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Hashida Singapore
Photograph: Hashida Singapore

The best Japanese restaurants in Singapore

Whenever you've got a craving for sushi or ramen

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Japanese food is hands-down the most popular cuisine in Singapore – even on a busy weekend night, there's no lack of options. While some lean towards an omakase experience with a Japanese chef while others are perfectly satiated with a piping hot bowl of ramen, Singapore has got it all. Here are our top picks for when you're craving some might solid Japanese cuisine.

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

Best izakaya

Public Izakaya
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

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
  • Newton

Tucked away in the basement of Midpoint Orchard, Morinaga Izakaya Restaurant serves up Japanese bento by day and izakaya by night. This unassuming spot is great for a cosy catch-up with friends over bottles of sake – do ask the servers, they're more than capable of recommending a good bottle – and delicious bites. The menu is extensive, but signatures include a soft and silky Japanese omelette ($9), light and crispy chicken karaage ($8), or the assorted sashimi set ($28). 

TRY The monkfish liver ponzu ($8), otherwise also known as the "foie gras of the sea".

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Tanjong Pagar

Paper lanterns and noren (curtains) usher you into a dingy-in-a-good-way izakaya that feels like it’s straight out of a Tokyo back alley. Yes, the owners of ShuKuu Izakaya are freshening up the post-work drinking scene of our CBD with a slice of life from the Japanese capital – but rather than pints of Asahi, sake’s the order of the day. 

Don’t bother with the menu. It changes so frequently that, as head sommelier Luis Liu says, it might not even be updated – ask for recommendations instead.

TRY Their sake. Liu constantly brings in new types of sake – after all, there  are over 3,000 sake breweries in Japan. So rather than limiting ShuKuu’s selection to regions or types of sake, he looks to trends in Japan to bring in new sakes to suit the food, occasion and mood.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Orchard

With Cuppage Plaza swiftly becoming one of the prime spots for Japanese sake bars. It’s all very “if you know, you know”, so no surprise that a great number of izakaya dens are hidden in this derelict building. Despite being relatively unknown, it can be difficult to get a reservation at Keria Japanese Restaurant and most recommend making a booking at least two weeks in advance. Try the shirako ponzu ($16), if available. A somewhat controversial dish since it's essentially fish sperm, but it's one of the rare few Japanese haunts that do it well. 

Best luxe donburi bowls

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • City Hall
  • price 2 of 4

This modern sukiyaki and shabu-shabu fine dining restaurant is all about offering transcendent Wagyu dining experiences. Like its namesake, it uses exclusively kuroge wagyu (Japanese black cattle) sourced from a network of trusted farms that the owners personally visited.

TRY Signature Sukiyaki Donburi "All in One" ($128). Of course, the inimitable A5 Wagyu slices headline the dish. But a shoutout to the short-grained rice – using specially selected AAA grade Nanatsuboshi rice from Hokkaido – which has the perfect balance of flavour, and bite and stays tasty even when it's cold. Finished with crisp garlic chips, thoughtful vegetable trimming pickles, a jiggly onsen egg and a generous blanket of black truffles, it is one Donburi you'll dream of in your sleep.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

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
  • Orchard

It’s Japanese meats galore from the folks behind Kinki and Marmalade Pantry, who offer a bespoke service for carnivores – from weight, choice and cut of the beef, to charcoal-grilling, sukiyaki and shabu-shabu methods – along with a vintage wine list and cocktail collection. Known for its affordably priced lunch sets such as the wagyu donburi, which comes with tender slices of Japanese grade-A3 beef that form a cup around a soft boiled organic New Zealand egg atop rice, Fat Cow now offers an omakase lunch menu at its new sushi counter too.

TRY: The Fat Foa Guru Don ($58) which comes with glazed foie gras and wagyu over a bowl of rice. This is part of the lunch set, which comes with salad, chawanmushi, miso soup, and a dessert. 

