Out of all the different food cultures dotted around the globe, Japan's is one of those that we envy the most – ramen vending machines, et al. There's a way that ingredients are treated in Japanese cuisine which is sorely missing from a lot of the cooking native to London; a nuanced understanding of balance and proportion that allows for high-quality produce to make itself known.
There's nowhere for shoddy sourcing to hide in a piece of sushi or a fat, buttery slice of toro tuna and there's not many meals we'd rather comfort ourselves with on a rainy day than a steaming donburi. Japan overtook France in 2011 to become the country with the most 3-starred Michelin restaurants for a very good reason and we'd obviously recommend making a pilgrimage there in person but look: flights are expensive. And, to be honest with you, London's got a range of Japanese eateries that are pretty damn good and don't require buying travel insurance.
From high-end omakase sushi experience to simple izakaya ma and pa restaurants, if you're looking for the best Japanese restaurants in London, you've come to the right place. Izakaya literally translates as "stay sake shop", so rest assured that some of the best places to drink sake in London are also on this list. Whether you're stationed out east, west, north, or south, you should be able to find at least one place in this guide to London's best Japanese restaurants that takes your fancy. And at least one that grasps control of your heart so violently that you can't imagine what your life what like before it came into it. The karaage of your dreams, complete with bronze craggy skin and succulent white-hot flesh, is waiting for you.
The best Japanese restaurants in London: £/£££
96 Trafalgar Road, SE10 9UW
This cash-only establishment on Trafalgar Road is one of the more under-the-radar Japanese eateries in London. After taking in Zaibatsu's formica tabletops and seemingly too-extensive menu, you'd be forgiven for being surprised at just how good the food actually is. Sashimi, nigiri, hoso maki, and temaki? All of the sushi at Zaibatsu seems to be made with an attention to detail that belies its affordable price and – whether you're going for more traditional udon or fiery Singapore fried rice noodles – the hot dishes hit the spot, too. Zaibatsu is the epitome of a pleasant surprise; the sort of dark horse you'll want to get the credit for discovering among your close friends. With a BYOB policy and free corkage, Zaibatsu is one of the best bring your own booze restaurants in London and might just be one of the best value restaurants in the capital.
33 Goodge Street, W1T 2PS
If high quality Japanese food is your game, then Yoisho should be the name on your laps. The Izakaya-style restaurant in Fitzrovia is one of Foodism's favourite restaurants in the city: a humble place to come and slurp down a refreshing bowl of cold soba noodles and enjoy an even colder bottle of Sapporo. Yoisho's homemade tofu is what dreams are made of. Go for the agedashi tofu if you want it arriving hot, bothered and delicious or go for the cold tofu topped with fermented bean paste to savour the curd's clean and cool flavour. Muscular plates of yakitori are worth your time while a handy selection of sake – served in a traditional masu – are often too difficult to resist. Yoisho's a grower. You might not fall head over heels for it right away but your mind will often find itself wandering to its coves during your office day dreams, musing about what bowl of zosui you'll get next time. And that's the sign of a keeper to us.
76 Brewer Street, W1F 9TU
Conveyor belt sushi is more than just a gimmick. If done right, it can be one of the most efficient ways to get in a good meal when you're in a push for time. Especially in a city like London where lunchtimes involve fighting tooth and nail over a limp egg cress sandwich. Kulu Kulu is a kaiten-zushi that understands that, refusing to beat around the bush with anything unnecessary and doling out an efficient and endless selection of sushi, sashimi and hot plates on its train. The fact it's nearly always busy is a sign of Kulu Kulu's quality. Come in, eat well, come out. It's as simple as that.
There's eight Eat Tokyo variants spread across London. Individually it's difficult to claim one as the best Japanese restaurant in London but, once you combine their forces together, the fact that you're never too far from an Eat Tokyo outlets means you're never too far from an above average Japanese meal. Which is good news to anyone who finds themselves with a hankering for unagi, sashimi, nigiri, sushi and chirashi. Eat Tokyo has even started serving Shabu-Shabu at an outlet located near the corner of one of its existing Golders Green restaurants. That Japanese dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled quickly in a pot of boiling water and served with various dipping sauces is a winter mood and a half.
