Best Japanese restaurants in London

Londoners have well and truly embraced the food of Japan, with sushi bars and Japanese-themed restaurants popping up throughout the metropolis. But given so much choice, how do you find the best Japanese restaurants in London? We’ve searched the city to discover London’s best Japanese food – whether it be sublimely fresh sashimi, a steaming ramen broth or the latest deep-fried delicacy – so take a look at our pick of the best Japanese restaurants in London. You fancy sashaying into a sushi bar, or nudging your way in to a noodle den? Just grab some chopsticks and scroll through this list of London’s best Japanese restaurants.

Updated on 18 March 2019

Discover London’s top Japanese restaurants with Squaremeal’s guide to the best Japanese restaurants in London. Japanese cuisine has taken London by storm over recent years and has fast become one of the most fashionable cuisines in the capital. Considered as a delicate, subtle and highly visual cuisine, you’ll often find Japanese cuisine to be beautifully presented and served in small portions. There are many typical dishes within Japanese cuisine, such as sushi, sashimi, tempura, teriyaki and yakitori, each and every one a work of culinary art in its own right.

Japanese dining is on the increase in London and there are now numerous great Japanese restaurants to choose from.  Many of London’s Pan Asian restaurants also serve Japanese food too so the choice is wide and varied. Squaremeal’s list of the best Japanese restaurants in London is a handy guide to London’s top Japanese restaurants, ensuring your Japanese meal in London is first class.

Every one of the Japanese restaurants featured in Squaremeal’s list of London’s top Japanese restaurants have been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers so check out the reviews and book a table online with Squaremeal today. As well as the restaurants on this page, we have listings for Japanese restaurants in the West End including Covent Garden and Mayfair, Japanese restaurants in Central London including Knightsbridge and Chelsea and Japanese restaurants in The City as well as Japanese restaurants throughout the rest of London. Each Squaremeal listing features an independent review, as well as reviews from diners, together with unique special offers such as free drinks and discounts.

Ginza Onodera

Ginza Onodera

15 Bury Street, London, London, SW1Y 6AL

The corner of the West End where Mayfair segues into St James’s has become the spiritual home of London’s slick, modern Japanese restaurants. And so, after 23 years on Bury Street, traditional teppanyaki outfit Matsuri closed for six months, emerging £2.5m later as the London outpost of globe-spanning Ginza Onodera. Out go the tabletop hot plates, replaced by contemporary trappings including a robata grill, marble sushi bar, pale woods, monochrome furnishings and high-spec private rooms. However, this is not the place to come for California rolls or blow-torched tuna; rather, the kitchen deals in exquisite updates on the Japanese hallmarks of delicacy and refinement, alongside ultra-respectful versions of classic sushi and tempura. Our favourites included tuna tartare with spicy miso sauce and a crunch of roasted pine nuts, sticky chunks of yakitori made with Norfolk Black chicken skewered on cocktail sticks, and black cod with miso that actually tasted like fish, rather than just something very sweet. A wine cabinet groaning under the weight of Super Tuscans, sakés and Japanese single malts reveals Onodera's greatest asset: eye-opening food and drink matching. Just ask the enthusiastic staff (many from the Matsuri days) to recommend their favourite dishes. A ‘Tsubaki’ set menu for £45 offers an affordable way in, while the £250 ‘Takumi’ indicates how much one could easily spend here.

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese
Afternoon tea
Roka Canary Wharf

Roka Canary Wharf

4 Park Pavilion, 40 Canada Square, London, E14 5FW

Serving up high glamour among all that bamboo and polished wood, Roka is the antithesis of a modest Japanese restaurant – and that makes it a natural victor among Canary Wharf’s suited-and-booted client-friendly offerings. Readers love the ambience created by a boisterous, enthusiastic crowd, not to mention the “very attentive service” and consistently top-notch food. The bar specialises in shochu (you can even keep a personalised jar for repeat visits), and there’s a terrace too, but the restaurant would argue that the heart of the operation is the robata grill with its line-up of fire-licked specialities such as sweet potato baked in a bamboo husk or baby back ribs in a spiced ‘master stock’ glaze. Elsewhere, you’ll find well-made modern-day sushi and sashimi, “wonderfully delicious” snacks (black cod, crab and crayfish dumplings, say), and specialities such as cedar-roast baby chicken. If you’re here outside the working week, try the all-inclusive koten brunch.

 
£50 - £79
Japanese
Machiya

Machiya

5 Panton Street , London, SW1Y 4DL

An ode to Kyoto-style home cooking, Machiya is from the duo behind Kanada-Ya and offers a short range of carefully rendered dishes divided into izakaya, yashoku and washoku sections. From the snack-centric izakaya options, the tsukene arrives as six dense minced chicken balls on skewers, with a Burford Brown egg yolk for dipping. The yoshoku dishes offer Western spins on Japanese standards, such as chicken stock-braised rice with truffle ketchup or Australian Wagyu beef katsu. The latter is an extravagance on such a low-priced menu, as is the washoku section’s unajyu rice bowl. The unajyu’s a rewarding splurge however, topped with a layer of sticky-sweet morsels of grilled eel. The star of the desserts is the genmaicha mille crepe cake, precisely constructed from layers of green tea-flavoured crepes. The long drinks list impresses (sakés, shochu, Old World wines and spirits), but that’s because a gloomy drinks lounge lies beneath. The bar serves a small selection of flavour-packed cocktails, further proving that Machiya’s a good thing in a small package. 