  • Restaurants
  • Rochor

Fukusen Restaurant specialises in authentic omakase dining with high-quality seasonal seafood flown in from the motherland twice a week. Let the chefs know your preferences and take the wheel with one of their five- to eight- course omakase meals ($80-160), or order from the a la carte menu featuring the likes of the clover fukusen roll ($28) – a sushi packed with salmon sashimi, cucumber, foie gras and cherry tomato, a scallop carpaccio ($28) and - for the meat lovers - a hunk of grilled Grade A Wagyu steak ($60) sitting atop rice or noodles. 

TRY The uni don ($42.80) for a generous spread of fresh sea urchin and ikura. 

Best omakase meals

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

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. Oh and don't expect safe desserts like musk melon, dessert here is pretty experimental.

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
  • Marina Bay

Marina Bay Sands welcomes another Japanese dining concept by celebrated chef Tetsuya Wakuda (of two-Michelin-star Waku Ghin fame) alongside award-winning restaurateur John Kunkel of 50 Eggs Hospitality Group. Revel in a multitude of experiences from à la carte style dining at the alluring main dining hall, to artful Japanese mixology at the stylish bar as you enter.

TRY The cold soba ($68). Tuck into perfectly bouncy cold soba from Nagoya tossed with botan ebi in an ultra-aromatic truffle sauce. It also comes topped with Oscietra caviar, shaved brown mushrooms and fresh white negi.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

Omakase restaurants in Singapore might be a dime a dozen, but Japanese restaurant Sushi Yujo is certainly worth a try. Seafood is flown in four times a week from Tokyo’s Toyosu Market, so you can expect the freshest of ingredients. We tried the dinner omakase – Chusei ($198), which comes with five types of sashimi, two cooked dishes, and five pieces of sushi. 

Sushi Yuj isn’t a big space by any means – it’s a straightforward 13-seater by the counter. There are also two private rooms: Hana, with a private counter that seats six, and Ryu which seats up to 10. The lunch set menu starts at $38 if you were to order a salmon or unagi don, but otherwise, you can also opt for the lunch omakase choices: Rikai ($98) or Shinrai ($198).  

TRY The Shinzoku ($348) menu. It's obviously a splurge, but entirely worth it, since part of the omakase course offers a yuzu crab – a hollowed-out yuzu shell that's filled to the brim with hairy crab. It's also painstakingly layered with uni, ikura, tosazu jelly and wasabi. This is only available seasonally though, so make sure you check in before heading down.

Kyuu by Shunsui
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Outram

Treat yourself to a 10-course omakase dinner for just $129. The affordable price point doesn't mean that Kyuu by Shunsui scrimps on the quality of their offerings – you can expect an assortment of seasonal sashimi, grilled king crab and a rice bowl overflowing with dashi-soaked ikura. If that sounds like too much of an indulgence, come after 9pm and order from the a la carte menu that features a mix of robatayaki items and other dishes.

TRY The overflowing ikura bowl (part of the $129 omakase menu) – the server will continue scooping generous heaps of salmon roe onto your bowl of Hokkaido rice till you actively say stop.

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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

When it comes to upscale Japanese restaurants, Taiga Dining is definitely one to visit if you’re looking to splurge on a bit of gluttony. Housed in Regent Singapore, the swanky 11-seater culinary theatre is stylishly designed to reflect Chef Taiga Kanekuni’s home prefecture of Kōchi where hills are aplenty. 

TRY One of the three omakase menu options; Ino Shika Cho ($280), Ka Cho Huu Getsu ($380) and Hi To To See ($480), priced the same for both lunch and dinner.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

Savouring the freshest produce in complete zen – that's the idea most people have of an omakase experience. But Zouk Group is turning the lights down low at Sushi Ichizuke, a new omakase restaurant at The Cannery and the first in Clarke Quay. Situated right beside the group's new Japanese speakeasy Here Kitty Kitty, Sushi Ichizuke promises a more intimate omakase experience than most are used to. 

TRY Sushi Ichizuke will have both a lunch and dinner menu. Highlights from both include the house-special handroll, typically sandwiched with seasonal seafood. In our case, that includes a generous slab of delicate bincho-smoked nodoguru (blackthroat seaperch). 

