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Table of food at Fujisaki Barangaroo
Photograph: Anna Kucera

The best Japanese restaurants in Sydney

These are the top Japanese culinary experiences in the city


Japanese food fits into the Sydney climate like soybeans fit into their little pods. And so it’s good that, thanks to all of the incredible Japanese chefs gracing our shores, we know how to do it right. From the sushi roll lunch-run to the full sashimi-laden dego, here’s where to do Japanese in Sydney.

Want more? Check out Sydney's best ramen. On a budget? Here are the best cheap eats in Sydney.

RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in Sydney.

The best Japanese restaurants in Sydney

Customers inside drinking at Izakaya Fujiyama
Photograph: Daniel Boud

1. Izakaya Fujiyama

Restaurants Surry Hills

At Izakaya Fujiyama, pristine sashimi and sushi is made from many more of the fishes that swim in the sea; the familiar standards supplemented by the less-usual likes of sardines and the special of gurnard, the angriest-looking fish you’re likely to come across. Fujiyama on Waterloo Street is a simple fit out with an open kitchen, long bar, crimson paint and a wall of sake in a hard-surfaced high-ceilinged box of a room. 

Ramen at Chaco Bar
Photograph: Anna Kucera

2. Chaco Bar

Restaurants Japanese Darlinghurst

You want heart pipes? Liver? Gizzards? Gristle? They’ve got 'em, along with plenty more protein that isn’t quite so gutsy. The meats are grilled over white charcoal and served over piles of roughly chopped raw white cabbage. By the time you’re done with your juicy, salty chicken thigh or crisp folds of strangely sweet chicken skin, that cabbage will have turned into a well-seasoned side of its own. On Monday evenings and lunch times you'll big bowls of ramen and also make sure you ourder the sizzling gyoza. 

Flatlay table at Rising Sun Workshop
Photograph: Anna Kucera

3. Rising Sun Workshop

Restaurants Newtown

Where can you go to fix up your motorbike, grab an excellent coffee and eat kickass Japanese food in between? Rising Sun Workshop in Newotwn. Order the Prison Bento – it's more delicate than its name suggests. On the day we go in there’s a pile of sticky rice with sour, salty pickled umeboshi plum, silken tofu with shoyu, a selection of crunchy pickles (radish, cucumber, daikon and carrot), tamagoyaki (dashi rolled egg omelette) which is light and not as sweet as that which you get in Japan, yogurt sprinkled with nigella seeds that the waiter tells us he ate in Tokyo and a piece of just-cooked Ulladulla albacore tuna ($5 extra).

Photograph: Anna Kucera

4. Sokyo

Restaurants Japanese Darling Harbour

When ​this glitzy, casino-based Japanese restaurant first opened, we dismissed it as rich kid disco sushi – big flavours and easy​-​to​-​understand hand rolls that still taste good after a sweaty session with Redfoo at Marquee. But if it was once true, now it ain’t necessarily so. There’s more going on here than first meets the chopstick. Chefs Chase Kojima commands the most impressive sushi counter in Sydney. The only challenge is landing a seat. 

Green tea soft serve in a waffle cone placed in a bowl of brown
Photograph: Anna Kucera

5. Cho Cho San

Restaurants Japanese Potts Point

Jonathan Barthelmess and Sam Christie's Potts Point mainstay is a playful take on the izakaya trope, brought to life as much by George Livissianis's cream-on-white pared-back interiors as it is by exciting plates like crab fried rice with XO sauce and kastuobushi. The drinks list impresses as much as the food (sake flights FTW) and, of course, so does the epic green tea soft serve that inevitably marks the end to every repeat visit.

Food at Juan Bowl and Tea redfern
Photograph: Daniel Boud

6. Juan Bowl and Tea

Restaurants Japanese Redfern

The delicious is in the detail at Juan, the compact Japanese diner in Redfern where there are only four main meals to choose from. Go with a friend and you’ve tried 50 per cent of the menu – a stat that allows little chance for food envy to kick in. Each bowl is an elaborately constructed meal for one, with more flavour layers than a lasagne, accompanied by the kind of meticulous presentation normally reserved for minor dignitaries. 