£30 - £49
Japanese
Bars
Amaru

Amaru

Ivory House, St Katherine Docks, London, E1W 1AT

From the people behind nearby Bravas Tapas (who were once some of the people behind high-rolling Hakkasan), this ‘nikkei’ nook offers Japanese food cooked the Peruvian way – reflecting just one of the directions that the Nippon diaspora has taken of late. At Amaru, this is exemplified by artfully presented appetisers such as steamed edamame with togarashi chilli salt and aji Amarillo dip, or a salad of quinoa and pomegranate with truffle, balsamic and avocado. Given the ‘softs-only’ drinks policy (they’re big on teas) and the lack of space in the pokey, rather soulless dining room, it’s hardly surprising that some locals prefer the takeaway option. It’s our feeling, however, that fastidiously assembled dishes such as Peruvian cured beef rolls with wasabi, sweet potato and onion escabèche, or oysters on the half shell with rocotto chilli sorbet, saké and Tequila mignonette, don’t deserve to be boxed-up and schlepped home.

£30 - £49
Peruvian
Japanese
Sushi Tetsu

Sushi Tetsu

12 Jerusalem Passage, London, London, EC1V 4JP

A quick glance at the website is essential before a visit to the tiny Sushi Tetsu as the chances are it may be may be fully booked. Still, once you’ve secured a perch and made it through the door, you’ll see a handful of punters, with chef/proprietor Toru Takahashi on the other side of the counter, calmly preparing the sushi and sashimi with near forensic precision. This is a husband-and-wife outfit, with spouse Harumi completing the perfect circle that is Sushi Tetsu. Since you’ve gone to all the trouble of bagging a seat, you might consider going for the bespoke ‘omakase’ menu at 96 quid a pop: what you get depends on what the chef decides is good enough, so glistening sea urchin, turbot, snow crab, black bream, octopus and (hopefully) seared otoro fatty tuna might be on the cards, all embellished with the necessary accoutrements (wasabi, soy, mirin, seaweed and chilli). From the rice to the saké, everything is impeccable.    

£50 - £79
Sushi
Defune

Defune

34 George Street, London, W1U 7DT

This oriental veteran claims to be the oldest Japanese restaurant in London, and it’s become renowned for offering standout traditional dishes in pleasingly approachable surrounds: relax in the tastefully plain sushi bar and dining room or descend to the tunnel-like basement for the “classier side” of teppanyaki. Other places trade on sex appeal or bargain-basement street food, but Defune’s impeccable reputation shines through on a menu that resolutely follows the well-trodden path through sushi and sashimi, soba and udon noodles, teriyaki and tempura, green salads anointed with vinegary dressings and other benchmarks of the old cuisine. Service is suitably polite and reserved, the overall quality is high and prices are “robust without seeming unfair”. Note that the dining room can often seem quite quiet, but that’s no bad thing – Defune was never designed as a party restaurant.

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese
£30 - £49
Chotto Matte

Chotto Matte

11-13 Frith Street, London, London, W1D 4RB

Modern and youthful, this champion of Nikkei cuisine (Japanese/Peruvian fusion) pulls out the stops in every department. Chotto Matte is a large two-floor venue: a neon-splashed nightclub of a restaurant where graffiti-covered walls are juxtaposed with low lighting and concrete pillars. The best thing we ate on an intermittently forgettable menu was a glowing sushi and sashimi platter, the delicately prepared flesh adorned with vibrant daubs of aji amarillo chilli. Every dish is presented with bravado; scorched gyoza parcels of pork, prawn and cassava are fanned out on a bright red and yellow bed of sweet potato and more amarillo. Pricey small portions make this an expensive prospect – we suggest one of the set-price sharing menus – and despite the peacock approach, some flavours fall flat. Stick to the barbecue and sushi elements, then raid the sprawling, inventive cocktail list. Chotto Matte’s sheer enthusiasm, as embodied by chefs Jordan Sclare and Michael Paul (‘The Nikkei Boys’), should ensure an entertaining night: after a more energetic alternative to Hakkasan? Look no further. 

£50 - £79
Peruvian
Japanese
Roka Charlotte Street

Roka Charlotte Street

37 Charlotte Street, London, London, W1T 1RR

A Fitzrovia hit since launching in 2004, Roka’s trailblazing modern Japanese cuisine and “sophisticated atmosphere” are still a universal smash with readers. Some enjoy “chilling out”, others love its “romantic vibe”, but the expertly fashioned food is what really turns heads. Most diners are old hands at navigating a menu packed with modern-day classics (black cod in yuzu miso, wafer-thin truffled yellowtail sashimi, scallop and shiso lollipops, baby spinach in creamy sesame dressing) although clued-up staff still offer ever-changing seasonal tips – perhaps grilled cobia fish with mushrooms and truffle, or indulgent Wagyu tartare sushi rolls topped with caviar. The sleek glass-fronted room is all polished wood and industrial ceilings, with in-demand seats ringing the frantic action around the fierce robata grill (mercifully with an efficient extraction system). Prices merit either an expense account, or a very careful eye, so maybe grab a tasting menu to keep bills in check or skip the ostentatious dessert platters. Wine fits the top-end bill, but eye-opening saké and classy, shochu-based cocktails steal the show.

Over £80
Sushi
Japanese
Pham Sushi

Pham Sushi

159 Whitecross Street, London, EC1Y 8JL

Great sushi isn't so easy to find outside ‘W' postcodes, so City workers and East London residents are right to seize upon Pham Sushi. Plainly decorated with magnolia walls, dark wooden tables and carvings, this tiny eatery offers an extensive and uniformly impressive selection of sushi and sashimi, plus trendier stuff such as octopus tiradito or turbot with pink shrimp ‘new-style' that wouldn't look out of place on Park Lane. In general, items such as chirashi (‘scattered') sushi are fresh and generous, though presentation is surprisingly slapdash. Most people come for raw stuff, but soups, noodles, rice dishes, bento boxes and some spot-on tempura add to the choice. The restaurant is licensed, but Pham's even tinier sibling across the way isn't – so drink beer, saké or green tea, depending where you are.