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  • Restaurants
  • Marina Bay

Gourmands looking for sheer indulgence know to grab a seat at Waku Ghin's exclusive 10-seater Chef’s Table (from $550). Dishes to land on the cherry wood counter table might include a delightful egg flan, or chawanmushi crowned with shreds of hairy crab, sayori or half-beak fish sweetened with fresh strawberries and pomegranate, and Korean abalone, gently steamed for over eight hours and served with risoni for a soothing porridge-like texture. 

TRY The marinated botan ebi, uni, and caviar on egg yolk confit (part of the $550 omakase menu). It's a Waku Ghin signature.

Best modern Japanese experiences

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Tanjong Pagar

This handroll-centric eatery is from the same team behind The Feather Blade , Mezcla, and GOHO. 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. 

  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Tanjong Pagar

Japanese restaurants aren’t where most get their pizza fix, but Ristorante Luka is certainly onto a good thing with their wood-fired pizzas. Both rosso (red) and bianca (white) pies make an appearance in this Italian-Japanese spot. Some of their pizzas are evidently inspired by Japanese cuisine, like their Bianca Bianchetti ($26) which comes with whitebait, seaweed and anchovies. 

TRY Their Chef’s Omakase Platter (from $22/person) with uni egg and foie gras dorayaki for an excellent start to a meal. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Tanjong Pagar

Breaking away from the main Tanjong Pagar stretch and meandering into Tras Street is a spot that serves up soul-comforting bowls of Japanese ramen and smoke-kissed tapas. Sporting both indoors and alfresco seatings for every occasion, the former features a relaxed atmosphere adorned with grungy concrete walls and larger-than-life murals while the latter is perfect for people-watching while having a few swigs.

TRY The tsukemen – a type of dipping ramen, thick bouncy noodles served separate from an intensely rich tonkotsu broth that is savoury, oniony sweet, roundsing off with a subtle smoky bonito finish. Paired with slices of succulent charcoal pork, crunchy bamboo shoots, half an onsen egg, and garnished with nori painted with the Torasho motif using egg white, the signature is definitely a must-order.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

Restaurant Jypsy was once in Martin Road but they’ve just newly opened in One Fullerton, a stunning waterfront-facing location. Obvious boho-chic decor aside, its weathered panels and statement hanging lamps have taken cues from the scenic Japanese archipelago – not exactly to the level of Bali beachy, but rather, mimicking a classy seaside resort. 

TRY The salmon tacos ($16) for the generous filling of cubed salmon sashimi, avocado and ikura. This was a hit in their last location, and no surprise that it remains as popular here. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Tanjong Pagar

When you first enter GOHO via Rappu, the music is booming – and it's meant to be so, the manager says. Once seated with all the guests, the show begins. I say 'show' because most of the courses are presented with some form of theatrics like the spritzing of edible gold dust, fancy smoke infusions and the dishes sitting in a bed of moss.

It is hard to fault the ingredients – even throughout the 10-course Ume omakase (that's 15 dishes in total) we embarked on, we never hit a bump. The journey was very well-planned, mixing flavours, textures and temperatures, keeping it interesting and never too heavy despite the indulgence of it all. The word 'goho' itself refers to the five ways of cooking Japanese cuisine that is: nama (cutting), niru (simmering), yaku (grilling), musu (steaming), and ageru (frying). And you get to experience it all here. 

TRY The Mt. Goho: an absolute mountain of extravagance served in a glass dome with layers of ikura, uni, wagyu beef, snow crab, caviar, toro and topped with bonito smoke and yep, gold dust to complete the end of the savoury courses. 

Best chirashi don

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Bishan

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Raffles Place

Visit on any weekday and it’s evident that Koji Sushi Bar has amassed a loyal following of white-collared types thanks to its affordable lunches. What sets Koji apart is its freshly grated wasabi – a rarity at this price point – hidden within each nigiri. You also get a tub of housemade soya sauce, which you can individually brush on the nigiri and pretend you’re a bona fide sushi master. 

