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Hashida Singapore
Photograph: Hashida SingaporeSashimi

The best Japanese restaurants in Singapore

Hit up these joints for your oden, yakitori, donburi, yakiniku fix and more. Additional reporting by Mia Chenyze

Fabian Loo
Written by
Time Out Singapore editors
&
Fabian Loo
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Japanese food is hands-down the most popular cuisine in Singapore, and there are no lack of options. Whether it's some fresh sushi, hot-off-the-grill yakitori or a comforting bowl of ramen you are craving for, Singapore's got it covered. Here are our top picks for when you really wanna treat yo' self.

RECOMMENDED: The best affordable sushi bars in Singapore and the best cafés in Singapore

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

Best omakase

For a truly superlative omakase experience, drop by Hashida Singapore. There are a great many omakase destinations in Singapore, but our tummy craves the upbeat rhythm of its omakase menu and the distinctive levity in flavours here. The courses largely follow traditional formats, and chef-owner Kenjiro Hashida frequently plays up the temperature of dishes, alternating hot and cold courses, for a meal filled with unexpected surprises.

TRY Otoro Sushi (part of the $350 omakase dinner menu). The buttery texture is mind-blowing and we're pleased to also report that the chefs here are extremely generous in draping the otoro.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Tanjong Pagar

Best obanzai flavours

There’s more to Japanese cuisine than slivers of fresh seafood, or rice bowls topped with deep-fried tempura. At Rockon Tokyo, the intimate restaurant serves up obanzai instead – comfy, Kyoto-style home cooking that features a variety of side dishes, best paired with sips of sake. Fresh, seasonal ingredients are used to create the restaurant’s lengthy menu – one that changes every two weeks according to what’s available. Build your meal with a series of small plates – both warm and cold – from the signature potato salad ($18), perfumed with freshly shaved black truffles, to the classic hijiki seaweed ($6) that comes tossed with beans and tuna for a hearty bite.

TRY The cheekily named Gout-o ICU ($69), which offers a sampling of three mini rice bowls topped with ikura, caviar, and uni.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Tanjong Pagar

Best mod-Jap experience

This handroll-centric eatery is the latest brainchild from the team behind The Feather Blade. Groove to rap music (‘rappu’ translates to ‘rap’ in Japanese) from the likes of Wu-Tang Clan to Kendrick Lamar as you indulge in freshly wrapped rolls and cocktails. The crown jewel of the space is a 36-seater sushi bar, where food and drinks are prepped before your very eyes. Here, the menu will feature a concise selection of just seven handrolls, including an over-the-top creation crowned with uni, wagyu, and caviar. For $36, diners can look forward to six freshly prepped rolls, each stuffed with a selection of fresh catch. It starts off with easy-to-love options of fatty toro, diced hotate, and house-brined salmon dressed with wasabi furikake.

TRY Still hungry? Consider the aptly named High Roller ($28) that comes crowned with wagyu, dollops of uni, caviar, and dusted with gold flakes for the ultimate indulgence. It’s an umami bomb best enjoyed in one smooth bite. 

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  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place
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Best soba

This hole-in-the-wall soba-specialist isn't the kind of place you'd want to share with your friends. Seatings are limited (mostly two-seaters) in the cosy eatery, which serves up freshly made soba in variants both hot and cold. Noodles come made with 80 percent buckwheat flour, imported from Japan, and 20 percent regular flour to lend a smooth, slurp-worthy texture. Have it paired with a variety of sides, from juicy pork cutlet to sweet corn fritters. The best part: a meal here comes affordably priced at under $20. 

TRY You can't go wrong with the best-seller prawn tempura soba ($13.50). 

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Bishan

Best chirashi don

There’s always a queue at Omoté; and most of them flock to this casual Japanese restaurant for its affordable chirashi bowl. At just $12.80, each bowl of sushi rice comes topped with a heaping spoonful of diced seafood. Have it on its own, or jazz up your meal with premium uni, fresh scallops, and other seafood imported from Japan. It is best enjoyed with a drizzle of house-blend soy sauce – specially created for the restaurant and its seafood. 

TRY The mentai chirashi don ($23.80), a snazzy version of the standard affair. You get the regular chirashi don but it’s smothered in a rich and creamy mentai sauce that Omoté makes daily and torched right before it’s served at your table.

Time Out Singapore in partnership with Omoté

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • River Valley

Best kappo-style restaurant

Leading the revolution is Esora. The Lo & Behold Group’s first Japanese establishment is a treat for the senses. Even at night, the space looks washed in natural light streaming in from its cloud-like washi paper dressed skylight. It casts a warm glow on velvety smooth yellow cedar wood counter where the magic happens. There, chef-owner Shigeru Koizumi prepares kappo-style cuisine with utmost precision. Bringing together his experience cooking at three-Michelin-starred Nihonryori Ryugin in Tokyo and Singapore’s very own two-Michelin-starred Odette, he welds modern cooking techniques with an obsession over produce to create the perfect dining experience. 