£30 - £49
Sushi
Japanese
Dinings SW3

Dinings SW3

Walton House, Lennox Garden Mews, London, SW3 2JH

While the Marylebone branch of Dinings still feels like a cramped labour of love from ex-Nobu chef Tomonari Chiba, here in SW3 a glossy street-level sushi bar gives way to a sunken dining room that’s as well-groomed as the resident Chelsea clientele. It’s a striking setting for some highly accomplished modern Japanese cooking that artfully blends tradition with innovation, and oriental technique with European ingredients. Begin with sharing plates such as mini taco shells filled with lobster and jalapeño or (even better) luscious fatty tuna ahead of melt-in-the-mouth Wagyu tataki, silky double-cooked aubergine with sweet miso, and sweet-fleshed langoustine grilled on the Josper. Carbs come in the form of sushi rice wrapped around the likes of shrimp tempura, although purists may prefer the clean flavours of a simple piece of smoked eel or yellowtail nigiri. To drink, the seasonal saké list includes Dinings’ own label, and there are plans for outside seating in the courtyard behind the cobbled mews. Our only gripe is that service isn’t nearly as polished as the setting and prices demand. 

Over £80
Sushi
Japanese
Nobu London at the COMO Metropolitan London

Nobu London at the COMO Metropolitan London

COMO Metropolitan London, London, W1K 1LB

It's "still an all-time favourite", but the late 90s origins of Nobu Matsuhisa's first European outing have given it a time-capsule quality. It's a lovely bubble to be in though, with Hyde Park views through full-height windows and calming wood and stone all around. If the pale walls could talk, they might tell eyebrow-raising tales from a livelier past; that duty now falls to the party-hard Berkeley Street outpost. Here, it's clear to see what all the fuss was (and is) about: the fusion style hits umami squarely in the face. You can't go wrong with langoustines and red chilli shiso salsa, sashimi salad with Matsuhisa dressing, fiery Peruvian anticucho skewers and, of course, the emblematic black cod with miso – served on butter lettuce for that contemporary kick of clean-eating satisfaction. However, cocktails, saké and a wine list priced for big budgets will undo all that good work in an instant.

Japanese
Yashin Sushi

Yashin Sushi

1a Argyll Road, London, London, W8 7DB

From its bijou space off High Street Ken, this little gem of a restaurant foregoes the culinary pyrotechnics of its nearby sibling, Ocean House, to concentrate on simple, masterfully crafted sushi. Take a seat at the handsome, green-tiled bar or head downstairs to the sleeker monochrome dining room, and indulge in a menu crafted by two Nobu-trained chefs. From the stunning, melt-in-the-mouth Hida Wagyu carpaccio to a beautiful salad of dressed baby octopus, seaweed and cherry tomato, flavours are pin-sharp and ingredients second to none. Also, we urge trusting the chefs when it comes to soy sauce: items such as yellowtail nigiri and yasai maki rolls with asparagus tempura come judiciously brushed with the condiment to avoid drowning out other flavours. Saké is a big deal here, with regular masterclasses on offer, while the pithy wine list has some interesting options – although, like everything here, prices are on the high side.

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese
Shoryu Ramen Soho

Shoryu Ramen Soho

3 Denman Street, London, W1D 7HA

A larger sibling of Shoryu Ramen on Regent Street, this noodle joint is as authentic as they come, with white bamboo lamps in the window, a gong for welcoming guests and a generous smattering of Japanese customers. The dining room, with its muted colours, geometric artwork and communal tables, has an animated yet serene ambience, while warm staff whisk dishes from the open kitchen in true fast-food style. The main event is well-priced bowls of soupy ramen, all brimming with flavour (try the Dracula tonkotsu, a milky, garlicky broth filled with noodles, tender barbecued pork and Asian vegetables), but it’s worth adding perky sides such as pillowy hirata buns filled with tempura prawns if you’re feeling really peckish. The drinks list offers eastern-style cocktails and myriad refreshing teas, plus rare and premium sakés.

£30 - £49
Japanese
Kazu

Kazu

64 Charlotte Street, London, London, W1T 4QD

Located at the far end of Charlotte Street, Kazu blends traditional minimalist looks (bare wood, a sushi counter, an open kitchen and severely black-clad staff) with a friendly welcome and some contemporary flourishes on a menu that rarely puts a foot wrong. Sharing plates might bring stir-fried pork belly with kimchi, beef tataki and renkon chips (actually deep-fried lotus root), while agedashi tofu sees lightly fried, barely set beancurd in a delicate broth. Elsewhere, our hamachi (yellowtail) with jalapeño was prettily arranged (we were grateful for the sparing use of the fiery pepper), although nothing could trump the flavour-packed, miso-marinated ‘fisherman’s roll’ wrapped in a fold of seared salmon and packing a wasabi punch. We’re also pleased to report that the menu now offers bigger portions and friendlier prices, with all-in set lunches offering particularly good value for the likes of chicken teriyaki, grilled sea eel and prawn tempura – all served with miso soup, rice, salad and dessert. In short, Kazu’s low-key approach will appeal to diners turned off by the wallet-emptying flash of some other modern Japanese hotspots.

