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Nigiri from n/naka
Photograph: Courtesy Jesse HsuTrio of nigiri

The best Japanese restaurants in Los Angeles

From Little Tokyo to the South Bay, there's plenty of amazing Japanese eats in L.A.

Patricia Kelly Yeo
Written by
Patricia Kelly Yeo
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While L.A.’s devotion to sushi and ramen are so extreme you’d think they’re the only type of Japanese cuisine in town, the vast array of barbecue, shabu-shabu, soba and kaiseki are equally worth checking out the next time you’re in the mood for a taste of Japan. Taking into account both old favorites and newer hot spots, as well as price point, we’ve rounded up the city’s best Japanese restaurants. This list is as equally handy for your next special occasion as it is your next cozy meal out in sweatpants—so take heart in the fact that yes, four-dollar-sign transportive sushi and booze-laced izakayas make an appearance, but food court favorites and South Bay mom-and-pop shops do, as well.

L.A.’s best Japanese restaurants, ranked

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 4 of 4

Best for: Once-in-a-lifetime kaiseki
This two-Michelin-star dinner at ROW DTLA might require an alarm to get a table, but the chance to experience the transportive power of a meal at Brandon Go's seven-seat counter is more than worth the hassle. Beautiful presentation and world-class level of precision and technique are applied throughout the meal. Since preparation by Go and his small team occurs just mere feet away, this intimate chef's table experience invokes all the senses for a traditional, ever-changing seafood-centric kaiseki meal that varies with the weather, seasons and whatever’s freshest at market.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Palms
  • price 4 of 4

Best for: Once-in-a-lifetime California kaiseki 
Niki Nakayama's modern kaiseki restaurant of two Michelin star and Chef's Table fame on Netflix is an indispensable part of the Japanese fine dining scene (as well as one of the city's most expensive restaurants). While the bloodsport-level effort to snag reservations might turn off many potential diners, a meal at n/naka is a multi-sensory experience that, for better or for worse, lives up to the hype. The 13-course seasonal seafood meal (with an additional option for vegetarians) delights and even soothes across every aspect, for a kaiseki experience that blends traditional Japanese coursing with a distinctly contemporary and feminine sensibility.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

Best for: Traditional sushi
This Little Tokyo sushi restaurant has been a cult favorite among L.A.'s diehard sushi fans for years. The main draw? A $23 weekday lunch special, complete with a rainbow of sashimi, soup, salad and rice. For a quicker table (but a slightly higher bill), head here during the evening, when you'll be rewarded for waiting with fresh halibut, fatty tuna, sea urchin, monkfish liver, scallops and oysters, all in a wonderfully serene, wood paneled sushi bar setting. Just mind the rules: no personal device usage while dining, and make sure your whole party is present to get seated.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Beverly Hills
  • price 4 of 4

Best for: Special occasion omakase
There might be many excellent omakases in Los Angeles, but none deliver as much excellence, fun and value as this Michelin-starred sushi counter hidden in the back of Sugarfish Beverly Hills. The menu plays fast and loose with tradition, but you're still left dumbfounded at the end of the meal, which typically clocks in at just over two hours—a quicker meal, so to speak, in fine dining terms. In that time frame, you'll find yourself immersed in a cornucopia of flavors and textures, starting with something like a rich, solid piece of Santa Barbara uni and a sashimi trio consisting of Japanese octopus, New Zealand shrimp and succulent bluefin tuna.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Sawtelle
  • price 2 of 4

Best for: Tsukemen and tonkotsu
Much ink has been spilled over Tsujita's tsukemen, whose dipping broth arrives separately from the noodles. Stans wax poetic about how kurobuta pork bones are simmered for no less than 60 hours to create the dipping broth, how the noodles are thick, chewy and dense, and how the wait for a seat can fluctuate widely (unless you're dining solo, in which case you'll usually be seated in under 15 minutes). Suffice to say, in a rare instance of hype living up to reality, all that ink bleeds true: This is the best tsukemen in the city, whether you're dining at its original location, the Annex across the street—which offers a slightly different broth—or its newer locations in Fairfax and Glendale. Tsujita is the ramenya which you'll forever compare all others, much to your chagrin. Put your name down and wait. It’ll be worth it.

