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Photograph: Filip Wolak

The 15 best Japanese restaurants in NYC for sushi, ramen and more

From expertly skewered chicken parts to pristine sushi, these are, hands down, the best Japanese restaurants in the city.

Edited by
Will Gleason
Written by
Abbe Baker
&
Time Out contributors
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The Japanese restaurant scene in New York City is one that is both continuously expanding and ever-evolving, with the best Japanese restaurants in NYC offering everything from steaming bowls of ramen and izakaya pub fare to street-style yakitori and Michelin-starred sushi.

Some Japanese restaurants are boisterous, like a ramen joint with the sounds of satisfied slurping filling the air. Others are more refined, featuring only a dozen or so seats and a calm vibe that allows you to focus on the expert craftsmanship of the chef. (For a truly thoughtful and thorough experience, look for the Japanese restaurants that offer omakase, a tasting that showcases Japanese delicacies chosen at the whim of the chef.)

Many Japanese restaurants specialize in one thing, whether it’s sushi, udon, yakitori or tempura. Whatever your preference, you’ll find what you’re looking for here. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC

Time Out Market New York
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • DUMBO

You know the ramen is special when it garners a Michelin star in the city that specializes in bowls of toothsome noodles. Takatoshi Nagara, the head chef behind the lauded Bigiya Ramen in Tokyo, and his friend Takayuki Watanabe brought their acclaimed Japanese noodle soup to the Lower East Side with the opening of Mr. Taka in 2015. You can still see lines stretching out the door today, and with good reason. Now this Dumbo incarnation at Time Out Market is where we’ll be happily slurping up the miso ramen or the equally flavorful Taka vegan bowl. 

Best Japanese restaurants in NYC

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Greenwood

You're confronted with two mouthwatering options upon stepping into Japan Village: Do you go to the popular Sunrise Mart, which has a trio of much smaller locations in Manhattan, filled with adorably packaged snacks and hard-to-find ingredients? Or do you hit up one of the 10 vendors that make up this food court within the sprawling Industry City warehouses along the Brooklyn waterfront? Eat first. If you go with a group, start at Shokusaido and order a spread of snacks, including the kakiage, a Japanese-style fritter that comes out as a tangle of julienned vegetables studded with shrimp. 

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Midtown East
  • price 4 of 4

Ginza’s seasonal omakase is not just freshly flown in from Tokyo’s prestigious Tsukiji market, nor is it dependent on exotic varieties. Instead one-Michelin-starred 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. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Greenwich Village
  • price 3 of 4

At this 20-seat counter, expect an expert omakase selection of exceptionally made edomae zushi 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Lower East Side
  • price 1 of 4

Chefs Yoshihito Kida and Mika Ohie were both born in Japan (Tokyo and Hokkaido, respectively), but met in the kitchens of Yakitori Totto and Soba Totto, before deciding to strike out on their own. This soba shop's name translates to "heartwarming," but it could also be dubbed heart-healthy for its fiber-rich, low-fat fare. Kida, who owned a soba restaurant back in Japan, makes the buckwheat noodles in house, while Ohie focuses on sides and appetizers, like a cold house-made tofu with scallions, ginger and bonito.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Midtown West
  • price 3 of 4

The bad news: This covert Japanese-influenced restaurant, which sits beyond a butcher shop on Great Jones Street, has no published phone number. The good news: Getting into the super-exclusive space, which was once home to Jean-Michel Basquiat, will give you bragging rights for months. For being so VIP, Bohemian’s decor is quite simple—minimalist, with a Zen garden, lounge chairs and plenty of wall art—and its menu is down-to-earth (but delish!), with wagyu beef sliders and mac and cheese. 

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Midtown East
  • price 2 of 4

This sleek Michelin-starred stunner located a stone’s throw from Grand Central Terminal is where you’ll go for a bangin’ omakase fix. Extreme attention to detail and a thoughtful eye has literally been given to everything, from the interior and décor to the variety of sashimi and nigiri there is on offer. Make reservations accordingly as they’re hard to come by. 

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  • Bars
  • Izakaya
  • East Village
  • price 1 of 4

See and be seen at this East Village basement bar—whose happy hour runs daily from 6pm to 7pm—and partake in the countless sakes available on offer. The food menu is also not to be missed, and best enjoyed when sharing; plates here include vegetable gyoza, kurobuta sausage, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, crispy karaage and a variety of rice bowls. 

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Noho

No need to head to Tokyo to visit this famous yakitori restaurant—the 17-seat sister restaurant to Torishiki is conveniently located on Elizabeth Street for you to make your skewer dreams come true. Here, 13 skewered courses consist of all parts of the chicken—organs included—as well as duck and a smattering of vegetables. And the traditional binchotan charcoal in which the chicken is cooked on? It hails from Kishu, Japan—natch. 

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Masa
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Upper West Side
  • price 4 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Williamsburg
  • price 1 of 4

This takeout and delivery spot from chef Yuji Haraguchi specializes in ichi ju san sai—a traditional Japanese meal of one soup and three side dishes—for breakfast and lunch, with options like broccoli rabe shiraae (tofu-and-sesame-dressed salad), roasted Spanish mackerel and miso soup with ramp stalks.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Murray Hill
  • price 3 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • East Village
  • price 1 of 4

Taking its name from a fashion term popular during the Japanese jazz age, this 11-seat coffeehouse specializes in East-meets-West fare. During the day, the East Village spot serves siphon brews made with Porto Rico and Counter Culture blends, along with dishes such as omurice (a rice-stuffed omelette) and katsu pork sandwiches. When the sun sets, sidle up to the wooden counter for Far East beers (Yona Yona, Echigo Koshihikari) and sake cocktails.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Hell's Kitchen
  • price 2 of 4

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Murray Hill
  • price 3 of 4

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.

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