£30 - £49
Japanese
Sake No Hana

Sake No Hana

23 St James's Street, London, SW1A 1HA

It might feel like being trapped inside a panda’s lunchbox, but beyond the swathes of cypress and bamboo there’s plenty to divert customers at “trendy” Sake No Hana. Perennially popular, it offers a vast menu that straddles the Japanese canon (and beyond), combined with a “superb atmosphere” and just enough pizzazz to make it all feel special at the price. The repertoire repays close attention. Start, perhaps, with colourful seared sushi or the umami riot of seared rib-eye beef with sesame dressing, before moving on to iron-pot rice topped with truffle and wild mushrooms or mirin-marinated black cod with yuzu, chilli and miso. A menu of this magnitude might expose weaknesses in lesser kitchens, but here the chefs are obviously well-drilled – especially when it comes to intricate desserts such as matcha pannacotta with mango sorbet. Saké classes, whisky and chocolate flights and a boozy Saturday lunch all help to maintain interest. “Excellent, as ever”, confirms one regular.

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese
Kouzu

Kouzu

21 Grosvenor Gardens, London, SW1W 0BD

Being shoehorned into a corner of one of Victoria’s elegant old buildings seems slightly incongruous for a smart, modern Japanese restaurant, but Kouzu’s sympathetic, elegant design transforms the space entirely. Despite the shouted greeting at the door, there’s a “gentle romantic buzz” about the place that makes it perfect for date nights – although the business crowd also take full advantage of its “special energy”. “Wonderful” sushi is the headline act here, from old-school nigiri to ‘new-style’ rolls such as negi hamachi (yellowtail, kizami wasabi, aonoriko seaweed, bubu arare seasoning and cucumber). If you prefer your food cooked, the kitchen also delivers excellent tempura, Wagyu beef from the robata grill and specials, such as roasted duck breast with pickled kumquat and miso orange sauce. Desserts are “very well presented” too. Friendly staff “take time to listen”, and the drinks list will take you pretty much anywhere you want to go – and that includes some sexy cocktails.

£50 - £79
Japanese
Umu

Umu

14-16 Bruton Place, London, London, W1J 6LX

The feel-good factor kicks in the moment guests touch the discreet door button, revealing this Kyoto-style kaiseki enclave in all its Zen-like purity – although you may be distracted by the smiley keen-as-mustard staff shouting their words of greeting. Two-Michelin-starred Umu is strictly old-school and chef Yoshinori Ishii’s attention to detail is legendary – whether he’s teaching his Cornish fishermen the Japanese ways, organising supplies of organic wasabi or fashioning handcrafted tableware for the restaurant. He’s responsible for every aspect of the food and leaves himself no room for error. Not surprisingly, the results are extraordinary: featherlight kombu-cured mullet with chrysanthemum and sudachi; gloriously limpid ‘nimonowan’ soup delicately garnished with autumn ‘leaves’ made from chanterelles and carrots; omakase fish platters with an astonishing variety of textures and flavours. Make it through to dessert for a construct of fig, sesame, chocolate and sesame that appears to defy the laws of physics, before coffee with hybrid Euro-Japanese petits fours. Wines are worthy of the food, but adventurous cocktails and saké seem more appropriate. Dining at Umu is an unforgettable experience, and (for those picking up the tab) so is the bill.

Over £80
Sushi
Japanese
Two michelin stars
Chisou Woodstock Street

Chisou Woodstock Street

22-23 Woodstock Street, London, W1C 2AR

Equally popular with whisky-sipping Japanese businessmen and petite girls from nearby Vogue House, Chisou may lack cliquey, celeb-spotting credentials, but it delivers food of real quality in low-key surroundings. The decor is clean and simple, with only some giant plinths embedded with spotlights, but it suits everyone just fine. There are always plenty of takers for the set lunches, when an outlay of around £20 might yield an impressive assortment of nigiri, maki rolls, sashimi and miso soup. In the evening, it’s worth plundering the carte for, say, spicy salmon tartare with raw quail’s egg, deep-fried rock oysters, squid tempura or something from the robata grill – perhaps teriyaki poussin with red wine reduction. Staff in Chisou T-shirts do the rounds, and the saké sampler is an eye-opener for the uninitiated. Arrive early for seats at the sushi counter.

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese
Dinings

Dinings

22 Harcourt Street, London, W1H 4HH

You wouldn’t come across Dinings by accident – and if you did, you might not think it was a restaurant at all. But this Japanese powerhouse isn’t defined by its postage stamp-sized premises on two floors of a backstreet townhouse as both technique and cooking are exemplary, allowing the repertoire to evolve into Japanese ‘tapas’ with inventive but complementary flourishes. Sushi and sashimi, such as open rolls of spicy tuna with sesame sauce and shichimi pepper, come from the ground-floor counter, or you could ring the changes with a crossover riff involving yellowtail topped with horseradish salsa, British caviar and wasabi jalapeño vinaigrette. Hot bites could be grilled chilli garlic black cod, while set lunches are donburi-based with toppings of freshwater eel and foie gras or Wagyu beef with garlic butter soy. Dinings’ fans are legion, so inevitably the basic basement dining room is a squeeze. If your heart is set on it, advance booking is a very good idea.

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese
Kurobuta Chelsea

Kurobuta Chelsea

312 King's Road, London, SW3 5UH

Aussie chef/founder Scott Hallsworth has moved on, but Korobuta is still a good-fun local in SW3 – even if service is a bit wobbly and some of the original spark has gone. By and large, it’s business as usual, which means stripped-back interiors, a raucous rock soundtrack, racy cocktails and a menu touting everything from jazzed-up sushi and raw salads to robata BBQ and ‘significant others’ (miso-baked aubergine with candied walnuts). Nothing is taken too seriously, so graze your way through the in-your-face flavours of 'junk food Japan' (tako-yaki octopus doughnuts, Wagyu sliders or Korean short-rib tacos with chilli oil and avocado, perhaps). Under the heading 'something crunchy', there’s black pepper soft-shell crab tempura with wakame, while the robata-grilled pork belly in a satay-loaded steamed bun is an unctuous, nutty treat. Also expect a strong showing of maki rolls, nigiri and sashimi – all at friendly prices. The bar is a destination in its own right, with cocktails matching the mood: anyone for a Drunken Samurai with sparkling yuzu saké?