24 Tooting High Street, SW17 0RG
Broadway Market's got some absolute gems in it. Hinata – a snug and inviting Japanese restaurant and sake bar – is undoubtedly one of them. Katsu curry is an essential order when it's on the menu but that's not to say that the rest of Hinata's menu isn't just as appealing. It's just that that katsu curry – crisp, golden, juicy and just the right amount of gloopy – is right up there with some of the most comforting dishes you can eat in the city. From home-made gyoza to picture perfect karaage and yakitori, Hinata's izakaya selection has enough going for it that you really will have to become a regular if you ever want to try it all. Which we'd highly recommend doing.
11 Wardour Street, W1D 6PG
Misato on Wardour Street is an affordable Central London lunchtime favourite and the perfect antidote to the endless plethora of Prets and Joe & The Juices that proliferate the area. Bento boxes are the start from as little as £8 and come with your choice of main alongside steamed rice, green salad, two seafood dumplings, a salted prawn, two pieces of maki, edamame, and an orange slice. Misato's curry udon noodles are also absolute heaters. The pork katsu iteration has that hot soup rifling with its thick fat udon snakes and a generous helping of hot and hearty deep-fried breaded pork. If that doesn't get you excited to get out of the office for lunch, we don't know what will. If you do have to return to your desk afterwards then a digestif Calpico is obviously the way to go on the drinks front but if it's a Friday and you feel like getting a little loose before you delve back into the spreadsheets? A crisp Sapporo will do just nicely.
265 Eversholt Street, NW1 1BA
Asakusa is the real fucking deal and worth all the hassle of trudging through the Union Jack hoodies of Camden for. Agemono options like tonkatsu and karaage are affordable, filling and just as good as you're likely to find anywhere in the city. The nimono section of the menu throws out a larger range of Japanese dishes that you wouldn't necessarily find at your run-of-the-mill tourist pleaser. Unagi kabayaki sees that sea creature split in twain before being draped on Asakusa's grill for just long enough to let its flavours loose without turning its texture to rubber. It's a bite of food we'd happily brave the Northern Line for any day of the week. If you are the sort of person who finds themselves um-ming and ah-ing over menus for an amount of time that has your fellow diners checking their phones in apathetic dismay, the worthy and affordable teishoku set meals take at least some of that struggle out the equation.
Yo Yo Kitchen
4, Station Parade, W3 0DS
Located just opposite West Action station is where you can find Yo Yo Kitchen: a reason to trek out to deepest, darkest West London if we've ever seen one. Owner and chef, Yoichi Iguchi's restaurant specialises in sushi and a range of Japanese dishes you can either takeaway or eat at the tidy little premises. Iguchi used to be the main fish buyer for most of the Japanese restaurants in London and it was during this time period that Iguchi – then a regular sight around Billingsgate fish market at 4am – picked up the nickname 'Yo Yo'. Yo Yo Kitchen has been in operation for 9 years now and it's Iguchi's continued attention to detail and his near obsessive focus on the quality of produce used in all of YYK's dishes that separates the restaurant from the rest of the madding crowd. Get a platter between a few of your mates. Then get another straight after.
The best Japanese restaurants in London: ££/£££
15 Catherine Street, WC2B 5JZ
Yakitori's best when it's done using the very best of ingredients. The grilled-over-charcoal style doesn't need anything fancy to get its passport stamped at flavourtown. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh piece of meat that's been timed to perfection. Jidori understands that and exhibits the apt amount of restraint at both its Dalston and Covent Garden premises. Using only the freshest free-range birds, delivered direct from Yorkshire, Jidori makes sure to utilise every part of the bird from its beak to its feet. Especially in its omakase tours of the entire menu. Tsukune (minced chicken and egg yolk), reba' (liver), and hatsu (hearts and bacon) skewers articulate Jidori's ethos in a way our words never could. Go try and them out for yourself to see why all that guff matters.