Food at Gogyo Sydney
Photograph: Anna Kucera

7. Gogyo

Restaurants Japanese Surry Hills

Gogyo comes from the same people who brought Japanese ramen juggernaut Ippudo to Australia. They specialise in a kogashi (which means ‘charred’ in Japanese) ramen, which sees a pan heated to a smoking-hot temperature before a dollop of miso paste is added and then it's deglazed with chicken broth. The resulting ramen is underpinned by a distinct smokiness that’s intense in flavour and appearance. 

Ramen 2 at Gumshara Ramen
Photograph: Anna Kucera

8. Gumshara

Restaurants Haymarket

Chef Dan Hong calls this ramen 'The Chronic' and after the first spoonful, you'll know what he means. You'll find the stall at the far end of the Eating World. There's no phone number, no menu except what's on the board. It takes seven days to make the pork stock for the tonkotsu ramen and three ingredients: water, miso and 120kg of pork bones. This incredibly collagen enriched noodle soup is so thick, rich and porky that one between two is enough. Yowza.

Credit: Daniel Boud

9. Sake the Rocks

Restaurants The Rocks

In an area more known for its beer swilling than cocktail drinking, Saké stands out. And it should – there’s some excitement to be found in this Japanese restaurant and bar. Bar snacks are bite-sized and pack a tasty punch. Salty and often deep-fried, they are perfect accompaniments to the long and potent drink’s list. A hungry group should make a bee-line for the chicken karaage (crunchy crisp-fried pieces of chicken) or the renkon chips – lotus roots that have been lightly fried, sprinkled with coarse rock salt and served with edamame dip. If you’re rolling two deep, opt for the melt-in-your-mouth teriyaki burger balls.

Ramen 2 at Ryo's Noodles
Photograph: Anna Kucera

10. Ryo's Noodles

Restaurants North Sydney

Ryo’s fans swear this is some of the best ramen you’ll find in all of Sydney. Duck your way past the traditional Japanese noren curtains hanging out the front and you’ll think you’ve been transported straight to a Tokyo noodle house. The lemon yellow walls are plastered with a dizzying number of banners in Japanese script. Everywhere you look it’s heads down, as diners hoe into steaming bowls of soup filled with crinkly ramen noodles. 

Assorted Japanese food
Photograph: Helen Yee

11. Taruhachi

Restaurants Japanese North Sydney

Are we in a back alley in Tokyo or a basement eatery in North Sydney? Put away your passport because, lucky for you, we’re talking Sydney. A small set of stairs from the street will lead you to Taruhachi, a cool little find that will make you feel you’ve been teleported to Japan. It’s not just the smiley Japanese staff peering out from the tiny kitchen, but the handwritten blackboard menu, the self-serve dispenser of hot and cold water, plus the humble neatness of a dining room decorated quirkily with all things Dr Seuss. 

Anna Kucera

12. Yebisu Izakaya

Restaurants Sydney

“Once you order it cannot be cancelled." So says the Dymo label on the top of the iPad bolted in place on our table. You’ve got to wonder how many people get touch-screen fever and end up with a bunch more food than they bargained on. For maximum fun-per-second, you need to take a crew. It’s all about ordering a fistful of beers and a jug of frozen Margaritas and loosening your tie. On the flipside, it’s also a good place to take kids (there’s peach Fanta and white fizzy grape juice!), provided you’re happy with letting them take charge of the screen. 

Sashimi Platter at RK San
Photograph: Nikki Malavar

13. RK San

Restaurants Japanese Surry Hills

This little sushi joint on the southern fringe of Surry Hills has the makings of a winner. Chef RK Tamang has traded his time among the Sydney sushi glitterati – Soyko, Flying Fish and Saké at the Rocks, where he was executive chef – for his own little shop with a pared-back, low-key feel that’s more suburban haunt than hatted resto. On a weeknight, Tamang is the sole chef in the open kitchen, calmly moving between the sushi bar and deep fryer, turning out elaborate maki rolls filled with fresh prawn tempura and tuna tartare.

Or how about some Thai...?

Long Chim
Photograph: Anna Kucera

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