TRY One of their four sushi sets, served with a salad or miso soup, are available during both lunch and dinner. We suggest homing in on Set C ($19) and D ($23) to sample the seafood on offer, replenished every Tuesday and Friday. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Bedok

With a name like House of Chirashi, it’s a no-brainer that this is a Japanese restaurant that specialises in chirashi bowls. And true enough, its bowls are a true beaut – not only are fresh, thick cuts of sashimi used, but the Hokkaido rice is also mixed in with furikake and edible flower petals for extra oomph. For many, East Village in Simpang is on the other side of the island, but we dare say it's worth the trip down. One of its more affordable options is the classic bara chirashi ($18.80) which comes with a scattered mix of marinated sashimi cubes.

Best soba and udon

Tokyo Soba
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place
  • price 1 of 4

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). 

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Tanjong Pagar

Kiyoshi might not stand out from the crowd of Japanese restaurants but they set themselves apart with its inaniwa udon, a thin hand-stretched noodle that comes from the Akita prefecture. The self-proclaimed chilled inaniwa udon is said to be the best in town, and having tried the chirashi udon ($23.80) – we can’t help but agree. 

TRY The Kiyoshi Combination Udon ($38) which comes with three small serves of inaniwa udon bowls. Think of it as a miniature set meal of sorts: each bowl has different toppings like ikura and prawn tempura so you can taste a variety of flavour combos. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

As a specialty handmade soba shop, tucked away on the somewhat secluded fourth floor of One Raffles Place, we didn’t originally have high expectations for Healthy Soba IKI. But with the freshly made soba here is a clear winner. Besides being handmade in their back kitchens daily, the 100 percent buckwheat soba also has an astonishing number of health benefits.

TRY The Avocado Kaisen Totoro Soba ($18), a chirashi-style sofa which comes with fresh salmon and tuna, paired with a cold dipping sauce.

Best sando

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Bishan

First impressions matter a great deal, and hip café Hello Arigato sure knows how to make a good one. It begins with a welcoming abode, cosy and chic, that beckons people to enter. Concrete flooring and wooden fixtures help lend a soothing, minimalist touch to the space. A freshly constructed sando, or sandwich, is the main draw here. Slices of toasted milk bread might cradle teriyaki-glazed chicken ($15) or pink-hued Angus striploin ($26).

TRY Our favourite: bread stuffed with thick-cut Muar-style otah patty ($20), juicy and meaty – its spiciness balanced with sweetness from smears of coconut mayonnaise and kaffir lime sambal.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Izakaya
  • Tanglin

Mirroring the live kitchen action (yakitori smoking over open flames perfuming the air with the stench of grilled fats), the walls are decked out in framed manga scenes, making for a fun, vibrant space that doesn’t take itself too seriously. So, you shouldn’t too. The izakaya, opened as part of the Les Amis group’s diverse portfolio, means that the sake list features some pretty out-there varietals - think Hoya Daiginjo and Ohmine Junmai Daiginjo from Yamaguchi prefecture.

TRY The katsu sando ($20) which comes with US beef and pommery mustard all between white bread. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Outram

Originally known for its cream buns, Pipes by Hattendo has branched out to include savoury sando sandwiches. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly small interior of this café in Outram Park’s Dorsett Residences – the lengthy menu rivals the best of other sandwich joints. 

TRY Besides the cream buns or puddings, it’s the Nitamago Potato Salad Sando ($14) that proves popular with the crowds. This comes with an ajitsuke egg sliced into half to reveal its gooey yolk, as well as a homemade potato salad filling drizzled over with truffle oil. 

Best kappo-style restaurant

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • River Valley

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 the velvety smooth yellow cedar wood counter where the magic happens. 2022 sees new beginnings with new head chef Takeshi Araki at the helm. The poised chef's resume boasts four years at the three Michelin–starred Tokyo restaurant, Nihonryori RyuGin. It doesn't get any better than this.

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). Look forward to the Hassun.

Ki-sho
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Newton

One of two venues housed in the charming white two-storey colonial-styled Chateau TCC, Ki-sho touts itself as a Zen escapade and serene sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of city life. Does it live up to the promise? It’s certainly exclusive – the restaurant features a ten-seat sushi bar and two private rooms with a total capacity of 18, but it’s the attention-to-detail décor that stands out; everything’s hand-built by a team of Japanese artisans, from the gold-leaf wallpaper to the hand-laid wooden flooring and the bespoke furniture. 