8 Heddon Street, W1B 4BU
Sakagura is a lot of fun. The option to grill your favourite seafood, meat and vegetables on your personal sumibi barbecue is pretty hard to pass. Yes, it's a gimmick but it's a gimmick that works. Primarily because of the quality of the ingredients involved. We mean, who can turn down the option to grill British ox tongue on a personal lava stone? Not us, buddy. Not us. Even those who don't want to get up in Sakagura's grill will find themselves well-catered for with the rest of the restaurant's menu who's who of crispy chicken karaage and pan-fried pork gyozas. Ignore the tempura at your own risk.
Koya has become something of a metonym for good udon noodles in London. Whether you're dining at the group's City or Soho premises you can rest assured that you'll find yourself well-fed. Available in a variety of hot/cold broth and noodle combinations it might take you a few visits to work out what udon style works best for you personally. Once you've found out that magic combination, however, you'll be turned into unstoppable wheat flour noodle-craving machine: a being whose violent desire for smoked mackerel hiyashi udon knows no bounds. You might lose friends over your constant protestations to go to Koya rather than any other restaurant that doesn't offer that same broth satisfaction. But who needs friends with food this good? Besides, the donburi isn't half bad either.
56 Dalston Lane, E8 3AH
Putting Angelina on this guide to the best Japanese restaurants in London might be cheating just a little considering that it's actually an Italian and Japanese fusion restaurant. The five plate tasting menu is just £39 and a neat way to witness owner Joshua Owens-Baigler and chef Daniele Ceforo flex their respective muscles. The space is minimalist and East London through-and-through but the high-points of both Italian and Japanese cuisine manage to make their presence felt throughout the menu. It's a happy marriage that's best epitomised by the dish of unagi risotto with burnt soy butter and dashi: a rich and languid state of affairs that'll have you pawing at every last seafood-soaked grain.
Level -2 Westfield, W12 7HB
It's a bit weird that Westfield contains Europe's largest Japanese food hall but that's just the way life works sometimes. At Ichiba you can find over 3,000 Japanese products from confectionery and sake to fresh handmade sushi, noodles and curries. It's the Japanese street food and dedicated Japanese bakery and cafe that make it worthy of inclusion on this guide. Partly because it's got just about every single kind of Japanese dish going. Donburi? Ichiba's got you sorted. Wagyu beef teriyaki? Simple as pie. Melon pans and dorayaki? Okonomiyaki and yakisoba? Not a problem. You're in safe hands here whatever direction your stomach sends you.
426 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LF
Tim Anderson's Nanban is an interesting case in point of how to cook food that's not from a culture that's your own. Nanban itself means 'southern barbarian,' a term that was once used to describe the first European visitors to Japan many centuries ago. Anderson stormed his way through the 2011 series of Masterchef into a culinary career that many would be envy of. Nanban in Brixton remains the jewel in his crown. Dubbed "Japanese soul food", the food at Nanban is hearty and stacked with hard-hitting flavours. Crispy chicken wings with scotch bonnet honey ponzu butter sauce are sweet and spicy napkin destroyers. The restaurant's famous lazy goat ragù-men (slow-cooked boneless goat leg and thick noodles in a rich Indo-Caribbean curry sauce) an example of how a unique riff on ramen can actually end up being one of the best ramen in London.
56 Old Compton Street, W1D 4UE
Izakaya vibes and charcoal cooking are Robata's areas of expertise. Skewers of meat and plates of well-charred vegetables rarely miss at this Old Compton Street newcomer. Our best advice to sit at the bar and watch the chefs battle the restaurant's open-flame grills with the lithe dexterity of a gymnast. Sparkling fruit sakes like the hana fuga yuzu are the go-to imbibes to ensure you keep your cool while everything in the world around you gets just a little bit burnt.
3 Winnett Street, W1D 6JY
Jugemu is a Japanese sushi bar in Soho that takes itself very seriously. After eating the sushi there, you'll soon understand why its all such serious business. Three small tables and a 9-seater counter is all it takes to keep a consistent conveyor belt of satisfied customers coming in and out. Owner and chef Yuya Kikuchi's fingerprints are all over Jugema – both symbolically in the auteurism and control exhibited on every plate and far more literally on the hand rolls and sashimi that are so lovingly handled onto your waiting plate. Come to Jugemu to remember what it's like to develop a massive crush on a restaurant.
