From sushi to sashimi, tataki to teppanyaki, ramen to udon, and katsu to karaage, we can’t get enough of Japanese eats. Whether you prefer yours cheap and cheerful, or super duper fancy, it’s the ideal meal for any and every occasion.
Chopsticks at the ready, team! We’ve hunted down the best Japanese restaurants in Sydney and, just qiuetly, they have your name all over them.
Chaco Bar is everything a Japanese bar should be. Small, crowded and loud but for good reason. Serving up taro chips, Wagyu jerky, grilled rice balls and chicken crackling to name just a few, there’s something for everyone. Get in early to guarantee yourself a seat and don’t go home without trying the chef’s six skewers (think pork belly, thigh, crackling, wings, lamb and heart). Yes, really.
Cho Cho San
Cho Cho San is never a bad idea. With totally Insta-worthy interiors, and a menu to match, you can expect modern Japanese at its best at this Potts Point spot. Try one of everything with a banquet option and prepare to wrap your lips around some of the tastiest pork katsu steam buns, sashimi and green tea soft serve in Sydney. Go on, you deserve it.
If Japanese curries are your idea of a good time, don’t look past Daruma in Haymarket. For less than $10, you can stuff yourself silly with one of six belly warmers (we’re talking prawn cutlet, karaage chicken, grilled beef, chicken, pork cutlet or hamburger steak) but we strongly suggest you pair it with a tofu salad and wash it all down with an Asahi.
Tetsuya's needs no introduction. Its famed French-Japanese fusion has reservations pending and wallets emptying on the reg. From the intimate garden outside the premises, to the fragrant truffle butter offered upon arrival, the Testuya's experience is nothing if not immersive. Pace yourself through the ten-course degustation (one of the best degustations in Sydney) and relish each and every bite.
Gogyo has come all the way from Tokyo to feed your hungry bellies because burnt miso ramen is always a “gogyo” (we’re not even sorry). This gem of a place has already been a major hit in Japan and Hong Kong and we guarantee you’ll be all over the delicious goods on offer here where smoky miso ramen is well on the cards. In case you’re wondering, they make this by smoking the hell out of a chicken-based broth and top it all off with a soft flavoured egg and all the usual suspects.
Juan Bowl & Tea
Every dish at Juan Bowl & Tea almost looks too good to eat but obviously, it tastes even better. Donburi (Japanese rice bowls) and tea are the name of the game, and the menu is so small, you can’t go wrong no matter your order. The Wagyu don and tonkatsu don get our vote.
Often referred to as a dumpling lover’s paradise, Harajuku Gyoza serves up pork, chicken, duck, vegetable, prawn AND cheeseburger (!!) dumplings, poached or fried to your liking. Order one of everything then mix it up with their tasty AF chicken karaage, pork belly and agedashi tofu sides. Don’t forget to save room for dessert (yes, they have dessert dumplings too).
CBD + Bondi Junction
If you haven’t heard of Mappen, you’re missing out on some seriously tasty (and affordable) stuff. The self-service udon bar has a cult following, serving up tasty bowls of Japanese goodness for less than 10 bucks. Sure, there's usually a line but it moves quickly and you'll be slurping down udon faster than you can say arigatou. The pork bukkake (think pork mince with noodles and an egg) is our fave.
Hidden in the backstreets of Darlinghurst, Nom is a boutique izakaya bar serving home-style Japanese eats. The décor is simple yet authentic with vintage Japanese posters lining the walls and the menu, as expected, features a selection of Japanese bar snacks including yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls) and Japanese-style mashed potato (don’t knock it till you try it). The best part? Nothing on the menu is over $20 so you can try one of everything without breaking the break. Sign. Us. Up.
No best Japanese list would be complete without everyone’s favourite quirky izakaya-style party palace, Goros. Jam-packed with custom-built karaoke rooms, yakitori and arcade games to boot, this epic Surry Hills joint guarantees good times, offering up an extensive sake and cocktail list, plus a delicious menu for when you get hungry. Get there early then stay alllllll night (the kitchen doesn’t close until 2am!).
Yayoi is Sydney’s busiest (read: most popular) teishoku restaurant. Offering a traditional style of Japanese dining, with set meals made up of miso soup, a main dish of meat or fish, plus a side of veggies and "tsukemono" pickles, it’s well worth the one hour (plus) wait in line. Order the eel all to yourself and forget about sharing.
When you’re in the mood for all things cheap and cheerful, you can’t beat Ryo's Noodles in Crows Nest. The crowds alone are a testament to the unbeatable simplicity and affordability of Ryo's famous ramen. Choose from a pork tonkotsu-based broth, or a lighter chicken one. Amp up the spice with the chilli soy offering, or opt for the sour-flavoured soup with prawn parcels if you want to try something completely different.
As per every Merivale venue, Sushi e delivers the goods. Seats are arranged around an enormous marble bar where head chef Nobuyuki Ura and his team transform fish into edible works of art and—we’re telling you as soon as you sit down, you’ll never want to leave. You can expect melt-in-your-mouth sashimi (the tuna tataki is life), fresh to death sushi, calorific tempura and rich meat-based mains to fill you up.
The oh-so fancy Sokyo deserves a spot at the top of every Sydney Japanese bucket list. Serving up succulent meats straight off an authentic robata grill, alongside incredible fresh sashimi and tempura, it's tempting to fill up on savoury dishes alone. But don’t. You neeeed to try the caramelised white chocolate and black sesame ice cream for dessert. Trust us.
A must visit for all Chippendale and Darlington dwelling students, Jap’s Table is the go-to for a quick and healthy Japanese feast. The menu is affordable and features all of the classic Japanese comforts including a whole host of yakitori options (it’s their specialty). Other standouts are the salmon dons, bowls of ramen and mackerel sushi.
Ippudo sure does know how to nail ramen. It’s homemade tonkotsu broth is liquid gold, brewing pork bonItsor hours until the stock is infused with everything good about pork. Countless variations are available, from noodle firmness or spiciness tailored to your liking, to extra pork belly or a perfectly cooked onsen tamago (a slow cooked egg) to top things off.
Tucked away on Bourke Street in Surry Hills, Bar Ume is all about Japanese eats with a twist. Complete with a Japanese burger menu (their fish katsu burger is one of the best in Sydney), as well as all your fave sides (AKA koji fried chicken, duh), it’s the special menu that keeps us coming back. If charcoal saikyo salmon with house ponzu, grated radish, finger lime and fresh wasabi is your kinda ideal meal, run, don’t walk.
Sake Restaurant & Bar
The Rocks + Double Bay
Sake's interiors reflect its approach to food—contemporary with generous references to tradition. From an extensive sashimi menu to ginger chicken and kurobuta pork belly, Sake's innovative approach to the mainstays of Japanese cuisine leaves your taste buds craving more. FYI the popcorn shrimp with yuzu chilli mayonnaise is a must!
If you want to hit up the best ramen in Sydney next, read this.
Image credit: Yayoi | Claudia Shmueli, Gogyo | Federica Portentoso