TRY The ankimo (monkfish liver), it's air-flown in twice a week.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Orchard

Head up to the fourth floor of Cuppage Plaza and look for a frosted glass door flanked by bowls of salt. Ring the bell and wait. Because what lies within is well worth all the cloak and daggers. Kappo Shunsui is an intimate Japanese dining experience only for people in the know. It's one of the few restaurants in Singapore that serves Kappo-style cuisine – an intricate balance of five primary food preparation techniques: grilling, steaming, frying, simmering and serving food raw.

TRY The owan, a clear kombu and dried bonito broth served with a homemade fishcake that's stuffed two types of clams and five types of fish meat.

Best cafés and teahouses

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • City Hall

The original Hvala outlet is in Chijmes, a stylish teahouse which has transformed brewing Japanese tea into a true art. It has since expanded a ton, opening up additional stores in Somerset, Craig Road, and Beach Road too – but one thing’s for sure: it’s a reliable spot where you can order up a frothy cup of freshly whisked matcha. 

TRY Its range of straight matcha, which is simply matcha that’s been whisked with water – no milk. This way, you can taste the pure notes of each matcha type: some are more robust, while others have a lingering mellow profile. 

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Jurong West

Do not be fooled by the interior of this zen-like Japanese teahouse. The menu at this café is, in fact, largely dedicated to espresso-based brews. After all, this tranquil hideout, located in an industrial building at Jurong, is opened by Suzuki Gourmet Coffee, one of the oldest roastery on the island that has been around since 1979.

 

TRY For non-coffee drinkers, tea-based drinks are equally popular. Of the four to choose from, get the creamy hojicha Hokkaido anmitsu latte ($10), suffused with toasty notes in every sip. Another sweet perk: while Hokkaido milk is the default option used in all the drinks, Suzuki Gourmet Coffee provides the option of switching to Japanese soy milk at no extra cost.

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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

Café Natsu has recently opened their doors on the ground floor of Crane Joo Chiat, a stunning 1920s Peranakan heritage building. One glass panel overlooks bustling Joo Chiat Road, while those lucky enough to clinch a table at the open-aired windowsill seats will get a glimpse of the pastel-coloured Koon Seng shophouses.

TRY Try the eggs Benedict here, either as a classic benny ($28) with glazed ham or done as a Florentine ($30) with spanner crab. Once again, obvious Japanese influences come into play with wasabi spinach and miso hollandaise.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Geylang

Not entirely a Japanese teahouse but more of a quaint neighbourhood coffee shop, Okada Coffee and Sweets is a local favourite for its roasted hand drip coffee – featuring specialty blends. Its origins are from Kyushu’s Okada Coffee itself, first established in 1945. 

TRY A specialty coffee of course (from $7.50), but also one of its mains just to savour what rustic, homemade Japanese fare is truly like. The chicken karaage curry ($13) is bound to be a hit, served with hojicha rice and a side of pickles.

Best yakiniku

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Tanglin

There is more to an omakase experience than just seafood and sushi. At The Gyu Bar, the nine-course menu ($238) will bring to the table some seven Wagyu breeds from Japan – served in ways both simple and striking.

The beef specialist, opened by the same people behind Michelin-starred Sushi Kimura, has set up a temple for all beef-lovers. Wagyu is sourced from prefectures around Japan, then air-flown to provide a premium selection of choice cuts.

TRY This omakase menu (requires a day of advance notice) for a delicious journey through the best Wagyu options that Japan has to offer – all in a single sitting.

  • Restaurants
  • Orchard

This 64 seater includes four private dining enclaves with smokeless ceramic charcoal gas grills that offer more control to produce a finessed grilling outcome that retains the integrity of the choice cuts. Expect exclusively premium wagyu grade meats with exquisite marbling and occasional rare cuts that are masterfully seasoned and expertly grilled with surgical precision to serve up melt-in-your-mouth meats. 

TRY The meat omakase, which begins with a medley of 6 different cuts that are prepared individually by the yakiniku master.