£50 - £79
Japanese
Inko Nito

Inko Nito

55 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 9QS

You might expect a Japanese robata-grill venue from the team behind Zuma and Rokato exude an air of starchy exclusivity, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that Inko Nito is a restaurant for all. The dress code is relaxed, the young staff are chatty and friendly, and there are even high chairs to seat toddlers with a taste for edamame.

The setting is a stylish, post-industrial dining room with plenty of shiny wood and slate. Action is centred around the aforementioned robata grill and its wraparound dining counter, though you’ll also find some standalone tables. Due to the snazzy design, there is thankfully (and unusually) adequate space between diners. Small plates from the kitchen vie on the menu with slightly larger meat, fish and veg dishes from the grill. We’d recommend ordering six to eight dishes between two – but prepare for a hefty bill at the end.

From the small plates, slinky salmon teriyaki dressed in a lightly spicy wasabi ponzu and butter-soaked lettuce is an impressive dish – so too the moreish fried shrimp served with a tongue-tingling Korean miso (a peppering of Korean ingredients spice up the menu). The more substantial grill dishes include lusciously fatty cubes of pork belly finished with a boozy Japanese whisky glaze, and strips of crispy panko-fried chicken dipped in a thick chilli and yoghurt sauce. Not everything sang on our visit though: an attempted reinvention of prawn toast turned the salty, crispy classic into a rather chewy concoction. No complaints, though, about the decent selection of saké, wine and cocktails on the drinks list, or the postprandial fortune cookies that conceal cheeky messages.

With its slick look and neat collection of popular dishes, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a major roll-out of Inko Nito (the brand also has an outlet in LA). Watch this space.

£30 - £49
Japanese
Zuma

Zuma

5 Raphael Street, Knightsbridge, London, SW7 1DL

Fifteen years on and London is still deeply in love with world-class Zuma: “fabulous” says one fan, “can’t beat it” exclaims another avid supporter. And the waves of adoration stretch far beyond the capital itself: this high-gloss, big-money rendezvous draws in a global cast of A-listers and jetsetters, all attracted by the age-defying industrial-Zen interiors and the sleek designer mix of rough-hewn wood, polished granite and shiny steel. Tables are predictably hard to come by, but we prefer chancing our arm with the no-bookings ringside seats by the kitchen. Kick off with a trend-setting cocktail (perhaps Wild Yasei, a macho yet graceful blend of rye bourbon and wild-cherry tea syrup), and expect to pay top dollar for the food. In return you’ll be offered some of the finest Japanese cuisine in the capital: sliced seared tuna with chilli, daikon and ponzu; warm aubergine in sweet miso (an umami-laden masterpiece); robata-grilled jumbo tiger prawns with yuzu pepper; marinated baby chicken roasted on cedar wood, and – of course – the much-imitated, but never-bettered black cod. Service is flawless, and for the final flourish, we suggest asking the dedicated saké sommelier for a tour of his exquisite list. In a word, awesome.

 

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese
Freak Scene

Freak Scene

54 Frith Street, London, W1D 4SL

Kurobuta founder Scott Hallsworth is back with a bang at this firecracker of a chef’s counter which started life as a Clerkenwell pop up and has gone permanent on the Frith Street premises last occupied by the original Barrafina. Looks wise, little has changed since the Barrafina days, although the stools at the counter have been joined by further seating along the ledge where the queue used to be – a tight squeeze when busy, but at least Freak Scene takes bookings. Entertainment comes in the form of a mosh-pit of an indie playlist and replays of Japanese gameshow Takeshi’s Castle projected onto the wall.

The food, meanwhile, offers some of Kurobuta’s greatest hits (the salmon sashimi ‘pizza’ remains as riotously flavoured as ever) and while the cooking is never subtle, the umami explosion of sweet and salty is sure as hell tasty. Several dishes are served in taco variants to be greedily scooped up with the hands – black cod and sushi rice tacos re-invent the Nobu classic as junk food – and almost all come with the sort of sticky sauces that leave you smearing ingredients around the plate chasing one last flavour hit, including our favourite dish of aubergine grilled to a meltingly soft goo offset by the sugar-rush crunch of caramelised walnuts. 

Come with a decent appetite and you could make a healthy stab at ordering most of the menu for around £50 a head. Wine prices will bump up the bill considerably (there’s iced tea for teetotallers and bargain hunters) but this is still great value for an experience that couldn’t be any more Soho, overseen by Hallsworth himself in the open kitchen.

£50 - £79
Nobu Berkeley St

Nobu Berkeley St

15 Berkeley Street, London, London, W1J 8DY

London moves on, but Nobu still parties. More than a decade after opening on Berkeley Street, the toast of the noughties has been heavily flattered by countless imitations, none of which has managed to unseat the original. The late David Collins’ fantastical design (all bamboo murals and burnished futuristic tones) is as dear to some customers as their own homes – perhaps more so, because it signals sheer fun. As for the food, fans rate the lunchtime bento boxes and waiters who take the time to explain their contents: the classic version features tuna sashimi salad, baby tiger shrimp tempura, sushi and the much-imitated miso black cod. Dinner might involve anything from field greens with the eponymous (Nobu) Matsuhisa dressing to secreto Ibérico pork roasted in the wood oven, via the house tacos filled with salmon or king crab or an array of well-made sushi and sashimi. There’s enough choice for multiple nights out, though the bill (especially with wine) only comes in one form – massive.

