The 14 best Japanese restaurants in Boston

Order all the sushi, yakitori, udon, and bento boxes your stomach desires at the best Japanese restaurants in Boston
Uni
Photograph: Melissa Ostrow Uni
By Gerrish Lopez and Time Out contributors |
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Lovers of Japanese food enjoy visiting the best ramen restaurants in Boston and best sushi restaurants in Boston, but where should one go to dive a little deeper into Japanese cuisine? You can explore sleek, modern, interpretations of Japanese small plates at a pricey, trendy restaurant, or hit up a casual izakaya for a taste of more traditional fare. Once you’ve explored the best Japanese restaurants in Boston, check out the best restaurants for vegans in Boston, the best restaurants for vegetarians in Boston, or the best seafood restaurants in Boston

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston

Best Japanese restaurants in Boston

1
O Ya
Photograph: Courtesy O Ya
Restaurants, Japanese

O Ya

icon-location-pin Leather District

Boston’s most expensive Japanese restaurant is also its most thrilling. The sushi menu wows with both flavor and presentation through exotic combinations like bluefin chutoro with charred Korean long pepper and grapefruit ponzu, or Maine lobster legs with white sturgeon caviar and tomalley aïoli. The omakase menu offers a full view of the delectable works of art created by Tim and Nancy Cushman. More reasonable entrees include homemade soba or seasonal fish, while the A5 Aragawa-style striploin is one for the high-rollers. Be sure to analyze the excellent sake list.

2
Oishii
Photograph: Courtesy Oishii
Restaurants, Japanese

Oishii

icon-location-pin South End

This swank South End sushi spot is high-concept and high-priced, but worth it for the luxe interpretations of Japanese specialties. Creative sushi rolls feature ingredients such as truffle, caviar, microgreens, and delicate sauces. The entrée side of the menu includes teriyaki ribeye, seafood risotto, and  Chilean sea bass. Choose from more than 50 sakes and cocktails, including the smoking Yuzu Spirit,” made with ginza suzume soju and liquid nitrogen.

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3
Uni
Photograph: Courtesy Uni
Restaurants, Japanese

Uni

icon-location-pin Back Bay

Uni built its reputation on incredible sashimi offerings, and the menu still shines with creative sushi rolls like the lobster BLT roll and whitefish taco roll. Traditional sashimi and nigiri also feature innovative twists, e.g. sea bream with watermelon aguachile soda, pickled rind, and coconut furikake. Other Japanese specialties include ember-roasted duck breast, king crab yakitori, and wagyu beef dumplings. Check out the late-night weekend ramen menu, which changes up regularly and often includes inventive versions like XO squid ramen. The sake list is impressive as well, with numerous unfiltered and unpasteurized options.

4
Pagu
Photograph: Courtesy Pagu
Restaurants, Japanese

Pagu

icon-location-pin Central Sq

Chef Tracy Chang’s skills shine at Pagu. Her famed Guchi’s Midnight Ramen (featuring flavorful broth, pork belly, umami oil, nori, and a six-minute egg) is on the menu alongside modern Japanese small plates. Start with a Japanese-inspired cocktail or sake, then try ikura avocado toast, pork belly bao, sea scallop sashimi, or comfort fare like Childhood Fried Rice.” Set lunches—with a starter, entree, and dessert—offer a sampling of Chef Chang’s specialties.

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5
Fugakyu
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Bruce K.
Restaurants, Japanese

FuGaKyu Japanese Cuisine

This Brookline standby is always packed, and for good reason. Sit in a booth, a table, the tatami room, or the sushi bar and choose from an extensive menu of standard and creative sushi offerings. Go traditional (rich salmon sashimi), daring (foie gras nigiri with spicy daikon radish, scallion, sesame, and ponzu sauce), or cute (ladybug maki contains spicy seafood salad and sweet potato tempura inside, cherry tomato and black tobiko outside). Everything is well-prepared, and a menu of cooked appetizers and entrees is available for sushi-averse dining companions.

6
Pabu Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Pabu Boston
Restaurants, Japanese

Pabu

icon-location-pin Downtown

Michael Mina’s elegant izakaya is a date night or special occasion dining spot. Smooth and aromatic cocktails lead the way for exotic sashimi options like horse mackerel, cuttlefish, bigeye tuna, and wagyu beef. Sushi rolls and small plates are impressive in their artistry. Standouts include lobster and pork belly okonomiyaki, maitake mushroom tempura and the Japanese wagyu steak skewers. For a real celebration, go for the whole Maine lobster ryoshi-nabe (hot pot) and the Australian tomahawk steak for two.