14A Old Compton Street, W1D 4TJ
Shack-fuyu is the non-ramen restaurant offering from London food group Bone Daddies. Ballsy Yōshoku food – Western-inspired Japanese dishes – is the name of the game here. Iberico katsu sandos, rabbit katsu curries, and kinako french toast are just a few of the stomach-filling dishes that'll have you reaching for your phone to snap a quick pic before reaching for numerous napkins after you dive in a bit too keenly and make an absolute fool of yourself in front of your date. Katsu sauce all over your face? You won't even care. It's that tasty.
144 Clarence Road, E5 8EA
Hackney's Uchi is short and sweet. The pared back menu (comprised of 'cold' and 'hot' offerings) ensures that every dish is made with parental affection. Superlative grilled skewers such as the saba shioyaki and pork belly prove that Uchi's razor-focussed approach is one that's paid off in spades. Even the cocktail list takes up only a couplet of space. You can either order the ginger sake (honjozo sake mixed with fresh ginger, ginger ale and crushed ice) or the umeshu mojito (Japanese plum wine with lime, mint and crushed ice) or… nope, that's it. Thankfully both refreshing serves prove sake's versatility as a spirit and underline Uchi's philosophy.
1A Argyll Road, W8 7DB
Yashin's motto is "without soy sauce", it's a statement of intent written in neon script on the interior and reflected in the quality of the sushi you'll find there. Chefs Yasuhiro Mineno, Shinya Ikeda, and Ryuichi Furukawa are true masters of their craft. Each ream of sashimi is so expertly sliced and sourced that the addition of soy sauce really would seem like a travesty. Yashin's Omakase option is an excellent means of seeing just what the chefs there have got in the tank; a real culinary tour of all that the Kensington restaurant has got to offer. The 'one by one' approach is equally enticing as each piece of sushi is served to you… wait for it… one by one. Eating a piece of sushi as soon as it's been prepared means that you get to enjoy the delicacy just as it was intended in terms of the temperature, flavour and texture of the fish and rice. If you've never eaten sushi that's so perfectly body temperature that it feels like you're hugging a long lost relative, you haven't lived.
11-13 Frith Street, W1D 4RB
Nikkei cuisine is the name of the game at Chotto Matte. Executive chef Jordan Sclare divvies up the Japanese-Peruvian fusion in ample fashion. Appetisers like Chu-toro tiradito (plump tuna sashimi topped with fresh wasabi, aji amarillo and mango yuzu sauce) and Nikkei gyoza (pork, prawn and cassava dumplings served on aji amarillo and sweet potato purée) underline Chotto Matte's playful balance between the two cuisines. When it comes to the mains you'd be a fool to not stop by the anticuchería barbecue section of the menu for a meat masterclass. Barriguita de chanchito (pork belly with nashi pear and yellow tomato salsa) is all crisp and charred on the outside while its soft innards leak lush with fatty pork flavour. Knock back a couple of pisco sours while you're at it and you'll be ready for a night out at Soho.
47 Museum Street, WC1A 1LY
Arguments about whether British, American or French pancakes are superior are turned to rubble in the face of Japan's okonomiyaki. A savoury pancake made with a base of cabbage, egg and dough with spring onions, ginger and bits of tempura, the okonomiyaki is a work of art. While a few restaurants in London are finally starting to clock on that a bubble and squeak with a Japanese twist is still something that can still be successfully marketed towards unadventurous eaters, Abeno has been serving okonomiyaki game since 1993. Our personal pick is the spicy tsuruhashi kimchi okonomiyaki topped off with an extra egg and extra-hot chilli powder. It's a sinus-clearing hit of heat, savoury umami and just about everything that makes Japanese food so great. If you do want to keep your feet firmly on British soil, Abeno does a fun Cottage Pie-yaki using organic minced beef, potatoes, green peas with a grilled cheddar cheese topping. Because that's the beauty of okonomiyaki: it's a dish that's as versatile as you're willing to make it.