  • Restaurants
  • West Hollywood
  • price 4 of 4

Best for: Once-in-a-lifetime omakase
Edomae-style sushi isn't particularly hard to come by in L.A., but you'd be hard pressed to find it at the same level of renown as this West Hollywood sushi bar named for (and originating from) the most exclusive neighborhood in Tokyo. The nigiri-forward omakase—the most expensive of its kind in Los Angeles—climbs past 20 courses, each bite focused on incredibly high-quality fish that’s been brushed with soy, lightly tempura-battered or served in a pool of ponzu. Of course, all this raw fish mastery doesn't come cheap: An omakase here will set you back $400—a splurge worth making for some of the finest sushi in L.A.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

Best for: Udon
This Little Tokyo noodle shop offers the city's best bowls of the thick, chewy wheat-based noodles, plus mesmerizing sights of noodle-pulling action through the kitchen's picture window. Behind a large glass, the udon master will roll out the dough and cut strands and strands of the thick, chewy noodles for each order. The traditional bowls are great here; try the hot kitsune udon topped with fried tofu, or the cold plum shiso bukkake udon. For a fun mash-up of Japanese and Italian cuisines, go for the popular miso carbonara udon. Just be prepared to wait: As the hands-down best udon shop in Los Angeles, peak dinner time can cause gaggles of groups to queue all the way down the block.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 3 of 4

Best for: Izakaya fare
Named the "most elegant izakaya in Little Tokyo" by the late Jonathan Gold, this upscale reservation-only dinner spot in Honda Plaza offers a small but impeccably made menu of unique dishes that go beyond the usual sushi, udon and ramen. Though they’re known for their seared uni, decadent bone marrow dengaku and thick cut beef tongue, each dish receives deeply thought-out gourmet treatment, from simple items like ochazuke made with housemade dashi broth to richer entrées like curry rice, which Kinjiro upgrades with a pillow-soft beef tongue. A large sake selection, as well as a few wines, ensures diners receive a full izakaya experience.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Torrance
  • price 2 of 4

Best for: Soba and tempura
If ramen is the attention hog in the family of noodles, then soba is the wheat-based variety's more refined cousin. The delicate, slightly nutty flavor of the buckwheat-based strands, plus the skill the staff puts into the making of each thread, makes this South Bay shop a destination Japanese noodle spot across all of L.A. Though purists will tell you that the best way to enjoy these noodles is plain or zaru—served cold alongside an umami-rich dipping sauce—we actually prefer the ten zaru: an upgrade with the addition of light, crispy tempura on the side. For best sampling, order their combination lunch or tempura omakase set dinner: the seasonal omakase typically includes sashimi, chawanmushi (savory egg custard), that ethereal tempura and a small bowl of soba or udon. But if you're just here for that tempura—well, they even have a tempura kaiseki.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Studio City
  • price 3 of 4

Best for: no-sushi sushi
Three decades in, Tetsuya Nakao's strip mall sushi bar in the Valley—and its wonderfully nontraditional omakase—has stood the test of time and become veritable L.A. sushi royalty. In a similar style as Nobu (and the upscale chain's original restaurant, Matsuhisa), Asanebo offers a selection of fusion-style seafood dishes, as well as traditional nigiri—but the right order here always leans towards the former. Where else can you find a deep-fried tempura "seafood stick" served in a martini glass, a flaming conch filled with bubbling hot broth and pieces of tender A5 Wagyu and juicy red onion in sweet soy? Plenty of other cheaper places around town might riff on the legacy of Matsuhisa’s signature yellowtail jalapeño sashimi, but none of them execute new-school sushi as well as this gloriously no-frills L.A. classic.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • South Bay
  • price 2 of 4

