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10 Best Restaurants in Japan

10 Best Restaurants in Japan

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Japan has long been rich with culinary treasures. The capital, Tokyo, wears the crown as the culinary capital of the world, with a total of 12 Michelin three-starred restaurants this year, more than any other city — even Paris.

10 Best Restaurants in Japan (Slideshow)

Culinary crown aside, though, this country is a playground for food lovers everywhere and offers the opportunity to explore a cuisine that is heavily informed by cultural customs and age-old traditions. In Japan, you can tuck into a kaiseki — a traditional, almost ritualized multicourse Japanese dinner still served in many restaurants, especially in Kyoto; however, it is also possible to find an array of restaurants offering everything from Italian to Korean to French cuisine. Japan is also home to the famed Sukiyabashi Jiro, helmed by Jiro Ono, probably the world’s most revered sushi chef — which tops our list at the number one spot.

Japan’s culinary stardom led The Daily Meal to put together a list of its 10 best restaurants, drawing upon our recently published and annual list of The 101 Best Restaurants in Asia. In choosing our 101 best, we called upon more than 50 experts who either live in Asia or spend time there frequently — restaurant critics, food and lifestyle writers, and bloggers with extensive restaurant-going experience (the roster was slightly different from last year's, which in part probably accounts for the fact that some restaurants that ranked highly last year dropped down the list or disappeared this year, as well as the presence of so many new places). This pool of experts was supplemented by The Daily Meal’s well-traveled editorial staff. We asked all the respondents to help nominate additional places to build upon last year’s ballot of 202 contenders, then evaluate the selection and vote for their favorites, country by country (meet The Daily Meal's panelists).

It may come as no surprise that Tokyo dominates the list with eight out of 10 entries. Check out our list, and see if it doesn’t make you want to book your next round-trip (we’d even go so far as to say one-way) ticket to Japan.

#10 Aragawa (Tokyo)

Established in 1967, Aragawa is a high-end restaurant specializing in the finest cuts of meat (the name means "animal hide"). Accordingly, it has also been ranked as one of the priciest restaurants in the world: an average meal here could cost as much as $550 per person. The décor is rather tired and the food is presented very simply, with minimal adornment. Nonetheless, some gourmands find sheer perfection in the generous serving of Beluga caviar with toast and celery, the chilled scallops with cocktail sauce, and the restaurant's signature dish, a charcoal-broiled Sanda Kobe steak (only about 1,000 Sanda cows are raised a year) in various grades and sizes.

#9 Nihonryori RyuGin (Tokyo)

Seiji Yamamoto, chef–owner of RyuGin, was awarded three Michelin stars for 2013 for his interpretations of traditional Kyoto cuisine, celebrating seasonal ingredients with respect and skill (the establishment also ranks #33 on the San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list). Some find the dragon-themed dining room on the plain side, but the food is anything but. There is a large à la carte menu, but the way to go here is to order the fixed-price menu, a constantly changing presentation of "Japan's richness on a plate." Expect such dishes as a "Joy of the Sea" sashimi platter, a seasonal shabu shabu hot pot, fresh local fish grilled over Bincho charcoal, an imaginative rice dish, and more. The knowledgeable, English-speaking staff will explain the nuances of the presentation, and the kitchen is accommodating to food preferences and allergies — though Yamamoto warns that if you don't want fish (or raw fish), don't like vegetables, are allergic to seafood-based stocks, or have bean or gluten allergies, the kitchen will not be able to "responsibly [prepare] dishes that we feel are satisfactory" and thus "cannot accept such reservations."

What Are the Most Popular Foods in Japan?

There’s no question, Japan is a food lover’s paradise. Some of the best foods in the world can be found here from prime cuts of A-5 Wagyu to the perfect piece of fatty tuna.

Recently, several super-trendy Japanese foods have hit it big in the U.S., including jiggly Japanese cheesecake, kakigōri, okonomiyaki and ultra-fluffy pancakes.

But the most-popular dishes are time-honored and practically ubiquitious. There are more than any list could reasonably cite, but here are just a few of the most-popular ones to try in the Land of the Rising Sun, whether at a restaurant in Tokyo, or beyond.