76-77 Watling Street, EC4M 9BJ
Sushi is one of life's little pleasures. How something so simple is capable of providing such subtlety of flavour and such tender contrast between the poles of sweet, salty, fishy and fresh baffles the mind. Kurumaya makes some damn good sushi. Head chef, Rico Venzon, has over 25 years experience in the art of making the stuff so trust that you'll be in safe hands. We'd let him roll us up into a tamaki any day of the week. While the upstairs kaiten bar (conveyor belt sushi for those who aren't ITK) serves expert cuts of sushi, maki and sashimi along with a fair selection of hot dishes, it's the downstairs restaurant you should head to if you fancy more of a sit-down experience and a couple of dishes from the robata grill.
115 Meridian Place, E14 9FE
Yuhoki means a "blessed place" which, if you think about it, is sort of what a good restaurant is really. They're holy locations where you can be treated like a god, dining on ambrosia and forgetting about any worries that life might be throwing your way. A meal at Yuhoki does all of the above. Especially if you're able to eat on its outside patio while the sun is shining. As well as serving a heap of neat Japanese dishes (gyoza, tempura, tataki), Yuhoki's kitchen also magicks up a few dishes from other cuisines like Chinese sweet and sour chicken and Korean-style grilled lamb. Travel to Canary Wharf and settle down at Yuhoki with an appetite and a bottle of sake for a quasi-religious eating experience. Is Yuhoki one of the best places to drink sake in London? Most likely.
73 Heath Street, NW3 6UG
Hampstead's Heath Street has got a secret. A delicious, dark and anything-but-dirty little secret that's slowly found itself filtered into the ears and stomachs of those in-the-know on the London dining scene. That secret? Jin Kichi. Don't go and shout about it now but Jin Kichi is one of the best Japanese restaurants in London – an izakaya that does hunky dory yakitori and a chicken katsu so good you'll want to invite it back to yours for afters. The plum wine here is served icy cold, pairing perfectly with the fat and acid double-kick of suna pon – a dish of deep-fried chicken gizzards served with Jin Kichi's homemade ponzu sauce. When you're looking for a lunch or dinner that can go toe-to-toe with the best that the city has to offer, Jin Kichi is pound for pound one of the top contenders.
With sushi bars in Ealing Common and Swiss Cottage, Atari-Ya is a surefire place to get some fire sushi. While its shops supply hard-to-find Japanese ingredients, its Atari-Ya's sit-down eateries that are some of our favourite places to indulge in the sheer range of food that comes out of Japan's kitchens. Each piece of sushi and sashimi is fresh, balanced and underline how Atari-Ya's produce is one of the major keys to its success. That being said, it's another menu item altogether that's really stolen are hearts: the Salmon sticks. Breaded and deep-fried salmon with tartar sauce and tonkatsu sauce? You had us at breaded, baby. Those bronze fish fingers goddamn delicious and have prompted us to question on more than one occasion about why more restaurants don't have salmon sticks on their menu. Get the sushi, get the salmon sticks, and get ready for a bill that'll make you nod and go "that's more than fair". The house sake isn't half bad, either.
8 Station Parade, W5 3LD
Kiraku is a restaurant that comes with a pedigree. It was, after all, awarded the Ealing Times Restaurant of the Year award in both 2007 and 2008. Although it's been well over a decade since Kiraku was crowned the king of Ealing, the Japanese eatery is just as worth a visit today. Fat futo maki rolls, piping hot donmono and a whole fillet of unagi are just a few of the options you should think about rifling into your open mouth. Located not too far from the Japanese language school and competitor Atari-Ya, you best believe that Kiraku's customers are dining there for a reason.
Flesh & Buns
41 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LX
This meaty offshoot from broth barons Bone Daddies is a right laugh. Don't come here if you're looking for a serious meal where the subtle seasoning requires a furrowed brow and Moleskine notebook to comprehend. No, you come here for a few slaps around the face with loud and punchy flavours. Shichimi! Yuzu! Miso! The best eats available are obviously the namesake flesh and bun dishes. Crispy piglet belly with mustard miso and apple pickle in a soft Shaun the Sheep-y steamed bun? Rabbit katsu with fennel, cabbage, apple salad, amazu dressing and curry mayo? We'll see you on the court, and you better bring your A-game.