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Yakiniku Yazawa
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

One of the newest places to savour morsels of self-barbecued meats is Yakiniku Yazawa at Robertson Walk. Serving the Japanese equivalent to Korean barbecue, Yazawa has been winning rave reviews and, after a recent visit, it’s easy to see why. But don’t come expecting a cloudy den filled with raucous beer drinkers. Thanks to the powerful built-in suction installed on the sides of the grill, the place is relatively smoke-free, and it’s quite a good looker, to boot, with banquette seats in semi-private cubicles, each of which is fitted with a grill griddle.

TRY Any of their delectable cuts, from the ox tongue ($18) to their moderately thick jo kalbi, or premium rib ($26), that was plump with smoky, beefy flavour.

Best sushi

  • Restaurants
  • City Hall

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
  • City Hall

Unlike the other 99 family-friendly outlets in Japan, Ganko Sushi here has a slightly more refined feel to it. Not a kaitenzushi, but a 40-seater restaurant: all-natural light and classy decor. Prices start at $28 for a set lunch, and each comes with a chawanmushi, miso soup, and a side dish. They’re an absolute steal, considering that each set comes with premium ingredients like sea urchin, scallop, and fatty tuna. 

TRY Assembling your own sushi platter, by ordering from the a la carte menu. For an idea of Ganko’s pricing, akagai (ark shell) is $11, maguro is $6, and ikura is $5 per serving. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Orchard

Helmed by chef Tomoo Kimura, an alumnus of one-Michelin-starred Sushi Ichi and Hashida, Sushi Kimura is an intimate omakase restaurant with just 12 counter seats and two private rooms that seat roughly the same number.

TRY Chef Kimura's omakase sushi experience is the real draw here – prices range from $120 to $250 for lunch and $330 to $400 for dinner.

Best tonkatsu

Tonkatsu by Ma Maison
  • Restaurants
  • Orchard

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Marine Parade

As far as Japanese cuisine goes, by no means is a slab of deep-fried tonkatsu cutlet as refined as a kappo dining experience. But it’s certainly a feel-good meal. At Katsuya, the signature is its tonkatsu: paired with shredded cabbage and a subtly sweet tonkatsu sauce for a balanced meal. 

TRY Nothing other than one of its tonkatsu sets. The rosu-katsu ($25) is by default one of the more popular orders for good reason – a juicy, fattier heft of breaded pork that’s served with a bowl of warm rice and miso soup.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Orchard

Tonkichi does more than tonkatsu, with a seasonal Sashimi-Mori – a well-carved platter of ingredients flown in twice weekly from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market. But the tonkatsu is still a must-order, since it's  balanced well with the layered katsu:  three razor-thin slices of butter-soft pork held together with specially formulated crumbs. You’d be hard pressed to find this quality in Japan, much less Singapore.

Best yakitori

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

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.

Bincho
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Tiong Bahru

Wherever Loh Lik Peng, CEO of Unlisted Collection, sets up shop, the buzz follows – this time, it’s for the serial restaurateur’s hawker-esque yakitori bar. The space, by day, serves up mee pok by heritage hawker Hua Bee, and dressed up Japanese dishes and tipples at night. 

As with most yakitori places, portions are tiny (about one grilled stick per dish) – in the case of the premium set, there was a stick of grilled breast flecked with truffles, which ended up dry and tasteless in the mouth; plus two dishes of chicken neck, which turned out to be the highlight of the meal. 

TRY The premium Bincho omakase set ($80 for 12 dishes), which promises ‘more premium’ cuts of chicken alongside a number of veggie dishes. 

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to yakitori skewers, but Yakitori Yatagarasu has stepped up the game by using all parts of the chicken. It’s nose-to-tail dining in a manner of speaking, but one that has been long respected by traditional Japanese chefs before nose-to-tail practices swarmed all trendy restaurants.

TRY As many sticks of tail ($2.50) you can muster – they tend to sell out early of the more popular yakitori skewers. Some might flinch knowing that just the one skewer is proudly jutted through the rear ends of six chickens, but this is a definite highlight.

