Best Japanese restaurants in NYC
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.
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.
At this 20-seat counter, 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.
Roughly translating to “home away from home,” Bessou is the restaurant here to show New York the lengths Japanese cuisine can reach past sushi and ramen. Tucked away in the East Village, the smallish eatery becomes a mecca of comfort food, where well-conceived takes on owner Maiko Kyogoku’s childhood favorites are honed by chef Emily Yuen’s culinary finesse.
This ramen insta-hit 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.
A collaboration with Osaka’s Tsuji Culinary Institute, this David Bouley venture brings kaiseki cuisine—the intricate, formal multicourse meals at the pinnacle of haute Japanese cooking—into a surprisingly relaxed and accessible setting. The dishes are gorgeously plated on handmade Japanese stoneware and flow like parts of a symphony. Despite the clean, elegant cooking, there’s great energy to the place—from its breezy service and jazz soundtrack to the furious (but silent) rush in the huge open kitchen.
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.
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.
Seeing the sushi master practice in this bamboo-embellished space is the culinary equivalent of observing Buddhist monks at prayer. Counter seating, where you can witness—and chat up—the chefs, is the only way to go. Prime your palate with a miso soup and segue into the raw stuff. This is a sushi purist's paradise, and no two meals are ever the same.
This sleek outpost of a Japanese ramen chain is packed mostly with Nippon natives who queue up for a taste of “Ramen King” Shigemi Kawahara’s tonkotsu, one of the classic pork-based broths. The house special, Akamaru Modern, is a smooth, buttery soup topped with scallions, cabbage, a slice of roasted pork and pleasantly elastic noodles.
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.
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.
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.
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) and 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.