3 Stroud Green Road, N4 2DQ
Being bilingual will never not be impressive. Dotori is a bilingual restaurant that's fluent in both its Korean menu and Japanese menu. On the Korean side of things you've got enough bibimbap, stew pots and Korean barbecue to please a Seoul native. The Japanese menu isn't exactly a slouch, either. Yakitori, donburi, sushi, teriyaki, udon; you name it and there's a good chance that Dotori does a mean version of it. And at a pretty friendly price.
Unit 24, Liverpool Street Station, C2M 7QH
When it comes to train station eats, you're often stuck for choice between a disappointing Uppercrust or a trip to whatever overpriced, express version of a supermarket that's knocking about. Thankfully, that isn't the case at Liverpool Street Station where Moshi Moshi is making sushi and other worthy plates of Japanese cuisine that's far better than a train station restaurant has any right to serve. Moshi Moshi also prides itself on its sustainability. The salmon tartare is made with chopped Loch Duart salmon and the chicken teriyaki with free-range, naturally fed chicken from Suffolk. Designed by Kaneshiro Yusaku, the restaurant itself is a sleek space capable of making you forget that your last train left 5 minutes ago after you got a little too involved with a piece of nigiri.
9-15 Leather Lane, EC1N 7ST
Formerly known as Tajima-tei, Mugen is a neat little place to nab a lunch. The hot dishes available at dinner time – agedashi tofu, chicken nanban and a baffingly simple plate of "sausage & potato" included – aren't bad by any means. It's just that the popular set-lunch boxes are quicker, easier and often what we find ourselves in the mood for when we visit Mugen. Mixing the pick of Mugen's hot dish litter with well-crafted sushi rolls and sweet as sashimi, a bento box is never a bad idea. The two-story Nidan boxes? They might just be an even better idea.
17 Godliman Street, EC4V 5BD
Miyama's been trucking on for over 21 years now. The restaurant has four private rooms, a main seating area, sushi bar and teppanyaki bar. Our personal plan of attack is to order as many of the ace appetisers as possible before making a beeline for the sushi. Buta hirekatsu oroshi (bite sized deep-fried pork nugs with grated radish) and kani karaage (deep-fried soft shell crab) are hot, fatty and delicious dishes that wake up your palate and prep it for a fresh and cooling sushi platter. Like most sushi in London, Mugen isn't cheap but you're paying for the handiwork required to make each picturesque roll and aburi and nigiri-syle pieces of sushi. Worth it if you ask us.
114 Great Portland Street, W1W 6PA
Walking into Sushi Atelier is like walking into an arena where sushi gladiators rule the roost, jousting and jabbing at fat slices of tuna and placing their creamy carcasses delicately in front of you. It's not a big arena by any means – the space is dominated by a long and brightly-lit sushi bar – but Sushi Atelier is one of the best straight-up sushi restaurants in the city. The surprisingly affordable omakase is the favoured way to do things round these parts. Not only will it ensure you get the freshest available produce, but 12 pieces of sushi hand-selected by the chef for £35.7? That's a downright bargain. The drinks list includes enough premium sake and wine, draft Japanese beer, shochu and Japanese tea to suit even the most parched diner.
Give us a plate of crisp, hot (almost too hot) gyoza and we're happy bunnies. Rent due? Favourite jeans ripped? Left earbud stopped working? None of that will matter once you've got Taro's ebi gyoza inside of you. With branches in Balham, Cannon Street and Soho, Taro is a people pleaser of the highest order. The menu is packed with great heaping plates of donburi, ramen, yakisoba and more – all freshly cooked and violently comforting. Get a tall bottle of Asahi Super Dry if you're looking for looking to send it up or a glass of Calpico if you're up for a more mindful evening. Taro is cost-efficient, fantastic fun, and one of the best Japanese restaurants in London.
The best Japanese restaurants in London: £££/£££
Endo at Rotunda
101 Wood Lane, W12 7FR
"You're telling me that the former BBC Television Centre in White City has one of London's most accomplished sushi chefs working there?" Yes. "You're telling me this is a restaurant where everything from the freshly grated wasabi root to the home-made vinegar-seasoned rice tastes as if it's been passed through the hands of an angel?" Yes. "You're telling me it's really, really expensive?" Yes. But the things that Endo Kazutoshi, an undisputed sushi master, can do with raw fish is more than worth the prices they charge at Endo at Rotunda. If it's your mission to eat at the best Japanese restaurant in London, not making a visit to this sky-high restaurant wouldn't just be a minor lapse of judgment, it'd be an inexcusable error.