Best ramen

Brothers Ramen
  • Restaurants
  • Chinatown

The noodles here are made daily with their Yamato noodle-making machine from Japan, and the menu offers just five bowl options, each served in a broth that simmers pork, chicken, fish and vegetables. The signature Brothers Ramen ($12.90) is a bowl topped with chicken and pork chashu, and spice chasers might appreciate the Spicy ($13.90) bowl that gets a drizzle of their chilli oil, made in-house.

TRY The Superman ($16.90) if you're extra hungry – it comes with additional slices of meat and eggs. Save some broth at the end if you're particularly peckish – the smiley brothers offer free noodle top ups.

  • Restaurants
  • Ramen
  • Orchard

By now, it should be clear by now that Menbaka doesn’t just serve up ordinary ramen; the Kyoto-import is famously known for topping each bowl with a spectacular display of flames – performed just centimetres in front of every diner. To achieve this pyrotechnic performance, negi, or green onion oil, is first heated to scorching temperatures, then poured carefully atop each bowl.

TRY The signature Shoyu Fire Ramen ($17.90), made from a broth of chicken, mackerel, and bonito brewed for over five hours. Shoyu, which comes specially imported from a 220-year-old factory in the Hyogo prefecture, is also added. A crowning of crunchy green onions completes this famous dish.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Geylang

Ramen Keisuke has shown, time and again, that there are multiple ways to switch up to a classic bowl of noodles beyond the usual pork bones.The name hints at its newfound protein-heavy inspiration – ‘niku’ means ‘meat’ in Japanese. 

TRY The Niku King’s Tonkotsu Ramen Special ($19.90), where the bowl comes crowned with over seven slices of chasyu (yes, we counted), alongside a flavoured egg, seaweed, ginger oil, and grated ginger. Finally, there’s no need to ration those precious toppings; every mouthful can now come accompanied by meaty pork chasyu, and then some. 

Best tempura

  • Restaurants
  • Tempura
  • City Hall

Most tempura joints in Singapore offer one of two varieties: as affordable tendon bowls, or premium set menus at high-end Japanese restaurants. But Japanese specialty chain Makino Tempura – which opens its first outpost in Singapore – provides a well-priced mix of both. Expect stuffed tendon bowls, alongside freshly fried tempura served course by course to ensure maximum enjoyment.

TRY The tendon special ($25) which comes with prawns, anago, squid, Japanese whiting, pumpkin, and more, served atop fluffy grains. Choose to swap the warm rice for cool strands of soba ($25), or indulge in the executive bento ($32) that features additions of thick-cut sashimi and an appetiser. 

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Orchard

Tenshin, is by far, one of the fancier tempura restaurants on our side of the world. First, it’s the very first specialty tempura restaurant to have set up shop in Singapore, and second, it’s housed in the five-star hotel Regent Singapore. They also pride themselves on shipping fresh seafood straight from Tokyo’s Toyosu Market. 

TRY One of its lunch sets, for a segue into premium tempura. We’re eyeing either the Tempura Set ($45) which comes with mixed tempura or the Tenshin Bento ($65) which comes with both tempura and sashimi. 

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Tenjin
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Orchard

Up on the third floor if Shaw Centre, Tenjin dishes up piping hot tempura rice bowls piled high with deep-fried seafood and vegetables atop Hoshi-Jirushi rice from the Ibaraki prefecture.

TRY The Toku-Jo Bowl ($22.80) comes with all the works: anago, crab leg, prawn and fish, lightly batted and fried till pale golden alongside tempura vegetables and a Freedom Range egg.

Best sukiyaki and nabemono

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Orchard

The third floor of Ion Orchard is home to luxury boutiques, upscale ateliers, and now, an affordable Japanese restaurant. Wallet-friendly finds aren’t typically associated with the upper stories of the swanky mall, but yet, Sen-ryo prides itself in providing exactly that: quality Japanese plates that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. Fresh catch from Toyosu Fish Market, and around the world, is flown in twice a week to prep its extensive a la carte menu of sashimi, sushi, and more.