Over £80
Japanese
Kurobuta Marble Arch

Kurobuta Marble Arch

17-20 Kendal Street, London, W2 2AW

Is this the funkiest dining room in London? The energy is pure Antipodean (very different from Japanese reserve) and the big glazed room rings with the noise of excited diners, “ultra-friendly” waiters, bartenders mixing extravagant cocktails and even live music from time to time. Kurobuta takes its cue from Japan’s rock ‘n’ roll izakayas, where small plates and drinks make the evening go with a swing. Flavours are full-frontal rather than polite, and while the menu offers riffs on familiar sushi, maki and tempura, it also promises snacks, raw dishes, salads, robata grills and Japanese ‘junk food’ – including a subversive take on pizza. Top calls range from beer-grilled beef fillet with wasabi salsa, miso chicken with spicy lemon sauce and the instantly addictive pork belly buns with spicy peanut soy to self-styled ‘significant others’ such as jumbo shrimps with BBQ cabbage, tamari and ginger or sticky miso-grilled aubergine with candied walnuts. The whole show is irresistible, boisterous and huge fun.

£50 - £79
Japanese
The Araki

The Araki

12 New Burlington Street, London, W1S 3BH

The Araki in numbers reads like this: three Michelin stars, nine seats, £300 set menu, zero ability to accommodate dietary requirements. But the proportions work nicely both for sushi master Mitsuhiro Araki and his customers – he couldn’t cater for more diners, and they wouldn’t want him to try. Exclusivity is a necessary part of the omakase experience, played out along a cypress wood counter with Araki-san moving swiftly and elegantly on the other side. Each day’s menu is built around Edo-style sushi, starting with a deeply flavoured but delicate clear soup, ravishing sashimi and a little cooked seafood – perhaps saké-steamed abalone with scallop ‘strings’ or grilled salmon with yuzu. Araki’s ability to bring out the flavours of tuna is much-admired and demonstrated beautifully in a trio of sushi using progressively fattier cuts. As you’d hope, every immaculate detail – including the gorgeous bespoke tableware and covetable saké glasses – is given proper attention. Talking numbers again, The Araki is simply a one-off.

Over £80
Sushi
Three michelin stars
Koji

Koji

58 New Kings Road, London, SW6 4LS

The reinvention of pan-Asian hangout Mao Tai as Japanese-themed Koji has done little to dampen local enthusiasm for this bubble of West End glitz in SW6. Now centred around a "gorgeous" sushi bar, its sleek lines and seductive lighting suggest serious dining – although there's plenty of fun to be had under the feather chandeliers too. Attention to detail is evident throughout, from the "incredible" cocktails (don’t miss the chilli and lemongrass Martini) and “best sushi in SW London” to trendy tapas plates (chicken and shiso gyoza, summer rolls with yuzu dressing) and knockout robata grills served on pretty artisan crockery – perhaps pork belly with spicy sweet miso or glazed salmon teriyaki. The kitchen is now in the hands of Rolando Ongcoy (from the distinguished Nobu stable), and readers are blown away by his “sublime food”, as well as Koji’s “terrific ambience” and “always great” service. Prices can be eye-watering, but this hotspot is still a "must-visit, even if you don't live in Parsons Green".

£50 - £79
Japanese
Shackfuyu

Shackfuyu

14a Old Compton Street, London, W1D 4TJ

Bone Daddies' year-long pop up has gone permanent, with a refurbishment including a new upstairs bar and basement private dining. Housed in a former Italian restaurant, high-energy Shackfuyu makes use of the old pizza oven for mentaiko (marinated fish roe) and USDA beef picanha (a rump cut), while the succinct, keenly priced menu is an addictive pick-and-mix of flavours inspired by current trends: a moreish prawn toast/okonomiyaki (Japanese-style pizza) hybrid; yellowtail sashimi tostadas packed with contrasting textures, and delicious miso-coated roast aubergine. With so many hits, we can forgive the odd dud (disappointing mackerel escabèche) – especially when the sole dessert (springy kinako cake with whipped green tea ice cream) pays sweet dividends. The bar delivers strong cocktails, sakés and mighty sharing goblets of Koshihikari Echigo beer, plus gao bao buns at lunchtime.

Under £30
Japanese
Tokimeite

Tokimeite

23 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XS

Tokimeite is Japanese chef Yoshihiro Murata’s second attempt to bring intricate kaiseki cooking to London (his first, Chrysan, a partnership with the Hakkasan group, lasted under a year). Murata boasts seven Michelin stars across his three restaurants in Japan, but star-seekers should be aware that he’s only consulting here.

Executive chef, Daisuke Hayashi, is in charge on a day-to-day basis, delivering a ‘kappo’ style menu of small dishes, bespoke for each diner and prepared as you watch. Counter seats give a prime view of the action, which is calm and considered – mirroring the calm atmosphere in the softly-lit dining room. Wagyu beef is a speciality here and stand-outs on our visit included perfectly seared slices, simply presented with a range of seasonings, and decadent truffled tartare rolls. Also worth ordering are the fresh magura tartare (a mix of silky tuna and pickled cucumber), and foie gras and quail teriyaki, a rich, textured dish beautifully balanced with fresh berries.

The roll call of luxury ingredients also runs to lobster, king crab and Wagyu steak, so it’s no surprise that your bill will be wallet-busting – even by Mayfair standards. But impeccable service and attention to detail make this a memorable dining experience for those prepared to pay. The Japanese drinks list here is a real highlight too.

Image Credit: Claire Menary

£50 - £79
Japanese
Hot Stone

Hot Stone

9 Chapel Market, London, London, N1 9EZ

At first glance, Hot Stone appears to be just another low-key Japanese local. Classic minimalist interiors are matched with faux cherry blossom trees climbing the walls and cutesy chopstick stands in the shape of animals. But cheery staff (who, Nobu-style, offer a Japanese greeting in unison to everyone that comes through the door) and the skilful output of the kitchen lift Hot Stone well above the generically Japanese and prove that there’s more to this Islington gem than meets the eye.

