Whether you’re in the mood for top-quality, ultra-traditional sushi, eastern versions of down-and-dirty dude food or a steaming bowl of rib-sticking ramen, London’s best Japanese restaurants deliver the goods. From one-dish wonders and cheap and cheerful holes in the wall to luxe West End brasseries and pap-baiting sushi stunners, we’ve got the best Japanese restaurants in London covered. Can’t find your favourite? Then shout about it in the comments section below.
Tonkotsu’s ramen still rules, but this refined Japanese brasserie from the same founders takes its small plates to the next level – its king crab and pork take on Tonkotsu’s gyoza are subtle yet pleasingly funky at the same time, while the punchy, moist kara-age chicken we tried made for a dream chicken-dinner combo when paired with umami-laden katsuobushi-seasoned fries. Service is attentive and charming, the good-value set menus are tempting, and the dining room is suitably chic for St James’s.
This new-wave New York-style ramen joint – a stripped-back space pumping out ear-bending rock ’n’ roll – brings the broth: its ultra-rich signature stock, made from 20-hour simmered pork bones and given extra complexity via sweet miso and sesame paste, takes some beating (and some eating, once go-for-broke toppings such as pork belly, soft shell crab, chilli, kale and black sesame are factored into the mix). Snacks, steamed buns and Japanese versions of poké are also well worth your attention. Strictly no dieters.
Sharp elbows are required at this slinky townhouse izakaya serving ‘Japanese tapas’, thanks to its tiny size and stellar kitchen, which fuses authentic Japanese techniques with modern European flavours: cue Nobu-style tar-tar chips filled with fatty tuna and jalapeño mayo, or yellowtail sashimi topped with horseradish salsa and British caviar, plus immaculate sushi rolls filled with the likes of popcorn shrimp or eel and foie gras. Feeling spontaneous? Try for a seat at the street-level sushi counter and prepare to get spendy.
If the original Dinings in Marylebone blew you away, then its Chelsea-based sibling will hit you (and your wallet) like a full-force hurricane. Everything about this follow-up is an improvement, from the spacious, quietly glitzy dining room to the ambitious, hit-making menu. Dinings signatures such as the seared wagyu beef with truffle and ponzu jelly, or the grilled chilli-garlic black cod, have made the trip southwest; new, equally tiny additions include the unmissable Josper-charred pork loin with sage and fermented miso sauce.
Top of the wagyu tree is kobe beef, and seeing that it’s the speciality at this compact, stylish Japanese restaurant tucked away in Ham Yard, you’d better come straight after payday, because it don’t come cheap. Try the famed meat – buttery, heavily marbled and, here, cooked to perfection – as part of the three- or five-course omakase menu (whose other offerings include hummingly fresh, picture-perfect sushi and sashimi) and you’ll feel you’ve had value for money despite the high prices.
Venue says: “Come and try our new special ramen, the miso akamaru!”
This worldwide chain needs no introduction among fans of fast, authentically flavoured Japanese cuisine, and the Central St Giles branch certainly packs in the punters – it’s a huge, bright, bustling space that still manages to generate queues at peak times (there are no bookings). Most customers plump for one of the signature tonkotsu, such as the ‘shiromaru classic’ made with pork-bone broth, braised pork belly and mushrooms, but other options such as wagyu rump steak have them vowing to return.
The snacks at this excellent izakaya evoke the flavours of Japan so brilliantly you might be surprised to hear they’re the brainchild of Australian chef Brett Redman (he of Elliot’s Café and The Richmond). However, a common ethos applies: a commitment to sourcing, a focus on charcoal-cooked ingredients (think shiso- and lemon-marinated chicken-wing skewers, or minced chicken sticks with an egg yolk for dipping) and a flair for unexpectedly awesome flavour combinations, such as the katsu curry scotch egg – a bestseller.
Like ramen? Like pork? Then this minimalist Japanese import is the place for you – and the rest of London, judging by the queues some days. Once you’ve made it inside and secured a table, you’ll understand what all the fuss is about – admirable attention to detail goes into creating the short selection of ostensibly simple tonkotsu (the satisfying, savoury broth is simmered for 18 hours; the noodles are made on site using a special machine shipped all the way from Japan). Deservedly legendary.
With two stalls (in Brick Lane and Tooting markets) and a permanent kiosk at Pop Brixton, this cheap and cheerful outfit has one mission: to reclaim ramen as street food – which means high quality at low prices (hurrah!). There are just four ramen options on the tiny menu, all featuring beautifully balanced broths filled with ingredients of outstanding quality, and all starting at just £6.50. Plus, sweet staff are intent on you leaving the experience with a smile on your face.
If you love Japanese food so much you could eat udon for breakfast, lunch and dinner, then head to Koya Bar, which took the baton from its sibling and former neighbour Koya (now closed) and ran with it. Koya classics include cold udon in a hot walnut-and-miso broth, but the menu has been lengthened and widened. Breakfasts are innovative mash-ups of Japanese and Brit traditions: bacon and egg suspended in udon-filled broth, or kedgeree with katsu overtones.