TRY Save room for the kaisen soy nabe ($32), where seasonal seafood (plump kyogo oysters) and sweet potato noodles are stewed in soy milk broth.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinatown

Singapore has its fair share of hidden izakayas – most are situated in town, but in soon-to-be derelict buildings like Midpoint Orchard and Orchard Plaza. With the new opening of chicken-focused Japanese joint Torimaro, it's veered off course: this izakaya bar is right in the middle of the CBD in Capital Square. 

TRY Their chicken sukiyaki (part of the omakase set). While most sukiyaki hotpots feature delicate slices of beef, this was chock-full with chicken, tofu, and tsukune, grilled chicken meatballs.

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Keisuke Beef Sukiyaki Don
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Tanjong Pagar

Squeeze into the small 14-seater space and watch as the chef simmers premium cuts of beef in sukiyaki sauce right in front of you. There are only two options on the menu, a value-for-money beef sukiyaki don ($13.90) made using US prime beef is the more affordable choice.

TRY The Kiwami wagyu sukiyaki don ($29.90) topped with incredibly marbled A4 Yonezawa beef, one of the top breeds of wagyu in the world. Each bowl comes with a small appetiser of goma tofu, onsen egg, miso soup and a free flow of housemade pickles.

Best desserts

  • Restaurants
  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Orchard

Two forks. That’s how the soufflé pancakes at Flipper’s are meant to be eaten. Its signature, jiggly stacks are so soft – cloud-like even – that they can be enjoyed without a knife. Just two forks are required, along with a hungry appetite. Hailing from Japan, Flipper’s is best known for its kiseki, or miracle pancakes – a term used to describe its almost unbelievable texture: soft and pillowy.

TRY Have it plain ($16.80) to sample the pancake in all its jiggly glory. Three palm-sized clouds are dressed with simple additions of maple whipped cream for a light dose of sweetness.

108 Matcha Saro
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • City Hall

The café draws you in with colourful food replicas placed out front in front, but really, it is the obanyaki (from $2.90) made on the spot wafting through the air that convinces you to get in line. It comes in five different flavours, with a choice between the regular or matcha dough. Skip the plain-tasting custard and get the matcha custard instead.

TRY Besides the obanyaki, grab a cup of freshly made warabi mochi ($4.90) – these soft and chewy treats easily melt in the mouth.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • City Hall

With its warm lighting, wooden interiors and little private corners, this casual café reminds us of a Japanese eatery – not surprising since that's where it's originally from. As its name suggests, the café is all about matcha, or green powdered tea, using leaves imported from Kyoto, Japan. Everything here is authentic, like the signature uji-matcha (green tea served as an espresso). 

TRY The Matcha Latte ($6.90) for a classic drink.

Other Japanese-inspired restaurants to try

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Kallang

Minimalist cafés, with white-clad walls and simple decor, are a dime a dozen in Singapore. But if there is any place that’s making this pared-down aesthetic feel fresh and exciting, it’s Daizu Cafe.

 

  • Restaurants
  • City Hall

Following the success of Yellowtail and Kumi in Vegas, chef Akira Back has turned his eyes towards global domination. His eponymous restaurant launched in JW Marriott Hotel New Delhi Aerocity in 2014 and has now made its way to our shores. The modern restaurant serves Japanese cuisine with Korean accents like toro caviar ($66), tuna sashimi spiced with gochujang sauce and topped with Oscietra caviar.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Raffles Place

Wagyu beef with a marbling grade of A5 – that's the highest there is – doesn’t come cheap. It's a meat ranking that signals the best of the best – a prized cut that usually comes with a hefty price tag. But over at Syohachi Wagyu Hamburg, you’ll find patties made from this premium beef at wallet-friendly prices. At this Japanese eatery, located at One Raffles Place, a hamburg steak can start from just $9.50.

  • Restaurants
  • Tanjong Pagar

Explore a unique dining experience that combines Japanese food with Italian cuisine. Chef Seita Nakahara has clocked hours in kitchens from Tokyo to Tuscany, and with it a menu unlike any other. Lunch set starts from $58, but its best to order the omakase menu (from $208), where you get to be surprised by chef Seita’s treatment of fresh ingredients.

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