New York's Japanese restaurant scene continues to flourish thanks to top-notch slurp shops doling out piping hot bowls of the best ramen, sleek izakayas slinging Far East bar bites, and omakase counters presenting some of the most pristine plates we've ever seen. Whether you're craving raw-fish delicacies from Michelin-starred sushi restaurants or street-style yakitori washed down with an icy mug of Kirin, we’ve got you covered with the best Japanese restaurants in NYC.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC
Best Japanese restaurants in NYC
At this 20-seat counter from rock-star chefs Jimmy Lau and Nick Kim—formerly of Neta—expect an expert omakase selection of exceptionally made edomaezushi served in its purest form, each lightly lacquered with soy and nestled atop a slip of warm, loosely packed rice. Luscious, marbled toro, a usually late-in-the-game cut affectionately known as the kobe beef of the sea, boldly arrives first, even before sweet Spanish mackerel with barely there shreds of young ginger or sea bream dabbed with plummy ume shiso.
This ramen insta-hit from husband-and-wife team Joshua and Heidy Smookler, is a warmly lit, brick-walled room with a scant 22 seats. Built on a broth of oxtail and bone marrow, their flagship bowl full of delicate, springy noodles gets some extra-meaty oomph from melting cubes of brisket. Then there’s the tebasaki gyoza, a deboned chicken wing crammed dumpling-style with creamy foie gras, soft brioche and quince compote. It’s a salty-sweet, creamy-crispy food anomaly that alone is worth the trip.
World-renowned sushi chef Masa Takayama may offer the most expensive dining experience in the city (upwards of $500 per person, not including tax, booze, or the mandatory gratuity) but he doesn’t overcharge for his meals; he overspends. The mystique of it all—his exquisite materials, rare ingredients, and labor-intensive techniques—is like eating in a temple. And the sushi virtually melts in your mouth. To serious food lovers, it's a priceless experience.
In the world of three-figure omakase thrills, sushi reigns. But tempura never recieved the same fine-dining fawning—that is, until Masao Matsui, a Tokyo import who's been commanding fryers for 50 years, created well-paced parades of the marquee dish. Golden and greaseless, slender shrimp tails are whisper-coated in batter and arrive two at a time—the chef instructs you to taste one dressed with a spritz of lemon and rock salt and the other dipped in dashi broth zested with grated daikon. Both are exquisite.
Like a traditional Japanese ramen-ya, this narrow, below-street-level noodle joint is designed for quick meals. The specialty here is paitan ramen, a creamy, chicken-based variation of Japan’s famous tonkotsu (pork) broth. Totto's rendition is a flavorful, opaque soup bobbing with thin, straight noodles and slow-cooked pork ridged with satiny fat. Though a bowl is a feast unto itself, you can bulk up a meal with sides like char siu mayo don—a mound of rice heaped with more unctuous pork and yuzu-accented mayo.
One of the first questions you’re asked upon entering Takashi—which focuses on yakiniku, Japan’s interpretation of Korean barbecue—is whether you eat beef. Carnivores can get their table grills sizzling and go to town on marvelous, uncooked cuts of buttery skirt steak and well-marbled tongue, each seasoned with your choice of salt, garlic, sesame oil, or marinated in a secret sauce. Adventurous diners will be excited to discover a selection of organs, ranging from milky sweetbreads to beefy heart.
The name of this LES Japanese joint means “universe,” which is apt, considering its immersive environment is designed to sweep visitors to a world far from Eldridge Street. The 10-seat omakase bar offers two daily seatings for a constantly changing set menu of 18 to 22 courses made with the freshest seafood imported from around the globe (fish from Japan, caviar from Italy). The produce, however, is hyperlocal: Herbs, berries and Japanese sweet potatoes are harvested from the rooftop garden.
Ginza’s seasonal omakase is not just freshly flown in from Tokyo’s prestigious Tsukiji market, nor is it dependent on exotic varieties. Instead Ginza presents a transportive mastery, delivering fish the way a diamond delivers carbon: with spectacular flawlessness lush with luxury. This is fish that traps us. And that's why it's the only Michelin two-star Japanese restaurant in New York.
A gem on East 9th Street, a.k.a. Little Japan, this cozy Japanese den reminds us why we dine out: for entertainment, for thoughtful service and of course, for good food. Satisfying selections from the grill include chawanmushi (savory egg custard), a silky treat hiding bits of shrimp, chicken meatballs and shiitake mushrooms. Another winner is the agedashi tofu, buoyant cubes presented in a thick soy-dashi broth. But the best dish is also among the simplest—kamameshi, a pot of slow-cooked seasoned white rice topped with buttery salmon and roe.
This artful vegetarian restaurant is the city’s most accomplished in shojin cuisine, a type of hyperseasonal vegan cooking at the foundation of the Japanese kaiseki tradition. Choose from three ever-changing menus—four or eight courses, or a counter-only omakase—each paired with sake. Recent preparations include harusame noodles soup with shitake and pine nuts and a spring gelée, an orb of vegetable-stock jelly—studded with okra and yam—that registers bland until you taste it with the tart “noodles,” made from jellied vinegar and soy, that snap it into focus.