Japanese

HAKATA RAMEN

If you find yourself in the mood for Japanese food and you’re down Bermondsey way, you have to head for Hakata Ramen + Bar. This restaurant serves up a range of tonkotsu and other ramen plus small plates like chicken wings, bao buns and katsu sandos, all made with premium Japanese and British ingredients. You can pair all that with Japanese craft beer, sake or whisky, and Hakata also has a vegan wine list that features predominantly organic and biodynamic bottles from small producers. There’s even a dive bar in the basement if you want to make it a late night.

OMOIDE

Omoide specialises in Shokuji, a popular Japanese meal of rice, pickles and soup, and is headed up by chef Angelo Sato. He’s gone back to his roots (he used to prep fish for takeaway bento boxes in Tokyo’s fish markets as a teen) with his signature chirashi rice bowls, which include Yuzu Salmon (with sushi rice, avo, cured cucumber ginger, goma wakame, pickles and crispy shallots), Gift From The Garden (with miso aubergine, tofu, yuzu avo salad, 5-grain sushi rice, charred broccoli, edamame, pickles and crispy sahllots), and The Humble Chicken (den dashi chicken, five-grain sushi rice, umami mushrooms, shichimi mayo, spicy beansprouts, pickles and crispy shallots). As well as the option to customise your own rice bowls, you can also get dashi with udon noodles and a ramen egg. This is a banging lunch spot in Bermondsey.

BONE DADDIES

The Bower, 211 Old St, London EC1V 9NR

Starting from just one rock & roll ramen bar in Soho in 2012, Bone Daddies has grown into a mini-empire known for good broths, good noods and good sides. Slurp on ramen classics like the Tonkotsu, with a 20-hour pork bone broth base, and the nutty, spicy Tantanmen, with sesame, chilli, pork mince & chashu pork and get messy with sides like the insane pig bones and monster Korean fried wings.

SUSHI TETSU

12 Jerusalem Passage, London EC1V 4JP

Sushi Tetsu is a seven seat sushi bar and it’s the hardest restaurant to get into in London. With only two sittings a night, plus the fact that you have to ring at certain times on particular days to book, it’s very difficult to actually bag a reservation. Run by husband and wife Toru and Harumi Takahashi, it’s known for serving the best sushi in town though so it’s worth the hassle. Go for the omakase menu and just sit back and enjoy as Toru prepares and serves whatever is best that day.

SEXY FISH

If you’re looking for a vibey restaurant AND want to mingle with celebs, look no further then Sexy Fish. It’s OTT with coloured lighting, painted ceilings and even two of the world’s largest live coral reef tanks in their private room. There’s some pretty famous artwork on the walls from Damien Hirst and Frank Gehry and there’s often a DJ spinning tunes too. The menu is Asian, primarily Japanese, so expect a lot of sushi, sashimi, tataki, tempura and robata dishes plus truffle and caviar – it is Mayfair after all. They also have a huge selection of Japanese whisky if you really wanna push the boat out.

DININGS SW3

The original Dinings in Marylebone was long regarded as one of London’s best high-end sushi restaurants before its sibling Dinings SW3 opened up in Chelsea in 2017. Unlike the tiny original the Chelsea site is much bigger, set in a Grade-I listed mews building with the dining room split over two levels, encompassing a bar/lounge area, a sushi kitchen counter and the main restaurant space. Executive Chef Masaki Sugisaki has made his name across both restaurants blending Japanese cuisine with Western influences – not exactly ‘fusion’ but definitely not strictly traditional either, with dishes like mini wagyu burgers with teriyaki sauce and spicy sesame aioli. The sushi here is definitely the highlight though, the super fresh fatty tuna, sea bass and smoked eel with yuzu are particularly good. There’s an excellent list of sakes too, including a couple made especially for the restaurant brewed by Konotomo in Japan. None of it comes cheap of course, but everyone deserves a treat now and then.

TAKA MARYLEBONE

Japanese restaurant Taka, which also has a spot on Shepherd Market in Mayfair, has expanded and taken over the old Providores site in Marylebone for restaurant number two. A larger space means a larger menu, and this one has a large Japanese tapas section alongside robata dishes, sushi and a very interesting cocktail menu – if sake isn’t your poison, these are definitely worth a punt. Many of those on the first side appear familiar but come with their own little Taka twist, like wild fennel salt on the edamame, the addition of fermented plantain on the miso glazed aubergine (giving an already great dish extra depth) and smoked daikon tartare serviced with the fired chicken wings, like a Japanese version of buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce. Then there are dishes we’ve never seen before like the mochi flatbread. And then there’s the dishes that have been doing the rounds on the ‘gram like that wagyu sando – spenny but delicious.

