- New York
- Kirsten Nicholas
New York City’s penchant for unique international cuisine that pushes culinary boundaries is palpable through the proliferation of local Japanese restaurants. Standard Japanese fare such as sushi and yakitori is heavily represented while multi-course Japanese meals, called kaiseki, have grown in popularity. We profile 10 of the best sushi and Japanese restaurants in NYC.
Located near Union Square, 15 East is an understated Japanese restaurant designed by Richard Bloch. Serving classic Japanese cuisine with a modern twist, 15 East’s menu is overseen by executive chef Masato Shimizu. His apprenticeship under renowned Sushi chef Rikio Kugo at Tokyo’s famous Sukeroku restaurant is evident in dishes such as the mouth watering Tako Yawarakani, or slow poached octopus, and his simple presentation of classic sushi fish including sea urchin, uni, and giant clam, mirugai. Illuminating their outstanding traditional reliability with a slew of accolades, 15 East was also awarded a Michelin Star in 2014.
15 East, 15 East 15th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 647 0015
Since opening in July 2013, Cagen has received rave reviews from critics and diners. This intimate East Village spot, nestled in a basement-level property, serves kappo ryori fare, or high-end traditional Japanese food. Chef and owner Toshio Tomito, who managed well-known Nobu and began apprenticing in the art of Japanese cuisine at age 15, offers an omakase experience, chef’s choice, as well as sushi à la carte options. Their noted sashimi course includes tai, nodoguro, iwashi, shimaaji, and a fresh oyster over daikon and shiso leaf served with wasabi, jalapeno, ginger, and Japanese chimichurri sauce and house soy sauce. If adventurous sushi does not seem appealing, try Tomito’s specialty soba noodles that are made in-house daily with his very own hand-ground buckwheat.
Cagen, 414 East 9th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 358 8800
EN Japanese Brasserie
Situated in the heart of Manhattan’s quaint West Village, EN Japanese Brasserie is a beautifully modern restaurant that has been recommended in the Michelin Guide annually since 2005. Conceived as a traditional Japanese izakaya – a small, neighborly place – EN celebrated their 10th anniversary in the autumn of 2014. Wagyu sashimi and lobster kuro tempura are a few highlights of their menu, as well as their fig ice cream sandwich and Japanese pumpkin pudding. Their standard kaiseki menu and à la carte options will continue to anchor the city’s Japanese scene for years to come.
EN Japanese Brasserie, 435 Hudson Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 647 9196
Nobu New York
Nobu’s flagship restaurant located in Tribeca celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014. Since opening in 1994, esteemed Chef Nobu Matsuhisa has delighted diners with his innovative approach to modern Japanese cuisine, which stems from his training at sushi bars in Tokyo and world travels – particularly to South America. Yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, black cod miso, and lobster with wasabi pepper sauce are a few of his noted dishes that keep diners returning for more. Complementing their outstanding seafood with an array of meat dishes and innovative desserts, Nobu proclaims itself as a staple on the city’s Japanese culinary circuit.
Nobu New York, 105 Hudson Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 219 05000
Discreetly located behind unmarked wooden doors, Zenkichi is an authentic Japanese restaurant located in the heart of Williamsburg. In an effort to illustrate the vast culinary scene of Japan, Zenkichi serves Tokyo style small plates that guests are encouraged to share and pair with sake. With so many unique options like wasabi-cured octopus, the omakase, or chef’s tasting menu, provides a sampling of their best seasonal dishes. The maze-like restaurant, lit by dim lanterns, is full of private booths with mahogany benches that hide behind curtains to create an intimate, cozy atmosphere akin to Tokyo style dining. Zenkichi was named among the most romantic restaurants in the city.
Zenkichi, 77 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY, USA +1 718 388 8985
Eiichi Mitsumori founded Ootoya in 1958 in order to serve authentic Japanese home cooking to people in Japan, eventually expanding throughout the Asia Pacific region. The Chelsea iteration, the first location outside of that zone, continues to champion Mitsumori’s philosophy that promotes a healthy body and mind by serving teishoku, or a traditional set-meal. Teishoku offers a fully balanced meal complete with rice, soup, pickled vegetables, and dessert. In addition to this traditional meal, Ootoya has delicious homemade soba noodles, tempura, udon, and sushi. Their high quality philosophy extends to their high-quality ceramic dinnerware and quiet dining atmosphere.
Oootoya, 8 West 18th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 255 0018
Kyo Ya is a no-frills Japanese restaurant located in a small underground spot in Manhattan’s East Village. The small restaurant, made almost entirely of wood, is known for kaiseki dining where a progression of courses feature seasonal ingredients. While á la carte dining is available as well, the kaiseki experience illustrates the complex breadth of traditional Japanese cooking, highlighting subtle simplicity through unique pairings. Their intense focus on fish illustrates Kyo Ya’s traditional sensibilities.
Kyo Ya, 94 East 7th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 982 4140
Ushiwakamaru is a high-end sushi joint located in the heart of Greenwich Village that specializes in authentic Tokyo-style omakase. Fish and rice are the star ingredients, with a unique assortment of fish flown in from around the world daily. Their sashimi and sushi options are regularly touted as the most authentic in the city. Standard spicy tuna and uni are available as well as unusual variations like sayori, or needlefish, and shiroebi, tiny bone-white raw shrimp packed over rice. Since opening in 2003, chef Hideo Kuribara has gained a loyal following of sushi aficionados who know how the Japanese truly enjoy their sushi.
Ushiwakamaru, 136 West Houston Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 228 4181
Even though their decor may be nondescript, Kanoyama’s expert sushi draws in-the-know crowds who consistently return for their high quality fish and traditional creations. They offer something for everyone, with common appetizers such as dumplings and shumai as well as California hand rolls; however, the main event is Kanoyama’s fresh fish. Try their butterfish, salmon make, fresh Japanese uni, or white bonito to gain a truly authentic Japanese style sushi experience. Red miso soup with crab meat and tofu pudding with red-bean sauce illustrates their ability to offer a completely rounded meal that will incite repeat visits.
Kanoyama, 175 2nd Avenue, New York, NY, USA +1 212 777 5266
Try some house made ramen at the popular noodle spot Ippudo near Union Square. Started in Japan by Ramen King Shigemi Kawahara, who directs and oversees this well-known ramen conglomerate, Ippudo provides a classy, welcoming respite from the bustle of city life where diners can enjoy tonkotsu, pork based ramen, and other signature appetizers such as pork buns and seasoned cucumbers. They also offer vegetarian and gluten-free options for ramen and buns, a difficult feat. Even though a wait may be inevitable, make sure to stop by this popular establishment for a taste of delicious salty broth and homemade noodles.
Ippudo, 65 4th Avenue, New York, NY, USA +1 212 388 0088