Guests can watch the chefs' work by dining at the counter or choose to sit at a handful of tables towards the back of the restaurant. As the name suggests, hot stone dishes are the thing to try – sizzling, super-heated slabs of granite which arrive at the table with your choice of protein, with diners left to cook the food to their liking. We opted for the luxe, startlingly tender A5 Japanese Wagyu, but we could have had Scottish sirloin or rib-eye, or a seafood mix of scallop, king prawn, tuna and salmon. 

If that doesn’t appeal, there are plenty of other dishes which impress. Take the supremely flaky black cod (another nod to Nobu), marinated for 48 hours and slicked with homemade miso. Sushi, meanwhile, exquisitely presented in smart wooden boxes with a blob of fresh wasabi, ranges from the classic to the contemporary: yellowtail, eel or fatty tuna, say, or a Suzuki roll involving seared seabass slices with pomegranate and yuzu miso. 

Moments from Angel tube station, Hot Stone is well worth a look for anyone looking for an intriguing and intimate alternative to central London's party crowd of frenetic, fast-paced modern Japanese. And while it's by no means a cheap eat, prices are not outrageous for the high quality of the ingredients (fresh 100% Japanese wasabi features prominently), while the short and straightforward list of saké and international wines is worth exploring. 

£30 - £49
Sushi
Japanese
Titu

Titu

1A Shepherd Street, London, W1J 7HJ

Kiwi chef Jeff Tyler used to be head chef of the Asian side of flashy mega restaurant Novikov, so it’s a complete surprise that his first solo project is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it corner spot in olde worlde Shepherd Market, with space for only 15 diners (tables are bookable). What isn’t a surprise is how good the modern Japanese food is. Titu is billed as a gyoza specialist, though there’s much more to the small-plates menu than dumplings: meltingly soft tuna blobbed with a subtle jalapeno mayo and dressed with an artful frill of salad leaves, deep-fried chicken popcorn that eats like a gourmet McNugget, or a citrusy salad of chunky soft-shell crab. The dumplings themselves are served linked like conjoined twins attached by a filigree of lacy batter; we preferred the warmly spiced chicken and foie gras version to Wagyu gyoza that seemed like an ostentatious intrusion from Novikov.

Prices, while not exactly cheap, are something of a bargain for Mayfair given the quality of the ingredients and cooking. And while the tiny dimensions mean this is not somewhere to come to discuss anything remotely confidential, the charming staff somehow find space to mix the likes of Pisco Sours and Espresso Martinis. We’ll definitely be back – perhaps after a matinee at the nearby Curzon Mayfair.    

£50 - £79
Japanese
Yashin Ocean House

Yashin Ocean House

117-119 Old Brompton Road, London, SW7 3RN

The brains behind Yashin Ocean House have achieved a remarkable feat, turning a site no restaurateur could previously get to work into one of London’s smarter and more imaginative purveyors of creative Japanese seafood. Dishes seem to get better year on year, and the only thing more commendable than the kitchen’s constant invention is the dedication to using all parts of the fish. Pan-fried cod cheeks in a sweet-and-sour chilli amazu sauce is a dish of blissful beauty, but honourable mentions should also go to the citrusy marinated grouper served in a bowl of Himalayan salt (so you can season it yourself), the perky chilli-laced octopus ceviche, the chargrilled eel and the exquisite sushi – our meltingly tender fatty tuna came topped with truffle shavings and perfectly pre-lacquered with soy. All of this theatre takes place in a high-ceilinged, handsome space built around a turquoise bar and manned by an army of knowledgeable, eager staff.

£30 - £49
Japanese
Fish
Aqua Kyoto

Aqua Kyoto

240 Regent Street (entrance 30 Argyll Street), London, London, W1B 3BR

As far removed from the Zen minimalist school as it gets, Aqua Kyoto does high-end Japanese with a bit of razzmatazz. Feel the vibe as you circumnavigate the central bar, past gorgeous kimono silk-padded booths, to reach the dramatic dining room with its showpiece sunken sushi bar crowned by an oversize red lantern. The clubby mood conjures up shades of Tokyo’s swanky Ginza district, likewise the menu’s luxurious bent. Go for broke by ordering king crab tempura with crab miso, Wagyu maki rolls and agedashi aubergine with roasted foie gras, or discover original creations ranging from chilli yuzu lamb teriyaki with Japanese artichokes to rabbit with green peach, pumpkin tofu and mustard ankake sauce. By contrast, lunchtime bento boxes and sashimi selections are gentler on the wallet. The terrace is perfect for a sundowner.

£50 - £79
Japanese
Flat Three

Flat Three

120-122 Holland Park Avenue, London, W11 4UA

At last this fascinating, offbeat eatery is getting the praise it deserves, although it’s a slow burn. The quiet basement site is almost invisible and Flat Three’s complex culinary blend of Japanese, Korean and Scandinavian influences isn’t an easy sell, but it’s worth it for what one fan calls a “cool overindulgence of the senses”. American/Korean owner Juliana Kim Moustakis and chef Pavel Kanja (ex-Roka) have created a repertoire of great originality, and their “seemingly sparse” tasting menu is full of delicate delights: wild salmon draped in lardo with Douglas fir; alliums with smoked tofu and nasturtium; poached sea bass with fermented cauliflower; Wagyu short-rib with mallow and oyster sauce; a Finnish Runeberg cake with cherries and ice cream. There are raw and plant-based dishes for veggies, while the drinks list embraces small vineyards, unusual grapes and wacky juices. The elegant dining room is as cool as the cooking with its vintage Møller chairs, black walnut tables and antique Japanese silk screens decorated with gold and silver leaf. A triumph.

