A favorite of both local and visiting chefs, Raku is housed unceremoniously in a Chinatown strip mall, but it's one of the most compelling reasons to get off the Strip. No sushi is served in the James Beard Award-nominated restaurant's diminutive digs, just Japanese favorites like silky house-made tofu, exotic offerings like Kobe beef liver sashimi and plenty of comfort food—from udon noodle soups to donburi (egg-and-rice bowls). You'll also find a long lineup of items destined for the robata grill, which uses charcoal imported from Japan for just the right degree of crispness: everything from Iberico pork to apple-marinated lamb chop to enoki mushroom with bacon. If you crave something sweet after all that fine imported soy sauce, head to Raku Sweets, a desserts-only restaurant, just across the parking lot.
Japanese food seems to be available everywhere these days, at strip-mall restaurants offering lunchtime bento fixes and at trendy ramen joints in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Austin. (For our picks, check out our list of the best ramen restaurants in America.) On this list, we celebrate the very best Japanese food we’ve ever tasted: restaurants that serve incredibly fresh sushi and sashimi (for more, check our picks for the best sushi restaurants in America), often with innovative twists. They offer expertly crafted traditional dishes, as well as modern takes that fuse American techniques and flavors with ancient practices. And we love them a little extra if they serve great sake and Japanese craft beer. Join us in raising a glass (kanpai!) to the best Japanese restaurants in America.