ROKA CHARLOTTE STREET

If you’re into Japanese food then this place might just Roka your world (sorry). Robata dishes like black cod in yuzu miso, salmon fillet teriyaki and lamb cutlets with Korean spices are at the heart of the menu but there’s a lot of quality sashimi, sushi, maki rolls and tempura to get stuck into too – yes a meal at Roka can get very spenny but it’s worth it. Of course it’s not a serious Japanese spot without sake and they’ve got several options to whet your appetite, plus the usual champagne and wine offerings, and they only stock the good stuff.

FLESH & BUNS

As well as slinging out the baos in Covent Garden, Flesh & Buns brings the same Japanese izakaya feel to Fitzroiva with its second site. It’s got a large bar, a spacious dining room and seating around the open kitchen, and it’s pretty swish thanks to lots of dark wood and mood lighting, with an entire wall of those gold waving good luck cats thrown in for a bit of fun. The Fitzrovia Flesh & Buns has branched out menu-wise from the original with a Nikkei Peruvian twist, so you also have a selection of ceviches and tiraditos alongside the sushi and sashimi – the yellowtail tiradito with pickled kumquat and tiger’s milk is a must – as well as dishes cooked using their wood smoker, like the chilli miso brisket. The Peruvian influence extends to the cocktail list, with tables being equipped with Press for Pisco buttons. They’re not quite as glam as the buttons in Bob Bob Ricard but it’s still a lot of fun especially when the bartender wheels his trolley to your table and shakes up a round of pisco sours.

AQUA KYOTO

240 Regent St, West End, London W1B 3BR

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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ISSHO-NI

185 Bethnal Green Rd, London E2 6AB

Issho-Ni lives 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.

STICKS 'N' SUSHI

40 Beak Street, Soho, London W1F 9RQ

Sticks ‘n’ Sushi was born in Denmark over 25 years ago and has expanded across London and the UK in recent years. It’s a pretty simple concept; there are loads of sushi and sashimi options for those who love raw fish and plenty of yakitori – that’s the sticks half – to please those who don’t. And when we say there’s lots of choice, we really mean it. The menu is a photobook featuring pics of every single dish (and we’re talking properly slick, styled images and not those terrible photos you find at fast food places) and everything looks amazing, so you will have trouble choosing. You can always order one of the platter options but you can never go wrong with the salmon tataki, ebi bites, spicy tuna maki, tsukune chilli sticks and butter soft black cod & miso sticks. Sticks ‘n’ Sushi is easy to love – it’s consistently good with a great range and won’t break the bank either, and that’s a winner in our books.

AKIRA

101-111 Kensington High St, London W8 5SA

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.

ROBATA

56 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4UE

Robata bills itself as an izakaya, serving a Japanese menu of raw fish, snacks, grilled skewers and bigger dishes cooked on the robata. It’s a small joint but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in flavour. Each dish is an assault on the senses – salty, spicy, sour, creamy, zesty – flavours that will knock out your taste buds, and all that alongside a decent sake selection. It’s naughty, saucy food but if like us you’re a fan of ponzu, yuzu, spicy mayo and chilli then you won’t be disappointed.

NANBAN

426 Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8LF

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.

KANADA-YA

35 Upper Street, London N1 0PN

Kanada-Ya, one of our fave ramen joints, has grown from a small central London shop to five locations across the city. Many of them feature open kitchens, allowing you to catch all the action, and they all serve up the signature tonkotsu ramen alongside bowls like gekikara (with pork & corn fed chicken bone broth, beansprouts, chashu pork belly, spicy ‘tan-tan’ minced pork, spring onion, wood ear fungus and yuzu-shoyu) and truffle (with pork & corn fed chicken bone broth, chashu pork loin, spring onion, porcini truffle paste, white truffle oil and yuzu-shoyu). You can supplement your ramen with small plates or swap it completely for dishes like katsu curry, but really, the noodles are where it’s at.

TANAKATSU

10 Wakley Street, London EC1V 7LT

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.

KOKURA

Japanese ramen specialist Kokura is one of our favourite cheap eats in London as it offers some of the best value ramen and katsu curry you can find in the capital. There’s always five hot ramens on offer and the most expensive is £11.50 and they don’t shirk on quality though; the noodles are freshly made and the broth is rich and flavoursome. Kokura also does an amazing chicken or pork katsu curry at only £8.50! Take that Wagamama. For a quick bite in town that’s easy on the wallet, Kokura is a perfect choice.

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