100 best New York restaurants: Japanese restaurants

The cuisine of Japan is incredibly diverse, and some of the best New York restaurants offer studied takes on sushi, ramen, izakaya pub grub and more.

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  • 100 best New York restaurants: 15 East

  • Photograph: Jeff Gurwin

    100 best New York restaurants: Kyo Ya

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    100 best New York restaurants: Ushiwakamaru

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    100 best New York restaurants: Brushstroke

  • Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

    100 best New York restaurants: Sushi Azabu

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    100 best New York restaurants: Sake Bar Hagi

  • Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

    100 best New York restaurants: Ippudo NY

  • Photograph: Tia Ryan

    100 best New York restaurants: Hide-Chan Ramen

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    100 best New York restaurants: Takashi

100 best New York restaurants: 15 East

New York is a hub of serious Japanese food with authentic ramen restaurants, dazzling sushi temples and boisterous izakayas all battling for your chopsticks’ attention. In fact, some of the best New York restaurants are Japanese restaurants—the kind of places that are presided over by skilled sushi and sashimi masters, where pristine seafood is flown in from Japan's Tsujiki market. Whether you're seeking a blow-out omakase or a pitcher of Sapporo and some octopus balls, these are the best Japanese restaurants in New York.


RECOMMENDED: Full list of 100 best New York restaurants


15 East

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Toqueville co-owner Marco Moreira returned to his aquatic roots—he was trained as a sushi chef—when he opened this solemn temple of Japanese cuisine in 2006. The room, designed by architect Richard Bloch (Masa), feels like a sanctuary, and the food (fittingly) has a near-religious following among raw fish fanatics. Sushi is punitively expensive, but consistently luscious: The scallop is as smooth as chocolate mousse, and almost as sweet. For tuna aficionados, a sampler with six different cuts includes an otoro on par with the city’s best.

  1. 15 E 15th St , (between Fifth Ave and Union Sq West)
Book online

Kyo Ya

  • Critics choice

The city’s most ambitious Japanese speakeasy is marked only by an open sign, but in-the-know eaters still find their way inside. The food, presented on beautiful handmade plates, is gorgeous: Maitake mushrooms are fried in the lightest tempura batter and delivered on a polished stone bed. Sushi (we tried the salmon) is pressed with a hot iron onto sticky vinegared rice. The fish is topped like a still life with its own microgreen forest. The few desserts—including an extra silky crème caramel—are just as ethereal as the savory food.

  1. 94 E 7th St, (between First Ave and Ave A)
More info

Ushiwakamaru

  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

It’s no surprise that Japan-philes flock to this austere restaurant: Those new to the cuisine might not know what to make of the tiny cube of green-tea tofu that’s served as an amuse-bouche, or the shrimp heads floating in the miso soup. Entrées feature classic maki (no Elvis roll here), sushi and sashimi, and little else. Put yourself in the hands of chef-owner Hideo Kuribara and you’ll be richly rewarded. A special might include sushi pieces topped with burstingly fresh salmon roe, the choicest slice of fatty tuna or a generous mound of shredded, fresh crab. Kuribara’s attention to quality and detail is ferocious: The wasabi is real (a rare luxury), and the intensely flavored, almost bitter, green-tea ice cream is house-made.

  1. 136 W Houston St, (between MacDougal and Sullivan Sts), 10012-25
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Brushstroke

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

David Bouley’s name may be behind this venture, but the star chef is not in the kitchen. Instead, he has handed the reins to talented import Isao Yamada, who turns out some of the most accomplished Japanese food in the city. The ever-changing seasonal menu, which rotates through 5,000 dishes that Yamada spent years testing, is best experienced as an intricate multicourse feast known as kaiseki. A meal might start with muted petals of raw kombu-wrapped sea bass, before building slowly toward a subtle climax: asparagus tips with pristine lobes of uni leading to earthy stewed pork cheeks with cider reduction and green-apple puree. In keeping with the basic tenets of this culinary art form, the savory procession concludes with a rice dish—top-notch chirashi or seafood and rice cooked in a clay casserole—and delicate sweets such as creamy soy-milk panna cotta.

  1. 30 Hudson St, (at Duane St), 10013
Book online

Sushi Azabu

  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

This stealthy sushi shrine—tucked away in the basement of Greenwich Grill—attracts solo diners who happily hobnob with the talkative chefs while popping exceptional nigiri morsels into their mouths. You can order à la carte, but the $58 prix fixe is a generous bargain: First-rate sashimi and grilled salmon starters are followed by half a roll and seven plump pieces (among them luscious chutoro and sweet, silky raw shrimp). For dessert: Try the classic Mont Blanc chestnut parfait. Unorthodox in this setting, but delicious nonetheless.

