Best Japanese restaurants in Chicago

Dig into maki, sashimi and other dishes at Chicago’s best Japanese restaurants

Photograph: Martha Williams
Sumi Robata Bar is one of the best Japanese restaurants in Chicago.

The days of suffering through wan sushi rolls are over—a recent influx of terrific Japanese restaurants has elevated the cuisine in Chicago. Whether you're looking for maki, yakitori or ramen, Chicago restaurants are bringing their A-game. For a stellar Japanese meal (and some of the best sushi in Chicago), heres's where to go.

RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best Chicago restaurants

Best Japanese restaurants in Chicago

Arami

Critics' pick

Chef B.K. Park may be gone, but Arami forges on with dishes like togarashi-dusted seared tuna perched on a seaweed-and-kelp-noodle salad and four types of noodle bowls (including the immensely satisfying “Arami ramen,” a meat-laden pork-based broth). Of course, the atmosphere in the earthy, cozy dining room is still warm and pleasant, too.

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West Town

Juno

Critics' pick

Sushi's the name of the game at Juno, which reopened in 2014 after a 2013 fire caused a great deal of damage. The good news is the restaurant is now better than ever. Under the watchful eye of sushi chef BK Park, you'll find immaculate sashimi, restrained maki and creative takes on Japanese classics.

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Lincoln Park

Kai Zan

Critics' pick

Brothers Melvin and Carlo Vizconde are masters of maki, and this 22-seat Humboldt Park gem is their domain. From simple fried tofu makimono through elaborate sushi twists like a scallop wrapped in salmon, these are the rolls you wish every neighborhood sushi spot were making. Omakase tasting menus (starting at $50) are our favorite way to cruise the menu, but whatever route you choose, just don’t show up on a weekend without a reservation. With just 22 seats, the only dilemma is not getting in.

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Humboldt Park

Katsu

Critics' pick

The best raw fish in town is at this small, unassuming West Rogers Park hideaway. Here you’ll find incredibly fresh, melt-in-your-mouth, superpremium yellowtail, bluefin, mackerel and fatty tuna. Beyond the raw, Katsu’s crew has skills on the grill, turning out a tasty marinated duck breast and a crispy yellowtail collar (great with a dab of shaved, pickled daikon; a sprinkle of sea salt; and a squirt of lemon).

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West Rogers Park

Momotaro

Critics' pick

The Boka group's (Boka, GT Fish & Oyster and others) foray into Japanese fare is a huge success, with a variety of elegant raw fish dishes and other classics of the cuisine. The namesake momotaro tartare melds dehydrated tomato, a spicy hit of Dijon and onion puree into a slightly sweet, savory spread, while roasted crab legs come to the table dripping in butter.

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West Loop

Slurping Turtle

Critics' pick

Takashi Yagihashi’s foray into River North is the chef’s attempt to capture the taste of his noodle-slurping childhood in Japan. Based on the highlights of the menu—hamachi tartare in delicate little taro-root tacos, tan tan men ramen weighted with herb-packed pork meatballs, fried ramen noodles you toss with a dollop of spicy mustard for a dish called Chiyan Pon, and joyful desserts like softball-sized cream puffs—Yagihashi may have had the best childhood ever.

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River North

Sumi Robata Bar

Critics' pick

At the heart of Gene Kato's Japanese spot is a traditional charcoal grill, on which he cooks pitch-perfect skewers of protein such as juicy cubes of skirt steak, tender hunks of salmon, and craveable, miso-marinated lamb ribs. Appetizers are really the same size as the skewers and offer the complexity of entrees (tiny squares of tuna topped with avocado and crispy shallots, a sweet and earthy shaved burdock root salad). Fried chicken, Japanese sliders and chocolate-filled doughnuts all make an appearance, and they're all robust and satisfying. But ultimately this is a place where subtle, quiet foods win.

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River North

Yusho

Critics' pick

Matthias Merges left his post as Charlie Trotter’s executive chef to open this casual, late-night yakitori-and-cocktails joint. The room has an energetic design that makes you want to drink, which isn’t a problem with cocktails this superb. Still, save some room for the Japanese-inspired food: juicy chicken wings, thinly sliced beef tongue, sumptuous tofu, beautiful mushrooms topped with a poached egg. Dishes rotate, but never disappoint.

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Logan Square

Comments

2 comments
Gary P
Gary P

Sushi is one of my favorite foods.  I've been craving it for a while and have been wanting to go to a sushi restaurant.  I will have to check one of these out and go there soon! http://www.darumarestaurant.com 

bryan f
bryan f

I love Wasabi and all sorts of Sushi.  My favorite is the Las Vegas Roll.  I'm new to Indiana and need to find a new sushi place to frequent.  All you can eat is what I am all about. http://www.houseofkobe.com