Best for: Soba


This tiny, family-owned South Bay izakaya offers three different kinds of soba noodles, all of which are made in-house daily. Made with Japanese specialty flour, they're all equally delicious, but Otafuku's all-white seiro noodles are the house signature—and a definite must-try for first-timers. Other than soba, the restaurant also offers plenty of homey Japanese classics, including Spanish mackerel-topped rice bowls (a beloved everyday cut), tempura plates, chicken and pork katsu and bowls of steaming hot udon soup.
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Santa Monica
  • price 4 of 4

Best for: Special occasion omakase
Newly relocated to Santa Monica from its longtime chili bowl-shaped home on Pico Boulevard, this Westside sushi bar run by the eponymous chef and his wife Yuko Sakurai offers a streamlined, exclusive approach to top-notch sushi in the form of a $250 omakase—one of the best in the city's upper sushi echelons. Every night of service, after a brief selection of kaiseki-style appetizers, Shunji Nakao breaks out a wood block of sliced fish, each brilliant, shining row ready to be prepared for each guest. The luxurious selection always satisfies, as does Sakurai's ultra-refined sake selection.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Mar Vista
  • price 2 of 4
Best for: Tempura
Crispy, crunchy and featherweight light, the panko-encrusted pieces of eel, shrimp and vegetables at this food court stall inside Mitsuwa Mar Vista are the best pieces of tempura in the city, and one of the best budget-friendly Japanese meals to be had in L.A. The delicate egg and shiso pepper on top of any tendon set, plus a crunchy sheet of nori, add layers of flavor and fried goodness to this first-rate cafeteria-style meal, while pickled ginger and rice balance out all the deep-fried decadence. Though the menu's most premium set includes anago (saltwater eel)—listed as the Edomae Plate—you don't need to order it to experience the best of Hannosuke; the original, which uses white fish, is just as delicious for first-time customers.
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Beverly Hills
  • price 4 of 4
Best for: Special occasion yakiniku
If you're looking for the best yakiniku in Los Angeles, and money isn't an issue, Yazawa is our favorite place to go. Specializing in high-end Japanese barbecue, this Beverly Hills specialist is the only North American location of a global chain. The restaurant's dim-lit sleek interiors play host to omakase dinners full of Wagyu beef—all of it grilled in front of you on built-in tabletop grills. Standouts on the smaller à la carte menu include the premium garlic rice, which arrives sizzling to your table in a clay pot, but we strongly suggest picking one of the set meals if it’s your first time at Yazawa.
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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 3 of 4

Best for: Izakaya fare (and ambience)
This minimalist bar-restaurant in the Arts District strikes the right balance between food, drinks and vibes. Run by the same team behind Kensho in Hollywood, the sleek indoor-outdoor space offers late hours, Japanese highballs and a cornucopia of traditional menu items—sushi, sashimi, robata and izakaya— perfect for any drinking-oriented meal among friends. Though the menu leans on the subtler side, the sum of a meal here is second to none thanks to Kodo's stunning interior design. If you had to ask, however, we'd recommend the tsukune, a chicken patty topped with egg yolk and yakitori sauce; the old-school saba bozushi, made with cured wild mackerel; and Kodo's take on a Caesar salad.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 4 of 4

Best for: Shabu-shabu
That same friend that always tells you to buy investment pieces instead of fast fashion will love Kagaya, home of the best shabu-shabu in L.A. You can only order by the set here: The basic beef will set you back $68, and wagyu and seafood upgrades are also available, but you'll be rewarded with eight to ten slices of quality meat to be lightly cooked in the bubbling broth, then dipped into a smooth but complex sesame sauce. The luxurious DIY meal commences with a small serving of the day's two seasonal specials and one soup special, followed by udon or rice porridge made with beef-infused broth—a haute couture hot pot experience, if it were, topped off with your choice of dessert like ethereal crème brûlée or banana cream pie.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4
Best for: Plant-based Japanese cuisine
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This majority dinnertime vegan restaurant with locations in Little Tokyo and Culver City is a hidden gem for anyone who can appreciate flavorful, creative plant-based cuisine. Named after the Japanese word for endless devotion (a tenet of Shinto Buddhism), Shojin offers inventive, all-organic dishes delivered in an intimate, upscale-casual setting with lightly playing jazz music and relaxed clientele. We love their spicy "tuna" dynamite roll, made with tofu and avocado, as well as their Purple Treasure, which swaps out raw fish for pieces of buttery eggplant on top of asparagus and carrot maki rolls.
  • Restaurants
  • Barbecue
  • West Third Street
  • price 3 of 4
Best for: Everyday yakiniku