  1. 428 Greenwich St, (between Laightand Vestry Sts)
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Sake Bar Hagi

  • Critics choice

This buzzy, underground izakaya defies its dowdy location in the heart of Times Square with authentic Japanese flavors that would scare the fanny pack off most tourists. Bring a group, order a few $12 pitchers of Sapporo, and keep the small plates coming: Japanese cucumbers are served with mayonnaise and sweet, funky miso for dipping. Okonomiyaki—a squid-and-cabbage pancake—is topped with a flurry of bonito flakes, while kara-age (hunks of fried chicken) are crispy nuggets buried under mild grated daikon and ponzu sauce. With a menu this vast, a few misses are expected, but at less than $10 a plate, it’s worth taking a risk on a dish you can’t pronounce.

  1. 152 W 49th St, (between Sixth and Seventh Aves)
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Ippudo NY

  • Critics choice

This sleek outpost of a Japanese ramen chain is always packed with New Yorkers and Nippon natives who queue up (often for two hours or more) for the simple pleasure of a bowl of soup. Shigemi Kawahara, the chain’s self-styled “Ramen King,” specializes in a pork-based ramen from southern Japan called tonkotsu. The house special, Akamaru Modern, involves mixing three pork broths at different temperatures and potencies. The resulting milky soup, topped with scallions, cabbage, a slice of roasted pork and a pungent soy-based sauce, is smooth and buttery, and infuses the pleasantly elastic noodles with deeply savory flavor. Request one of the half-dozen barstools to get a full view of the frenetic action in the kitchen—the chefs call out to each other and guests in Japanese every 30 seconds or so.

  1. 65 Fourth Ave, (between 9th and 10th Sts)
More info

Hide-Chan Ramen

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Hideto Kawahara, a ramen chef based in the Hakata region of Fukuoka, Japan, oversees the steaming bowls at this midtown noodle shop. At Hide-Chan, Kawahara focuses on tonkotsu (pork) broth—a luscious, meaty soup, more cloudy than creamy. The best way to taste it is in the ma-yu ramen, with earthy, crunchy kikurage mushrooms, a sheet of briny nori, raw scallions and bean sprouts, plus bits of carbonized garlic that lend a deep, charred flavor to the soup. There’s also a less sweat-inducing option—chewy chilled noodles, served with a side of spicy, sesame-oil-flavored soba broth for dipping—and worthy add-ons like mini pork gyoza, bound in translucent wrappers and crisped on one side.

  1. 248 E 52nd St, second floor, (between Second and Third Aves)
More info

Takashi

  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

Beef is the thing at this West Village yakiniku restaurant—Japan’s interpretation of Korean barbecue. The meal is balanced, refined and surprisingly light, thanks to modest portions and impeccably sourced sustainable beef. Start with raw small plates, like pristine steak tartare, before firing up your table’s electric grill. Small dishes of uncooked cuts, like buttery skirt steak and milky sweetbreads, are seasoned with your choice of salt, garlic or sesame oil, or marinated in a secret sauce. The sole dessert, vanilla-flecked soft serve with Japanese toppings (like sweet adzuki beans), is a lighthearted touch.

  1. 456 Hudson St, (between Barrow and Morton Sts)
More info

Users say

4 comments
ddd
ddd

Can't beat Takesushi in Sunnyside, which offers dinner special course for $32, including grain shell appetizer, blow fish sashimi, fresh sea urchin with yam, deep-fried shrimp + mushroom mousse, grilled black cod, sushi (eel, tuna, yellow tail, and tuna roll), and dessert. I was so impressed that I went back the next day again. I felt kind of sorry though, because there were not so many customers when I went, so I am telling you guys. Go check it out!

Sushi-Lover
Sushi-Lover

haha nevermind, I thought 100 would be quite a long list of Japanese restaurants ;P I get it now. You can delete that. :)

Sushi-Lover
Sushi-Lover

Looks like an interesting list...unfortunately since your website design sucks, I can't see how to get beyond the first 10. WTF? 15 East should be 4 $ as well.

audrey
audrey

Best is Tokubei 86. SO underratted. it's been around since the 60's and it's not even on a map. on 86th between first and second.