£50 - £79
Japanese
International
Sumosan Twiga

Sumosan Twiga

165 Sloane Street, London, SW1X 9QB

Mayfair’s Sumosan was among our favourite London restaurants for high-end modern Japanese food, so we were sorry to hear it was closing. But this elegant reincarnation in 50 shades of grey (in partnership with Twiga in Monaco) hasn’t strayed far, either in location or ethos. The four-storey property has a sweeping staircase linking a basement nightclub, first-floor dining room and spacious top-floor bar. On the food front, Sumosan’s Japanese menu has been joined by Italian dishes, so you could follow sushi with sea bass spaghetti, Dover sole or veal Milanese. We stuck with the Orient, and were as impressed as ever: fleshy wasabi prawns, crunchy rice ‘pizza’ topped with spiced salmon, punchy rack of Devon lamb with mustard sauce, and our all-time favourite: T&T sushi rolls, heady with truffle-laced tuna. To drink, there’s a Euro wine list and one of London’s best saké selections. The restaurant now offers a daily lunch service (weekends too). Prices? Yes, they’re high. 

£50 - £79
Japanese
Italian
Ukai

Ukai

240 Portobello Road, London, W11 1LL

This is not just any old pub in Portobello. The large corner site is a lively bar with a world-class drinks list, a performance space and an astonishingly good Japanese restaurant tucked away at the rear. (‘Ukai’ refers to the traditional Japanese method of fishing with cormorants.) It’s a magnet for locals and tourists drawn by the cheerful atmosphere, live music at weekends and top-notch cooking.

Chef Alessandro Verros polished his skills at Nobu and Roka and brings a distinctive mix of modern and authentic Japanese cooking overlaid with ultra-fashionable Peruvian touches. There’s a large menu ranging from small-snack ‘japas’ (geddit?) such as vegetable gyoza, rock shrimp tempura and salmon and mango tartare. There are steamed buns with pork belly and cabbage, and a lavish lobster tail tempura with yuzu mayonnaise. There’s an ambitious range of sashimi, nigiri and temaki in combos including dragon roll with eel and avocado.

Sit at tables around the walls or the high counter opposite the robata grill and watch the chefs prepare scallops with orange and tobiko, or spicy lamb chops to die for. It’s all delicious, especially with a Fire Blossom cocktail (pisco, saké, fruits and chilli is a beautiful balance) created by an expert bar team. This is a very classy operation.

£30 - £49
Sushi
Japanese
Sushisamba City

Sushisamba City

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate (38-39th floor), London, London, EC2N 4AY

“It’s all about the experience” at Sushisamba, from the moment the lightning-quick glass elevator whisks you up to the 38th floor of the Heron Tower. Once inside, you can’t miss the incredible floor-to-ceiling views or the covens of noisy young City types splashing serious amounts of cash at the bar. The “fabulous atmosphere” spills over into the restaurant, where the menu promises a thrilling fusion of Japanese and Latino cuisine – from shrimp tempura with snap pea julienne, spicy mayo and black truffle vinaigrette to refreshing crispy lobster taquitos with avocado, aji amarillo, jalapeños and morado. Other standouts on our list include the multi-coloured sushi rolls, sweet potato noodles served with egg yolk and gold shavings, and a drool-worthy chocolate banana cake with maple butter, plantain chip and rum-spiked ice cream. Samba music blasts from the speakers, while innumerable staff are on hand to deliver “the best service ever”. It’s not everyone’s cup of saké, but high-octane Sushisamba is spot-on for City revellers with deep pockets.

£50 - £79
South American
Japanese
Cubé

Cubé

4 Blenheim Street, London, W1S 1LB

Along with nearby Neo Bistro, Cubé is making the shop-worn corner of Mayfair close to Oxford Street an unlikely destination for reasonably priced top-end cuisine served with personality and warmth. Not that Cubé is cheap (good Japanese food never is), but the menu of inventive Asian tapas married with beautifully crafted sushi is a snip compared to some bigger names nearby. Get up close and personal at the counter as chef Osamu Mizuno (ex-Sake No Hana) delivers an “exquisite performance” in the narrow open kitchen or sit at one of the proper tables in the sparsely decorated (and slightly muted) dining room. We loved everything we ate, from the traditional (silky agedashi tofu in a limpid broth and meltingly soft tuna o-toro atop beautifully defined nigiri rice) to the innovative – who knew that eel with mango and foie gras would make such a successful sushi topping? There are also some downright bonkers ideas – our cheese, cod roe and lotus root ‘sandwich’ was a delirious umami wallop of deep savouriness. Downstairs, a 12-seat hideaway bar serves rare wines with low marks-ups alongside premium Japanese whiskies.

£50 - £79
Japanese
Engawa

Engawa

2 Ham Yard, London, W1D 7DT

Cloaked in the shadow of the Ham Yard Hotel, you could easily miss this Soho Japanese, although those in the know are handsomely rewarded – especially fans of Kobe beef. With just 29 covers and an abundance of clean lines and pine, there isn’t too much to distract from the open kitchen’s theatre. You can watch as the chefs prepare morsels of sashimi, sushi and snacks such as chawanmushi (steamed egg custard with sautéed foie gras) as a warm-up to the beefy headline act – served perhaps in cheese-oozing croquettes or simply seared with an extravagantly presented salad. Whatever the cut, this is extremely exclusive stuff and it comes with an understandably lofty price tag that we think is justified. Bento boxes offer a more accessible way in, while the comprehensive drinks list is well worth exploring – note the cloudy sakés and Matcha Sours. As gastronomic experiences go, this under-the-radar option is a Japanophile’s dream.

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese