Where To Eat Japanese Food In London

If your thoughts on Japanese cuisine are ‘ewww, floppy raw fish. Sweet and sour chicken is quite good though’, you need a few pointers. No, really. You really do. In Japan, the vast majority of hang outs for the hungry are either izakaya (pubs that do a little of everything) or specialist places that focus on just one thing and do it well. This isn’t Tokyo. But, luckily for you, this is London, and there are many places authentic enough to rival the homeland.

The following is intended as a newbies’ guide to eating Japanese. These are some of our favourites, but this is by no means a definitive list. Feel free to suggest your own favourite places for any of these categories below, and we’ll add them to the appropriate section as ‘reader suggestions’.

Sushi Cooked, vinegared rice most famously topped with raw fish, but also cucumber, egg or sweet tofu. Nigiri sushi are the rectangular blocks and makizushi are the rolled variety. In its western incarnation, nigiri sushi is huge — traditionally there should be a little morsel of rice underneath, to be devoured in one mouthful.Where: Atariya have some reasonable sushi bars in north-west London. Their dependable supermarkets are also the best place to get fish if you’re brave enough to home-make sushi.

Reader suggestions:

  • Atari-Ya in Swiss Cottage is a noted supplier to big restaurants, as well as having a wonderful restaurant of its own, notes Jonathan.
  • Dinings in Marylebone, suggests Claire.
  • Edo in Crystal Palace is Michael Keefe’s suggestion.
  • Hana on Seven Sisters Road do traditional sushi as well as ‘crazy Westernized types’, says Vix Proctor.
  • Kulu Kulu in Covent Garden is a conveyor-belt style place, ‘an easy place to eat alone, or in a couple,’ says Sian Gwilliam.
  • Nizuni on Charlotte Street is a good sushi stop for Claire.
  • Sake No Hana in St James is good but pricey, says Claire.
  • Song Sushi on Blackstock Road is amazing for takeaway sushi, opines Rebecca June.
  • Sushi Say on Walm Lane, Willesden is fantastic and always packed, says Bethany Childs (via Facebook).
  • Yashin in High Street Kensington is good for Claire, if a little pricey.
  • Yoshino on Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly offer huge take away portions of sushi, with an assorted tray for under £4. “The restaurant is quite a bit pricier but a great experience,” says Chris.

Yakitori

Yakitori A simple snack of vegetables or bite-sized pieces of chicken (almost any part, in fact, from thigh to wing to its tiny heart) skewered, seasoned with salt (shio) or coated with an addictively yummy sugary-soy sauce (tare) and grilled to perfection. Where: Any Japanese place in London with a grill can knock up a good yakitori, but Bincho (Clerkenwell and Soho) is the place to go to enjoy the yakitori joint experience in London. TasteCard holders can get 50% off in Clerkenwell.

Okonomiyaki A big-ass savoury pancake originating from Osaka made with cabbage and seafood or red meat, finished off with lashings of mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, dried fish flakes (katsuobushi) and a dusting of dried seaweed (aonori). Usually the raw ingredients, in a bowl, are delivered to your hot-plate-fitted table, where you and your friends proceed to get drunk and cook it while totally not burning yourselves. Where: Abeno and Abeno too (Holborn and Leicester Square) specialise in real okonomiyaki dining. Much like in Japan, guests are seated around a hotplate. Unlike Japan, the staff do all the hard work for you. They might let you try it for yourself if you ask.

Reader suggestion:
The more upscale Matsuri in St James also sells okonomiyaki (Hiroshima style, not Osaka), says ‘Shogun of Shoganai’.

Takoyaki Tako is octopus. That’s the first thing you need to know. The second is that they sound gross but taste amazing. Another dish from Osaka, it’s basically fried or grilled balls of pancakey awesome, jammed with chunks of octopus, pickled ginger and the odd tentacle, all served with takoyaki sauce and the mayo/fish flake/dusty seaweed super combo. Where: Juzu, a stall situated on Brick Lane on Sundays, is where we go when we need our fix. Which is quite often.

Tempura

Tempura The ‘tem’ in ‘tempura’ is also the Japanese symbol for heaven. If you’ve a penchant for battered, deep-fried food, it’s not hard to see why. Crispy, light and fluffy vegetables and seafood are served with either salt or a dipping sauce (tentsuyu) or on a bowl of rice (tendon). Where: Tempura is the house speciality at Toku (Regent Street), and one of the most expensive things on the otherwise reasonable menu (but it’s damn good). Visit the website for weekly offers, and students can claim a 10% discount.

Katsu curry A heap of rice, mild curry sauce with onion, potato, carrots, beef chucks and a whole-breaded, deep-fried, sliced-pork cutlet dumped on the side for good measure. Where: It’s very hard to actually screw up a katsu curry. Very hard. Most places have it lurking somewhere on the menu. However Tokyo Diner (near Leicester Square) is worthy of a mention as they not only do a decent katsu curry, but for the truly ravenous they offer ’Omori’, an extra large helping of rice, for free. All you have to do is ask. Just make sure you eat it, greedy.

Reader suggestions:

  • Curry Ono in Brixton village offers ‘a great katsu curry’, says Amy.
  • Misato in Chinatown floats Nick’s boat, while Careicles notes that it’s famous for its katsu.
  • Soho Japan on Wells Street ‘does the best katsu curry ever’, according to minty_fresh_uk.

Udon Thick, wheat noodles plonked into a mild broth with tempura, scallions, or various other fun foodstuffs thrown in on top. Where: Queues are out the door for bowls of wormy fat Sanuki noodles, a speciality from south-western Japan, at Koya in Soho since it opened to rave reviews in 2010. Pioneered by people who really know their stuff — it’s about as authentic as you’re going to get in this hemisphere.

Omurice Chicken fried rice wrapped in a thin sheet of omelette and squirted with ketchup. The ultimate in fusion comfort food. Where: Surprisingly, not many places do Omurice. The Crane and Tortoise on Gray’s Inn Road does, though. And it’s delightful when there’s an empty spot inside that only rice pretending to be breakfast can fill.

Gyoza

Gyoza Derived from Chinese dumplings, these beauties are made with minced pork, cabbage and garlic then pan-fried on the bottom and steamed. Consumed with a soy-chilli oil dip. WhereYoisho (Goodge Street) is an izakaya that does everything, but the gyoza here is particularly morish – said by many Japanese foodies to be ‘some of the best gyoza in London’. Do some chompworthy yakitori too.

Other noteworthy izakaya and restaurants

The aforementioned Japanese ‘pub’ works a lot like Spanish tapas; order a round of food and drinks, then repeat until you’re stuffed and/or pleasently wasted. Below are some of our other favourite Izakaya to check out:

  • Asakusa, Mornington Crescent: Booking is essential, so people tend to keep this one quiet. We’re probably already in trouble for telling you.
  • ICN Gallery, Shoreditch: Simple, to the point, tasty and cheap stop-off for lunch, with an associated gallery of new Asian art. Read our review.
  • Kiraku, Ealing Common: High-standard of food and some very tasty Sashimi (raw sliced fish). Be sure to book at peak eating times.
  • Nozomi, Knightsbridge: Celebrity hangout with classy bento boxes. Read our review.
  • Suzu, Hammersmith: Do fantastic deals every Monday with discounted food and drink.
  • Tomoe, Bond Street: Another good ‘all-rounder’ on the food front. Downstairs is good for big groups.
Other reader suggestions
  • Akari on Essex Road deserves a mention, according to Kkmaisey.
  • Cafe Japan in Golders Green is ‘great, unpretentious and reasonable’, says fluffythoughts.net.
  • Dotori in Finsbury Park is a good option according to Ali Ross on Facebook.
  • Japan Centre near Piccadilly is Eugenie Guseva’s favourite for lunch (via Facebook).
  • Nobu in Mayfair, with its Michelin Star, is nominated by George Hastings on Facebook.
  • Roka on Charlotte Street serves up Robatayaki style, Claire Luck tips us off on Facebook.
  • Sapporo Ichiban in Catford offers an ‘amazingly fresh and affordable buffet’, according to Pixies888.
  • Satsuma on Wardour Street does ‘excellent bento’, according to Paul Henry on Facebook.
  • Sushi Japan in North Finchley is beloved of Shani Souter (on Facebook) who tells us it “has the greatest selection of all sushis available (including sashimi) and Japanese delights (my favourite being pumpkin korroke and the octopus balls, takoyaki) for an amazing set price. Terms and conditions apply but for £14 you can eat whatever you like off the menu — and as much of it as you like. Even the ramen which usually costs £9 a bowl.”
  • Sushi Waka on Camden Parkway, nominated by Dave Hodgkinson.
  • Taro on Old Compton street ‘do great Bento boxes’, reckons Amy.
  • Tsunami on Charlotte Street is nominated by Liza Ramli on Facebook
  • Zuma in Knightsbridge is nominated by Liza Ramli on Facebook.
We’d like to add to this article with reader suggestions. Please let us know your own favourite Japanese restaurants, either for a specific food item or general dining, in the comments below.
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital’s top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.

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jananjay

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  • http://twitter.com/minty_fresh_uk minty_fresh_uk

    Not many people know about this one but Soho Japan on Wells St does the best katsu curry ever

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the tip…we’ve added it to the Katsu section.

  • amy

    Abeno is fantastic and very authentic!  I also love Taro on Old Compton street, they do great Bento boxes, and Curryono in Brixton village for a great Katzu curry.

  • http://twitter.com/davehodg Dave Hodgkinson

    Just to put in a good word for Waka on Camden Parkway. So much better than Feng Sushi which was decidedly bland. There’s a noodle place on Parkway which has been good and bad.

    • Magdalenaaa83

      Also Bento Cafe on Camden Parkway! Delicious food but make sure you book in advance as it’s busy most of the times!

  • Kkmaisey

    Akari on Essex Rd defs deserves a mention in the Izakaya section!  
    http://www.akarilondon.co.uk/ 

  • Chris

    Yoshino is great for Japanese. They’ve got a place on Shaftsbury Avenue that just does take away and 5 minutes down the road just off Piccadilly they have a take away and restaurant. Huge take away portions of sushi which is very reasonable. I’d recommend the assorted tray which is under £4. The restaurant is quite a bit pricier but a great experience.

  • Shogun of Shoganai

    The more upscale Matsuri in St James also sells okonomiyaki (Hiroshima style, not Osaka):

    http://www.matsuri-restaurant.com/

    • http://twitter.com/TreasureLondon Kathy Brown

      I LOVE Matsuri. Ideal for business lunches and I have taken the family there too. Love the Tepenyaki showmanship. Food, service all good and actually didn’t think it was tooo expensive…

  • Pixies888

    Sapporo in Catford do any amazingly fresh and affordable buffet. Real value for money.

    • Anonymous

      Seconding Sapporo. Was there on Saturday night, love that place. Even if getting out of the sunken Japanese-style tables is a struggle for my rapidly ageing bones…

  • Claire

    Some others not on the beaten path…
    Nizuni on Charlotte Street is  very good for sushi and have amazing fusion starters. Dinings in Marylebone is a jewelbox of a restaurant and has fantastic flavours and very good sushi. Yashin in HSK has very good sushi but quite pricey. Sake No Hana has a beautiful interior food is great but also pricey. It’s good when it’s on toptable offer though!

  • fluffythoughts.net

    Cafe Japan in Golders Green is great, unpretentious and reasonable

  • http://www.join-as-a-rep.co.uk/ Ruth

    I second Yoshini, I always try to visit there when I’m in London. I live in the north of England and it’s a pretty poor show up here for Japanese restaurants. Will check out some of your suggestions next time :) 

  • http://twitter.com/gooneruk Rob

    If someone else is paying, you can’t beat Zuma. Stunningly good food, from the sushi/sashimi through to the meat and fish hot courses. Huge sake range too!

  • Mike

    If you’re going to go to Ealing, go to Sushi Hiro. This is a big claim, but it is possibly the best sushi place in London.

    • Anonymous

      Mike – I was going to add this to the readers’ suggestions, but it appears to be closed, unfortunately…unless anyone knows different.

      • Janan_jay

        Alas, I can confirm that Sushi Hiro has indeed gone – the Ealing branch of Atariya have taken over the same premises. Some internet-snooping revealed that some customers have been told that the owner had retired

  • RebeccaJune

    Song Sushi on Blackstock Road in Islington is amazing for takeaway sushi, a huge platter for £18

  • michaelkeefe

    I have to recommend Edo in Crystal Palace – Wonderful restaurant with excellent sushi!

  • marge

    I cannot believe my favourite Japanese place, Ikkyu, on Tottenham Court Road, has closed!

  • http://nickheung.net/ Nick

    Misato in Chinatown is pretty good – pretty cheap, there’s usually a queue out the door though.

    • fluffythoughts.net

      great if you’re hungry and poor

  • Sian Gwilliam

    Kulu Kulu in Covent Garden – 51-53 Shelton Street, WC2H 9HE – is a good fast, decently priced conveyor belt sushi restaurant. An easy place to eat alone, or in a couple with friendly staff. They have another branch in Brewer Street too.

    • http://www.simovalley.com Simo Valley

      and one in South Ken :)

  • Charlotte

    Asakusa is terrible. I don’t know why you even bothered to mention it. Haven’t you seen the terrible reviews?

    • Marinaking

      I spent a year living in Japan and I think Asakusa is the best Japanese restaurant I’ve been to outside of Japan itself

  • Careicles

    No Misato on Wardour St? It is cheap and famous for its katsu – and full of Japanese people.

    Check the top blog post from Urbanspoon – all about katsu:
    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/52/567033/restaurant/London/Chinatown/Misato-Soho

  • Andre Euphrasio

    I am moving to London in 2 weeks time and I just love Japanese culture and food. This post just made my day !!!!!! Thanks a mil :D

  • Jonathan

    Atari-Ya on Fairfax Road.

    Atari-Ya started out as a fish purveyor to London’s top Japanese Restaurants. In fact I would hazard a guess that they supply most of the restaurants on the list above. At Nobu (where I worked for 3 years) we used to get all of our fish from Atari-Ya.

    They started off in the retail business with a small take away place near Selfridges, but the Fairfax Road restaurant is a proper full-service restaurant with sushi bar and a small tatami room. The head chef is ex-Nobu and the sushi is the best I’ve had in London, without a doubt.

  • Jonathan

    Atari-Ya on Fairfax Road.

    Atari-Ya started out as a fish purveyor to London’s top Japanese Restaurants. In fact I would hazard a guess that they supply most of the restaurants on the list above. At Nobu (where I worked for 3 years) we used to get all of our fish from Atari-Ya.

    They started off in the retail business with a small take away place near Selfridges, but the Fairfax Road restaurant is a proper full-service restaurant with sushi bar and a small tatami room. The head chef is ex-Nobu and the sushi is the best I’ve had in London, without a doubt.

  • Jonathan

    Atari-Ya on Fairfax Road.

    Atari-Ya started out as a fish purveyor to London’s top Japanese Restaurants. In fact I would hazard a guess that they supply most of the restaurants on the list above. At Nobu (where I worked for 3 years) we used to get all of our fish from Atari-Ya.

    They started off in the retail business with a small take away place near Selfridges, but the Fairfax Road restaurant is a proper full-service restaurant with sushi bar and a small tatami room. The head chef is ex-Nobu and the sushi is the best I’ve had in London, without a doubt.

  • http://twitter.com/vixproctor Vix Proctor

    I can’t believe no one has put on Hana on Seven Sisters Road.  This by far is the best Japanese/Sushi I have ever tasted.  The staff are lovely and friendly, and it has a website that you can order and it is delivered!  Fantastic restaurant, they do traditional Sushi as well as some crazy Westernised types.  Definitely worth every penny.  We have never been disappointed!

  • @LondonStone

    There are about six Japanese restaurants around Brewer Street, near Piccadilly Circus. The one I often go back to is Ten Ten Tai. It’s small and basic but quite authentically Japanese, like you’ll find many of in Tokyo. Unlike many restaurants in London this one is staffed by Japanese, as are many of the clientele. 

  • Thehungrygiraffe

    I think you should also add Chisou in Knightsbridge! The food was amazing! Really nice post though! Very helpful! :)

  • Shash

    Gyoza(s) are very morish, you are right. They are very much like Nepalese Momo (dumplings) and Tibetan fried Kothe(fried dumplings).

  • http://twitter.com/benhodgson Ben Hodgson

    Ribon just next to City Thameslink on Holborn Viaduct is also excellent, and pretty quick for a working lunch.

  • http://haikugirl.me/ Haikugirl

    Not sure if anyone has mentioned this, but do you know Nambu-tei? It’s near Baker Street. Nambu-tei has the best sushi in town, and it’s reasonably priced for a slightly more up-market place. (http://www.nambu-tei.co.uk/) Also near Baker Street is Cha no Ma, which is a great place to stop for a bento. (http://chanoma.co.uk/)

  • http://twitter.com/bextree Becky

    I really want to try all of the restaurants suggested but I took one from this article and tried out Soho Japan, it was traditional inside and staff were very friendly. The Sushi was particularly good. http://thingsthataretasty.tumblr.com/day/2012/01/30 

  • Mb81

    Who wrote this article – ‘A big-ass savoury pancake’? 

  • Dan Arlington

    Shisho in Hornsey has a great take away and quite a unique and kitsch interior. It’s moderately priced and not a far cry away from crouch end.

  • Mcellan

    Sasa Sushi on St John’s Rd Islington (just down from Angel station) is AMAZING the best mid-range sushi I’ve had outside of Japan- try their crunchy tuna rolls. Their tempura is also very very good..

  • gusto

    This list makes me re-think the londonist.com all together.
    This is a list of basically all Japanese restos non-Japanese people enjoy – from cheap to expensive, all is covered where you do not see a single japanese person eating there.
    If you spot a Japanese businessman at any of these places, do let me know – all you’ll see is a bunch of people having soy sauce with some other things.
    .

    • Matt

      Why don’t you tell us where you think the best places are? The idea is to combine the knowledge of lots of Londoners to put a good and varied selection together.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Harold-Larwood/1393608274 Harold Larwood

      There’s nothing in this world as dull as Japanese food snobs….

    • Nadezda

      That is ABSOLUTELY untrue. I go to Chisou in Princess Street regularly, and see a lot of Japanese businessmen there. Ditto for Cafe Japan.
      I also recently went to Yoisho based on the above recommendations, and was pleasantly surprised that almost everyone was Japanese!!

  • Michelle-l

    Ukai Sushi in Soho – amazing!

  • Evelyn

    Atari-ya and Koya are my absolute favourites and I have a regular craving for their food, but they are already on the list. Bincho and Curry Ono are also good. I have my reservations regarding places like Misato and Kulu Kulu though, from what I remember they’re just cheap eats and the quality of the food isn’t amazing. Nizuni is alright but overpriced, and it’s run by Koreans not Japanese.

    On the other hand, I chanced upon a Japanese restaurant called Tenshi in Angel yesterday and it was a very pleasant surprise. I had an Oyakodon, which is a donburi (rice bowl dish) with chicken and egg. It was so delicious, the chicken was very tender and went so well with the simmered onion and spring onion. It’s the ultimate comfort food! I mentioned it to a friend who also happened to be a great fan (she was introduced to the place by her Japanese ex-boyfriend), she has sampled more dishes than I did and said they were all very nice. 

  • Shreya

    Tenshi in Islington has some of the best avocado rolls I’ve ever tasted!

  • http://twitter.com/KleesRoseGarden Kleesrosegarden

    You missed out Fujiyama in Brixton – lovely food – amazing living within delivery distance of bento for dinner :-)

  • Maria

    I can’t believe Yoyo Kitchen in West Acton isn’t on this list! It’s possibly one of the best places for Japanese food in London! (Well, next to Misato!)

  • Ella Jameson

    Really surprised Shoryu hasn’t had a mention! The pork and miso broth is incredible… and it made the cut on this new map of London’s best restaurants http://www.discount-london.com/tastesoflondon.htm … so it can’t be just me who thinks Shoryu is fantastic?? Anyone else eaten there?

    • Janan Jay

      Shoryu do indeed serve up a great bowl of ramen – there and Bone Daddies are my two faves. This piece was written at the beginning of 2012, and I purposely left ramen off the list, as we didn’t have any of the brilliant noodle places we have in London today. They all seemed to come in a great, piggy broth, wave.

      And have you had any of the sake at the Denman Street branch? Oh my, I could just live there.

      • Ella Jameson

        No I haven’t actually – if it’s that good I think I’ll have to make a visit this week! :)

        • Janan Jay

          Yes, they have a sake bar next door – 120 types (including plum wines) and counting. Ask for the drinks menu and if you’re lucky enough to have the sake sommelier in that night, bend his ear for recommendations!

  • Betina

    FyI
    Sticks’n’Sushi

  • Lola

    You forgot Chisou ! In Mayfair, the quality is just stunning. I will die for one black cod and their sushi.

  • thereminwar

    Asakusa (Mornington Crescent). Saraceno on Gray’s Inn Road was good too. Shame it closed.

  • Nick Clark

    Daruma-San in Finchley is superb and authentic. Frequented by Japanese families as well as the odd gaijin!

  • Luke Robinson

    Good list, but it’s a bit baffling to omit the single biggest Japanese food trend of recent years: ramen. Where’s Tonkotsu? Where’s Shoryu (all 4 of em)? Heck, where’s Kanada-ya, newly open this week with queues out the door every single day?

    • Luke Robinson

      My bad, just realised this list is three years old! Was flummoxed by the fact it just now got republished as if new on Twitter….

  • lauren_scho

    Great all you can eat made to order sushi and really friendly staff at Ginnan, Rosebery Ave.

  • JTD

    Tokyo Retro on Abbeville Rd, Clapham does really good fresh sushi

  • juniper

    Dotori in Finsbury Park ,is Actually Korean .