TRY The menu changes almost every week, following the micro-seasonality of ingredients, so you never really know what you’re going to get. The only choice you get to make is if you want the five-course lunch menu ($128), seven-course ($218) or nine-course ($278) dinner menu, or the more premium and customisable chef’s menu ($348).

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Public Izakaya
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  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

Best izakaya

Public Izakaya just nails that trippin' vibe of Tokyo's time-honoured pubs. It's almost always packed to the rafters and for good reason. The music is fab, prices are friendly on the wallet, and of course, the food always hits the spot – no matter which outlet you end up at. Sumiyaki, oden, tempura and donburi are all par but the takoyaki here just blows the competition out of the water. Plus, happy hour all day, err' day.

TRY Buta Kakuni ($14). It's comfort food at its best – tender, slow-braised pork belly, deep caramel flavours, and an incredibly rich onsen egg.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

Best donburi

Donburis are dime-a-dozen in Singapore. Most are wallet-friendly and quite alright. But to make your calories really count, head down to Tamashii Robataya. It's better known for its market-style robatayaki (think grilled food served to you on wooden oars) but that's because the regulars have been keeping hush on Tamashii's amazing donburis. It's a concise list of just five items but we're talking about premium goods like grilled sea eel and foie gras, and saga beef – all topped with organic eggs from Japan.

TRY The Gyudon ($58). It's A5 saga beef, truffle shavings, Akita Komochi rice and an incredibly orangey organic egg – but here's where the simplicity of the ingredients really shines, with the flavours bound by the richness of the onsen egg. Pro-tip: it’s $10 cheaper at lunch if you’re fine with skipping on truffle shavings and getting a marginally lower grade of wagyu.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Tanglin

Best yakiniku

The Gyu Bar is mighty serious about their beef. They purchase grade A4 Kumamoto wagyu – for its excellent marbling and its clean flavour profile that doesn't overwhelm the palate – by entire cows to offer a full range of cuts, and the meat is air-flown chilled from Japan. To get yourself properly acquainted, spring for the Gyu Bar Platter ($98/130g) which spans eight different cuts of beef. And thanks to the stellar ventilation system, you wouldn't leave smelling like barbecue. Even better: The restaurant offers every customer a complimentary cup of sake (you even get to pick your own cup from the display!) as a welcome drink.

TRY Beef Chuck ($52 for 90g). Ordinarily, chuck is relegated to stews and slow braises but this Kumamoto cut is so marbled, it almost melts in the mouth after a quick sear on the grill.

  • Restaurants
  • Orchard

Best tonkatsu

Tonkatsu by Ma Maison is our go-to whenever we've got a major craving for deep-fried cutlets. It goes without saying that hire (filet) and rosu (loin) cuts are the signatures, but there are other surf-and-turf choices such as cheesy chicken roulades, jumbo prawns and oysters. Load up on your unlimited refills of shredded cabbage to make yourself feel a tad healthier.

TRY Miso Rosu Katsu Set ($23.80). We like our meat a little fattier and juicier, hence the rosu preference. The miso sauce lends a deep, umami complexity too.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • City Hall

Best sushi

If you can't hightail to Japan, Shinji is the hallowed shrine within Singapore waters for sushi – perfectly sliced sashimi on perfectly warmed vinegared rice. That said, there's a bit of an irreverent atmosphere at Shinji: The chefs are known to entertain birthday celebrants with a bit of song and dance - complete with wacky shades and party hats! Omakases are the main arrangement (from $250 at lunch) with appetisers and cooked dishes, but we find those other components distracting and unduly heavy on the palate; you might be better off asking to swap out the cooked dishes for more sushi and sashimi.

TRY Uni Rice Bowl (part of the mid-tier omakase sets, or from $50 a la carte). It's a hedonistic bowl of indulgent ingredients – uni, negitoro, and ikura. Need we say more?

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Tanjong Pagar

Best oden

With its two-page menu, Kamoshita is probably home to the most extensive oden collection among local izakayas. Besides the hot oden staples that most Singaporeans might already be familiar with, chef-owner Koki Miyoshi also offers seven cold oden items like tomatoes steeped in chilled dashi broth, and even a small 'from oden' selection which features small plates derived from oden classics. Case in point: a potato salad made with spuds from the oden.

TRY Deep-fried zuchini with chicken miso ($7). This cold oden-style zucchini slices might taste too clean at first, but you'll quickly discover them to be a great vehicle for the umami bomb that is the housemade chicken miso. Pro-tip: mix a little chicken miso into the soup and slurp it all up.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

Best yakitori

Chicken rules the roost at Shriokane Tori-Tama. Both locals and Japanese crowd the space and the menu helpfully includes illustrations of the meat and organ parts (from $3.50). Among the more exotic nibble like cartilage, tail, windpipe and cockscomb. Tori-Tama's sets make a good starting point ($27 for seven sticks) and there's a handful of beef and pork options to round up the skewers list too.

TRY Otafuku ($3.50), lymph nodes cut from along the neck. It's on the chewy side - but immensely flavourful - and parts of it as liver-like creaminess.

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