This Japanese-originating chain has three L.A. locations—West Hollywood, Torrance and West L.A.—and a level of quality and refinement you won’t find at the more maximalist-inclined national chain Gyu-Kaku. Though the specialty is beef tongue with negishio (a mix of salt and green onions), most omnivores would be equally pleased with Manpuku's other cuts, like the prime rib eye and Angus tri-tip. For the best bang for your buck, order one of the restaurant’s tasting menus, which include a selection of side dishes like kimchi and edamame and Manpuku's signature hot stone garlic-fried rice. While more affordable than the likes of Yazawa and insider-only Totoraku, à la carte ordering at Manpuku can still add up quickly, so be mindful if you do.
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  • Restaurants
  • Sawtelle
  • price 3 of 4
Best for: Traditional sushi
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A post shared by Kiriko Sushi (@kiriko_sushi)


This Sawtelle stalwart offers an upscale selection of premium sushi and sashimi, plus a $90 dinner omakase consisting of 10 pieces of nigiri and a handroll. Together with their excellent appetizers, Kiriko provides one of the best all-around great Japanese meals on the Westside—at a price that, while still expensive, doesn’t completely break the bank. Considering most omakase meals around town start at $150 per head or more, the one here is relatively inexpensive (and a bit smaller), but even the à la carte sushi offerings make Kiriko worth paying a visit. For a bit more of a bargain, stop in for a weekday lunch, when the omakase drops to $60 (minus one fewer piece of sushi), and more affordable combination lunch and chirashi sets reign supreme.
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

Best for: Tonkotsu ramen
This solid stalwart with four locations in Los Angeles—and a ravenous, devoted following—is a ramen mecca. Regardless of which locale you pick, a wraparound counter usually faces the open kitchen and provides a social atmosphere to dig into piping hot bowls of flavorful, porky broth and chewy noodles. Chijire-style egg noodles sit in a rich tonkotsu soup and come topped with slices of kurobuta pork belly. Fans of accoutrement can amp it up with kotteri-style: boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and green onions, or go big with a ramen combo adding rice bowls topped with eel, pork cutlets or tuna. Add an order of pan-fried pork gyoza to make the line even more worthwhile.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Westwood
  • price 2 of 4

Best for: Traditional sushi

Known for its power lunch prowess, Hamasaku has maintained its popularity with a solid, steadfast sushi program on the Westside. The menu features a selection of skewers and small plates to start, though raw fish is the real star here. Omakase options start at $85, and though lead chef Yoya Takashi has since decamped to Kodo (also on this list), you're still in good hands.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Malibu
  • price 4 of 4

Best for: New-school sushi (and ambience)
While Nobu Matsuhisa's eponymous chain restaurant is nothing new—his new-school Japanese food is now a global phenomenon—the Malibu outpost is a sight to behold, with a minimalist, zen-meets-the-Pacific space, plenty of opportunities for celebrity-spotting and an oceanside setting that leaves diners speechless, especially after dark. Though purists might roll their eyes, the eye-poppingly expensive fare still delivers on flavor and delight, from the mini tacos filled with creamy uni to the signature yellowtail jalapeño sashimi. Time Out tip: Though the perpetually fully booked restaurant offers reservations through OpenTable, the best move is to call 30 days in advance—Nobu Malibu still holds the majority of tables for phone calls.

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