Sumi, which has taken on the old Andina site on Westbourne Grove, Endo Kazutoshi has created a slightly more ‘everyday’ menu – a tight selection of nigiri, sashimi, and temaki sushi, as well as a few snacks and larger dishes such as wagyu steak. If you want to keep it slightly respectable, however, take our tip and ignore the larger plates altogether and concentrate on the excellent snacks and sushi. It ain’t cheap, but you won’t regret coming here if you want to eat some of the best sushi in London.

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BISUSHIMA

Bisushima, the rooftop restaurant that moved into the Page8 hotel in St Martin’s Place in 2020, is one of the largest places to dine and drink al-fresco in the area with 190 covers. Spread over two roof terraces, the Japanese restaurant has views of Trafalgar Square whilst inside the interiors have been designed with the concept of Shinrin-yoku (nature therapy) in mind. The food menu is very extensive too, so it’s quite a task deciding what to order. We say go heavy on the cold dishes over the hot – the wagyu tataki is outstanding, the tuna carpaccio is excellent and the maki rolls, particularly the ebi tempura, are great too. There’s also a decent miso black cod and a miso cheesecake for pud (served with a real facesucker of a lemon granita) for all the miso lovers out there.

JUNSEI

Junsei in Marylebone is one sleek spot, there’s lots of dark grey furnishings, light wood and splashes of gold, with the open kitchen at the back end of the room. There are around 20 types of skewers, cooked over Japanese Binchōtan charcoal, on the a la carte menu including various chicken yakitori and different veggie kushiyaki, plus a selection of sharing plates and rice dishes like sea scallop with trumpet mushroom, A5 wagyu rib cap, and chicken & mushroom donabe. That does mean there are a lot of possible combos, so if you’d rather someone else does the choosing for you, go for the omakase menu. Junsei is doing a high-end take on yakitori, so while it won’t break the bank it’s not a budget meal either, but you’re definitely getting the real deal here, and if you do feel like splashing out, there’s sake, shochu and Japanese whisky for you to dive into.

MARUGAME UDON

Marugame Udon, the world’s largest udon noodle restaurant, has landed in London right near Liverpool Street. It’s a canteen-style set-up, so you work your way around the open kitchen where you can see the noodles being rolled, cut and cooked. You choose your dish – the menu includes the likes of kama age, beef nikutama with short rib & onsen egg, two pork tonkotsu with chashu & spicy miso pork, chicken katsu curry udon, kimchi yaki udon and salmon donburi – before hitting the tempura station, and the condiment station where you can pimp your noods with ginger, chillies, tempura batter and other toppings. And once you’ve slurped to your heart’s content, hit the unlimited vanilla and vegan matcha soft serve ice cream.

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