Unit 4, 12 New Burlington Street, W1S 3BF
The Araki only has one menu. And it's a set menu. And it costs £310 per person. This omakase sushi experience from Mitsuhiro Araki is just that: an experience. You don't go to The Araki simply to eat, you go to The Araki to feel; to be moved by whatever deep-seated feelings its hallowed food is capable of digging up from the recesses of your soul and flinging back to the surface like an emotional trebuchet. Mitsuhiro Araki might have left London to return to his native Japan in March 2019 but his apprentice Marty Lau has since taken over the position of head chef and filled his void handsomely. Only ten seats are available for every seating at this three Michelin star restaurant but to many who've diner there, The Araki is the best restaurant in London. No questions asked.
5 Raphael Street, SW7 1DL
Knightsbridge somebodies have been eating at Zuma since it opened over a decade ago, and there's a reason they haven't stopped coming ever since. Part of it is due to Zuma's branding as a luxe spot to flex your wallet but just take a look at some of the chefs who have come through Zuma's kitchens over the years and it's hard not to deny the skilled plates of food getting placed under its salamanders. The modern Japanese restaurant isn't particularly traditional in terms of the food it offers but whether you're ordering from the main kitchen, the sushi counter or the robata grill you can almost always guarantee you'll be eating something delicious. Rib eye steak with wafu sauce and garlic crisps? Delicious. Duck breast spiced with chilli, ginger and sake? Delicious. Fried tofu with avocado and Japanese herbs? Delicious. Regardless of what you think of it, Zuma's reign is going to continue for very a long time.
Lennox Gardens Mews, Chelsea, SW3 2JH
We get it, eating in Chelsea comes with all those "rah" connotations. The clientele at Dinings SW3 don't exactly dispel that stereotype. But the refined plates of food you'll see coming out of the kitchen will make you forget all about the trust funds of those sharing the same dining space. The sushi and sashimi changes with the seasons, using the freshest seafood from Cornish day boats. Dinings also boasts one of the best tasting menus going in London for those who want a taste of cutting-edge Japanese cuisine. Set in a Grade-I listed buildings, Dinings isn't afraid to innovate; a sashimi fruits de mer and Pyrenean Agnei Ibérico lamb chops spiced with shio-koji and served with artichoke yoghurt purée being just two examples of dishes that push the envelope above and beyond what's expected of a Japanese restaurant in West London.
14-16 Bruton Place, W1J 6LX
Yoshinori Ishii's Umu is as sleek as it gets on the Japanese restaurant front. Umu doesn't so much rev its engine as it purrs along effortlessly, serving some of the very best sushi in London while also boasting an impressive wine list. There's good reason that this Bruton Place gem has got two Michelin stars and it's all to do with the sheer quality of what's on offer. Fresh produce is flown in from Japan everyday to ensure that every ingredient meets chef Ishii's exacting standards. That being said, sourcing locally is still part of the Umu ethos with its menu full of dishes that incorporate indigenous, line-caught fish from Cornwall and around the British Isles. Every plate of food at Umu – like the lightly grilled tuna back and belly, for example – are created with such clarity and such care that it's hard not to be stunned at every mouthful.
23 Conduit Street, W1S 2XS
It's not an entirely rare sight to see executive chef Daisuke Hayashi going to town on a piece of fish with a blowtorch in Tokimeitē, and that sense of theatricality is just one of the many reasons why we've included it on this list of the best Japanese restaurants in London. Just don't go in expecting anything cheap or cheerful. Tokimeitē's in Mayfair and has austere dishes on the menu like Hida-gyu tartare truffle maki (£17) and char-grilled Hida rib-eye steak (£120), so it's not exactly an everyday dinner sort of place. It is, however, a dandy restaurant to visit if you plan on celebrating something special (birthday, anniversary, graduation, funeral of a nemesis, etc) with some outstanding sushi, steak and seafood. You'll find us there once we've paid off all our student debt.