Though ramen in America has only recently become known as more than instant-reheat dehydrated fare, the Japanese have long treated ramen as slurpable art. In fact, Tokyo has numerous Michelin-starred slurp shops to fulfill all your soup cravings. Sample tonkotsu shio, shoyu and other styles – many of Japan’s regions have their own distinct style of ramen, so you can try a different kind each place you visit.

Break off a piece of this: The beloved candy bar has become one of Japan’s most-beloved snacks, and the market there goes way beyond the basics. In addition to classic chocolate, Japan has flavors like Shinshu Apple, Purple Sweet Potato, Momiji Manju and Wasabi. In Tokyo, there are several Kit Kat Chocolatory stores to find a huge variety of unique flavors to take home.

Forget notions of California rolls: Japan has the highest-quality sashimi and sushi in the world. Though Japan benefits from ultra-fresh fish sourced at competitive fish markets and auctions, good sushi is rarely just about the fish. Because sushi is so seemingly simple, the integrity of each component is critically important. Sushi masters season and warm rice, use fresh wasabi, prepare their own soy sauce and, of course, procure the best fish. But in Japan, sashimi is excellent many places, including at high-end omakase restaurants and even 7-Eleven.

Created in Japan in the 1960s, this chocolate-covered biscuit stick is a hugely popular snack throughout Asia. Today, you can find Pocky in a number of different flavors, including coconut, grape and limited-edition flavors like Tokyo Amazake, a traditional sweet sake. Use strawberry in this cake.

Found in 7-Elevens, Family Marts and Lawsons around Japan, this triangular rice ball wrapped in nori is traditionally stuffed with pickled and salted items like plum blossoms and salmon, but creative chefs have adapted it to hold many types with fillings, like fried pork or mayonnaise-slathered shrimp.

Yakitori are charcoal-grilled meat skewers. Some versions are as simple as they sound, but they’re still among the tastiest things to eat in Japan. Popular combinations include chicken with leek salted pork meatballs chicken hearts and kidneys.

Fried foods are a global comfort dish, but tempura is practically an art form in Japan. Lightly coated and expertly fried pieces of Hokkaido corn and fresh shrimp are a must-try. It can be found in high-end restaurants, family-run izakayas and convenient stores. Tempura is best eaten fresh with salt sprinkled on top and a side of tentsuyu, a dashi-mirin dipping sauce.

Curry is often associated with Indian food, but in Japan, it’s an extremely popular dish consisting of vegetables, curry powder and pork or beef. Unlike Indian curry, Japanese curry is not spicy, and has a thicker texture. It is often served with rice and sometimes tonkatsu (fried pork) on top.

Pot stickers, dumplings — call them what you will, gyoza are typically filled with pork, garlic, chives, onions, cabbage and ginger. They can be steamed or pan-fried and are served with a dipping sauce of soy and vinegar, adding to the addictive umami taste. There’s even a town outside of Tokyo devoted to it.

Fried, breaded pork cutlets, called tonkatsu, are a favorite Japanese pub food, typically served with salad and rice, and ideal with beer.

Japanese fried chicken is one of the must-try dishes while eating at an izakaya, a Japanese pub. Served with a slice of lemon, these lightly battered and perfectly fried bites pair with beer or sake.

Top best foods to eat when you visit Tokyo:

1. Sushi 寿司

Tokyo, the world capital of sushi, is where you get next-level sushi that sets them apart from sushi in the rest of the world. Two major winning factors: t he abundance of fresh seafood and the time-honored skills that go into making the vinegared rice aka sushi rice. After all, sushi is the food that is best synonymous with Japanese cuisine.

The very best news is good sushi is everywhere in Tokyo, and at every budget. Want to enjoy sushi on a tight budget? Head over to the cheap and casual kaiten zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants where you can get a great selection of seafood without breaking the bank. It’s our favorite place to indulge as much sushi as possible! For one-of-the-kind theatrical sushi experience, there are the reveled Michelin-starred establishments you can pay homage to (if your budget allows).

JOC recommendations in Tokyo:

Also, you won’t go wrong with any sushi joints nestled within the famous Toyosu Fish Market. Go early and treat yourself with multiple sushi breakfasts. Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi are the best, but any shop with lines of locals will not disappoint.

2. Ramen ラーメン

Perfectly chewy noodles, jammy ramen egg, juicy char siu pork, bamboo shoots, and nori sheets in a hot piping bowl of soup broth. Ramen needs no introduction. Having taken the world by storm in recent years, this soul food of Japan dominates the food scene in Tokyo and it’s just getting better and better.

You can find ramen shops hidden behind train stations and department buildings, tucked in inconspicuous streets, or sandwiched among rows of food stalls, serving up bowls of ramen in great varieties. There is tonkatsu ramen, shio ramen, miso ramen, spicy shoyu ramen, tsukemen, and cold ramen. By all means, explore all the options you want because this is the place to get your ramen fixing. Slurp away!

JOC recommendations in Tokyo:

3. Tempura ぷら

We may be biased, but dare we say no other world cuisine does deep-fried food as excellent as the Japanese! Tempura is the obvious evidence of the claim. What is not to love about deep-fried shrimp or sweet potato encrusted in the lightest, crispiest batter? And only in Japan, you can find specialized restaurants that serve the best of the best tempura.

JOC recommendations in Tokyo:

4. Yakitori 焼き鳥

Yakitori are tasty skewered chicken meat brushed with a sweet soy glaze, and grilled over charcoal. While chicken meat is most common, you can also find other meats and vegetables on skewers on the Yakitori menus. It is also where you’ll learn the advanced level of Japanese chicken butchery, where opal, liver, gizzards, and skins make regular appearances.

The best places to enjoy yakitori in Tokyo are at izakaya restaurants (Japanese gastropubs) and specialty yakitori restaurants.

JOC recommendations in Tokyo:

5. Japanese Curry カレー

Brought to Japan in late 1800 by the British, Japanese curry is considered one of the nation’s most popular convenience and comfort foods. Unlike Thai or Indian-style curries, Japanese curry dishes have a more stew-like texture and are generally sweeter and milder in heat. They make a perfect introduction to people who are trying curry for the first time. Which means they are kids-friendly too. Some of the must-try curry dishes: curry rice, curry udon and Katsu-kare (curry with breaded pork cutlet).

JOC recommendations in Tokyo:

6. Soba そば

As humble as it can be, the sweet-earthy buckwheat noodle represents the elegant simplicity of the food that is so characteristic of Japan.

The best soba is usually hand made in house from scratch, and are served either chilled with a dipping sauce or in a hot dashi broth as a noodle soup. When you want something light, healthy yet soul-satisfying, go for a bowl of soba.

JOC recommendations in Tokyo:

7. Tonkatsu とんかつ

Breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet, Tonkatsu is the Japanese version of a schnitzel. It is a working-class dish and a Japanese comfort-food staple for centuries. Much like everything in Japan, tonkatsu can be both casual and very high end, but the very best tonkatsu is mind-blowingly crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and almost grease-free. It’s typically served with a sweet-savory sauce, along with fluffy steamed rice, cool pile of shredded cabbage, pickles, and miso soup.

JOC recommendations in Tokyo:

9. Sukiyaki すき焼き

Sukiyaki is one of Japanese favorites’ cold-weather food, where an assortment of fresh veggies and thinly sliced meat cooked in a sweet and salty soy sauce-based broth in a simmering hot pot. If you’re visiting Tokyo in the fall or winter, mark this hot pot dish on your must-eat list.

JOC recommendations in Tokyo:

10. Udon うどん

Another Japanese noodle that deserves your attention is udon. Chewy, slippery, smooth, and supple, udon is the kind of noodles that can melt all your troubles away. You can get udon in hot dashi soup broth topped with flash-fried tempura, or cold in the umami mentsuyu sauce, or creative fusion dish like udon carborana. We also recommend beef udon, kitsune udon and yaki udon.

JOC recommendations in Tokyo:

11. Yakiniku 焼肉

Yakiniku is basically Japanese style BBQ, where a fine selection of tender meat, vegetables, and savory dipping sauce laid out in front of the table. Everyone sits around the grill and cooks and eats the foods. It’s the most delicious and jovial way of experiencing Japanese communal meals.

JOC recommendations in Tokyo:

12. Shabu Shabu しゃぶしゃぶ

When the weather cools, the Tokyolites keep themselves warm and cozy by partaking in hot pot dishes like shabu-shabu. The name “shabu shabu” came from the sound when you stir the vegetables and meat with your chopsticks and ‘swish swish’ in the hot pot. As everyone sits around the hot pot at the table, cooks together, and eats while you chat, it’s a meal that makes delicious memories.

JOC recommendations in Tokyo:

Japanese eat lots of noodles like Ramen,Udon etc but if you wanna go healthy, eat Soba! Soba noodle is made with buckwheat flour which consists of higher protein,more minerals and Vitamin B1&B2 comparing to other kind of noodles. Also Soba contains &ldquoRutin&rdquo which is very effective for anti-aging and lowering blood pressure.

Sweet delights

10. Castella: A slice of historical flavour

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ocdp used under CC0

Castella is a sweet, moist sponge cake. Based on a recipe originally introduced by Portuguese missionaries in the mid-16 century, the Castella was created in Nagasaki with a unique Japanese flavour, with a different look and baking process from the original Portuguese recipe. Check out the interesting history behind the origins of Castella that date back to 1571, during the Age of Discovery!

文明堂本店 Bunmei-do main branch

Address: 1-1 Edomachi, Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture

Access 1-minute walk from Ohato municipal tram station

Opening hours 8:30 am - 7:30 pm

Holidays nil

Contact : +81 95-824-0002

11. Yori-yori: A must-buy Nagasaki souvenir

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Speaking of Nagasaki food souvenirs, one cannot forget the yori-yori. A Chinese sweet delight, yori-yori is a sweet fried-dough cuisine with a unique helical structure. With its golden brown exterior, the yori-yori is fragrant and most definitely enticing as a local food choice. Other names of the yori-yori include Nejinbou, Mafa, and Toujinmaki.

12. Milk Seki - A Nagasaki spin to the famous drink

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

You may be familiar with Milk Seki, a sweet drink made with a blend of milk, egg and sugar. On a warm summer day, sipping on a cup of Milk Seki sounds like the perfect idea.

Milk Seki in Nagasaki is to be eaten, not drunk. Indulge in the various variations of Milk Seki in Nagasaki as you find yourself served with Milk Seki with loads and loads of shaved ice. Forget the drink you see on online recipes. In Nagasaki, we eat them!

Cafe & Bar Umino

Address:Amu Plaza Nagasaki 5F, 1-1 Onouemachi, Nagasaki-city, Nagasaki Prefecture

Access: In front of JR Nagasaki Station

Opening hours : 11am to 11pm

Holidays: nil

Find out more

15 Easy Japanese Recipes for Weeknight Meals

1. Easy Fried Rice (Gluten-Free) 基本のチャーハン

2. Teriyaki Salmon 鮭の照り焼き

Teriyaki Salmon is cooked in soy sauce, sake, and mirin. If you buy salmon as a whole fish, you can fillet it the Japanese way. It helps to cook faster and absorb the flavors quickly. Not a seafood fan? Try Chicken Teriyaki or Beef Teriyaki.

3. Yaki Udon 焼うどん

4. Easy Wafu Pasta with Shrimp and Asparagus 海老とアスパラの和風パスタ

5. Stir Fry Vegetables 野菜炒め

Stir fry Vegetables (Yasai Itame) makes a well-rounded weeknight meal. Not only everything comes together in less than 30 minutes, but it’s also a great way to use up any leftovers.

6. Omurice (Omelette Rice) オムライス

Omurice is one of my children’s favorite meals. The rice is pan-fried with ketchup and chicken, then wrapped in a thin layer of egg. When there is leftover rice, it’s a perfect single-plate meal to prepare the next day.

7. Salmon in Foil 鮭のホイル焼き

Salmon in Foil recipe is packed with Omega-3 Fatty Acids from the fish and healthy nutrients from the vegetables. A healthy yet flavorful dinner dish that we all need to power through a busy week. It’s incredibly easy and versatile to make too.

8. Soba Noodle Salad 蕎麦サラダ

9. Oyakodon (Chicken and Egg Bowl) 親子丼

Oyakodon is one of the easy dishes I learned at the home-making class in middle school. If you have older children at home, this would be a fun dish to teach them. It’s a classic Donbori dish, where the beaten egg and chicken pieces are simmered in sweet soy dashi sauce and served over white rice.

10. Gyudon (Beef Bowl) 牛丼

Gyudon (Beef Bowl) is comfort food for Japanese. Simple ingredients such as onion, sliced beef, and eggs, are tossed into a hot frying pan for a quick cook. In 15 minutes, you’d get to serve some delicious rice bowl for dinner.