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7
Ittoku
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Natthakorn P.
Restaurants, Japanese

Ittoku

icon-location-pin Allston/Brighton

This unassuming spot in Allston feels like a true Japanese izakaya—warm, friendly, and inexpensive. The small plates are delicious and shareable, making Ittoku a good choice for intimate groups. Yakitori skewers range from chicken to bacon-wrapped quail eggs. Hot plates run from the familiar (gyoza dumplings) to more exotic (grated Japanese yam, pond smelt fritter). You can even try beef stomach and intestines in a miso broth. The sushi and sashimi menu is fresh and straightforward. Complete the izakaya experience with a choice from the wide selection of sakes.

8
Douzo
Photograph: Courtesy Douzo
Restaurants, Japanese

Douzo

icon-location-pin South End

Elegant nooks, sleek lighting, and a loungey vibe set the stage for standout sushi and cocktails. The extensive maki list includes classic rolls such as rainbow and spider, as well as unique rolls like the Back Bay (asparagus, cucumber, and avocado wrapped with seared tuna) and the Duozo Special (shrimp tempura, seafood salad, tobiko, eel sauce, sriracha, and avocado, wrapped with tuna and soy paper). Skewers, udon, ramen and a selection of rice dishes are also available. Lunch brings an additional variety of bento specials and donburi.

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9
Hojoko
Photograph: Kristin Tieg
Restaurants, Japanese

Hojoko

icon-location-pin Fenway/Kenmore

This hip izakaya in the mod Verb Hotel is helmed by O Ya’s Tim and Nancy Cushman. Their Japanese offerings are more accessible here, with a menu of maki rolls, ramen, and robata. Of course there are some off-the-wall creations like the bacon-wrapped, jalapeno-stuffed Doggzilla” hot dog or “Brains on Crack” (crispy calves brains, Hojoko XO butter, lemon zest, and bonito flakes). Start the night with a wickedly creative cocktail or bring some friends to share a potent punch bowl. Looking for a late-night bite? The Midnight Munchies” menu is there for you.

10
Yume Ga Arukara
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Madam J.
Restaurants, Japanese

Yume Ga Arukara

icon-location-pin Porter Sq

Located in the Shops at Porter, Yume Ga Arukara thrills devotees who stand in line for one of the few seats, all for the chance to enjoy niku (beef) udon. Like its sister establishment, the wildly popular ramen restaurant Yume Wo Katare (located a short stroll away on the other side of Porter Square), Yume Ga Arukara exudes a dedication to craft—the beef udon is the only dish served on a regular basis. Diners have the choice to add extra beef, extra noodles, double-extra noodles, or to omit the beef.

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11
Cafe Sushi
Photograph: Courtesy Cafe Sushi
Restaurants, Japanese

Cafe Sushi

icon-location-pin Harvard Sq

Cafe Sushi attracts many of the area’s best chefs and cooks as they look to kick back over reasonably priced plates of perfectly prepared maki and nigiri. All the standards are here, from salmon skin rolls to hamachi sashimi, but the signature makimono is where things get interesting: ceviche maki,  spicy salmon citrus roll, and oshiiyushi (pressed sushi), complemented by side orders of salmon roe and seared avocado. Then there’s the kama (broiled fish collar) menu, a rarity around these parts and a revelation to anyone usually dismissive of lesser-known seafood cuts.

12
Shiki
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Shiki
Restaurants, Japanese

Shiki

This tiny, underground gem in Coolidge Corner is the perfect setting for traditional Japanese fare. The menu—written in both Japanese and English—isn’t simplified for the American palate. While sushi is an option, stick to more traditional small plates like tsukemono pickles, agedashi tofu, or squid stuffed with mushrooms and sticky rice. Hamachi kama (collar) and grilled saba (mackerel) are other standouts.

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13
Yume Wo Katare
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Brian Del Vecchio
Restaurants, Japanese

Yume Wo Katare

icon-location-pin Porter Sq

You’ll feel like you’re in Japan at this tiny Cambridge ramen spot; you’ll be greeted with cheerful shouts of “Irashaimase!” as you enter. Yume Wo Katare serves authentic Jiro-style ramen: tonkatsu shoyu broth with lots of veggies, pork, and garlic. Huge bowls feature thick, house-made noodles, and your only choice is whether you want two pieces of pork or five. You’ll receive a hearty Japanese congratulations if you manage to finish your bowl. Communal tables encourage chatting with strangers. The restaurant’s name means “talk about your dreams,” and you may even be asked to share yours out loud with everyone.

14
Ruka
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Debra L.
Restaurants, Peruvian

Ruka

icon-location-pin Downtown

Modern Peruvian cuisine has been influenced by Japanese influences, and Ruka presents this combination to great success via dishes such as sweet and spicy scallop ceviche, and Sichuan king mushroom oysters with Peruvian la brasa sauce. Other menu highlights include smoked cobia with curly udon, miso-dashi butter, basil and spinach, and the whole crispy Japanese butterfish, served with a sweet chili panca sauce. Enhancing the experience are cocktails made with both Japanese whiskeys and Peruvian piscos.

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