11. Baked Tonkatsu 揚げないとんかつ

Baked Tonkatsu (Japanese pork cutlet) will shake things up a little. The best part is you don’t need to deep fry the meat to achieve the crispy crust and tender, juicy texture. You can also try Crispy Baked Chicken or Crispy Salmon in replace of pork.

12. Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐

Mapo Tofu is a lot milder than the Sichuan-style mapo tofu, yet it is flavorful enough that even both adults & children can enjoy it.

13. Honey Soy Sauce Chicken はちみつ醤油チキン

Honey Soy Sauce Chicken can be prepped the night before. When you’re ready to cook, pop them into the oven while you prepare a simple salad or miso soup to serve along.

14. Ginger Pork (Shogayaki) 豚の生姜焼き

Ginger Pork (Shogayaki) at most of the Japanese restaurants in the US, it is a simple dish to make at home. You want to use thinly sliced pork loin or sukiyaki meat to cook. The sweet garlic ginger sauce makes it a delicious savory dish to go with shredded cabbage.

15. Yakisoba Recipe 焼きそば


I hope you enjoy making these delicious easy Japanese recipes at home. If you are looking for more easy recipes, click here to get inspiration! Thank you so much for reading and till next time!

Prego KL

Set within The Westin Kuala Lumpur Hotel, Prego KL is an uptown homage to classic Italian cuisine. The two-storey restaurant&rsquos menu provides multiple opportunities for a memorable meal, best experienced when shared between two or more. Décor-wise the dining space features a lot of old world charm, while the kitchen offers sophisticated takes on Italian comfort food favourites. For example, risotto with a velvety sauce of wild mushrooms and parmesan cheese, and delicate ravioli filled with tender chicken chunks, sitting on a bed of rich mushroom cream sauce. Read More.

  • Opening Hours: 12:00 - 14:30 (lunch) and 18:30 22:30 (dinner) Monday - Saturday 12:00 - 15:00 (lunch) and 18:30 - 22:30 (dinner) Sunday
  • Address: 199, The Westin Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, 55100
  • Tel: +603 2731 8333

6. Shumai (Chinese-style dumplings)

Source: Needpix

Steamed meat dumplings, known as Shumai to the locals, is another Chinese-style street food that you have to try when in Yokohama. You can either savour this delicacy at Seihuro in Yokohama’s Chinatown that is said to serve the best Shumai in the district, or head to the famous Kiyoken where you can even join the popular factory tour to see how the tasty dish is made. But you have to be really lucky to be able to reserve your seat successfully for the popular factory tour that only accepts phone reservations 3 months in advance!

Seihuro (清風楼)

Address: 190 Yamashita-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama-city

Price: from 14.80 USD for a box of 12

Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 11:45 am - 2:30 pm, 5 pm - 10:30 pm Sunday 12 noon - 8:30 pm

Access: A quick walk from the Motomachi-Chukagai Station along the Minato Mirai Line, or the Ishikawacho Station along the JR Negishi Line will bring you to Yokohama Chinatown

Contact: +81 45-681-2901

Kiyoken Yokohama Factory (崎陽軒横浜工場)

Address: No. 1, 65 Kawamukai-cho, Tsuzuki-ku, Yokohama- city

Price: from 11.40 USD for a box of 9

Opening Hours: 8am - 6pm. Closed on public holidays

Duration: Around 3 hours required

Access: 5 minutes’ walk from Kohoku station of Nakamachidai line

Contact: +81 45-472-5890


8. Gyutan

Depending on your country of origin, this dish may appear, at a glance, too atypical, but bear with us and keep reading.

Gyutan literally means cow tongue and this is exactly what the dish is: grilled cow tongue. You can usually find this dish in yakiniku restaurants, served with salt or different sauces (usually a lemon one) and scallion. The meat is thin, tasty, and tender.

Gyutan originated in Sendai, where the owner of a yakitori restaurant opened a new one, in 1948, which served gyutan. Since then the dish spread all over the country like wildfire. Try it and you&rsquoll know exactly why.

Watch the video: 10 Must Try Tokyo Restaurants in Japan. Tokyo Food Guide (May 2022).