With its abundance of creamy cheesecake wedges, celestial-sized margaritas and bagels with a circumference rivalling the average human head, it’s somewhat surprising that New York is the city that never sleeps. The local cuisine here is as nap-inducing as the last chocolate in the tin on Christmas day. So it comes as no surprise that New York’s locals and visitors alike welcome the fresh, zingy and aromatic flavours of the East to refresh their palette every now and then.
Luckily for the insatiable appetites of the Big Apple, the Japanese food scene here is competitive. Japan’s own restaurants included. Since the economic boom in the 80s, New York welcomed a rush of new Japanese locals primarily to the East Village, later moving into Midtown and upper Manhattan. It’s in these pockets of the city that you’ll find some of the best sushi restaurants in New York.
Think you know your sashimi from your sukiyaki? Chopsticks at the ready, we’re going on the ultimate tour of the Japanese restaurants that New York has to offer.
Let’s set the scene. It’s one of New York’s infamous sub-zero, icicle frosted winter days where just a few minutes outside is enough to make you want to roll yourself straight back into your duvet. But it’s lunch time and there’s only one thing that will warm those chilly bones – a sumptuously hot bowl of rich and salty broth, acting as a steamy bath for tender miso pork, fresh noodles, crunchy bean sprouts and the all-important ajitama egg delicately placed on top. There’s no wonder the peppering of ramen restaurants in New York is ever-growing, but the locals will tell you to make a B-line for:
Serving dishes prepared by chef, Shigetoshi Nakamura – widely recognised as a god of ramen in New York, Nakamura needs little introduction. One slurp of this guy’s chicken broth and chashu pork and you know he means business. As far as ramen restaurants in New York go, this is a fail-safe place to start your tour.
The cosy setting at HinoMaru is what Japanese dining is all about. Sit side by side at the bar insatiably slurping your bowl of ramen and take in the art of the ramenya’s creations. The tonkotsu pork bone broth is something for a signature dish here, and it comes as no surprise considering it takes no less than 17 hours to cook from scratch. Topped with roasted shallot crisps and a fish cake, this is ramen done right.
The ultimate test of chopstick dexterity, whether you regard yourself as something of a Japanese food connoisseur or an ‘I’ll do my best not to ask for a fork’-er, the sushi in New York is well worth the challenge. You’ll find a pretty tasty maki roll or nigiri in almost every district in New York, but some of the best finds for flavour combinations, fresh ingredients and intimate settings with top-tier omakase experiences are:
A midtown favourite for its classic menu that refuses to be influenced by some of the more modern and trendy Japanese restaurants popping up in New York. Sushi Yasuda expertly and attentively serves the finest tuna, salmon and mackerel as its seafood highlights. Order it sashimi style and expect slick slithers served simply with soy and punchy wasabi. Heaven. The best table in the house? Avoid the city slickers and pull up a stool at the bar.
Plant-based diners, vegan sushi is wowing the chopsticks off the NY dining scene at Beyond Sushi. Yes, this brand has now become a chain – but with only 5 locations it hasn’t quite tipped over into becoming the next Wendy’s. Dotted around Manhattan, Beyond’s table are stacked with innovative veg-based rolls to tempt even the most ardent sushi fans. The Smokey Jack rolls combine a hit of hickory-smoked jackfruit with mint, mango and pickled cabbage to really put your taste buds through their paces. In a good way. The menu isn’t exclusively sushi – handy if your dining companions haven’t quite succumbed to the temptations of sushi.
New York is no stranger to sizzling grilled meats and sticky glazes, but the introduction of Japan’s delectable yakitori to this city’s cuisine is far from unwelcome. And as far as Japanese restaurants in New York go, the yakitori hotspots or, ‘Izakaya’ are known for letting your hair down Friday-feeling style, bamboo stick in one hand, sake in the other. Ready to liven things up? Head to:
A favourite with the likes of culinary legend, Anthony Bourdain, Yakitori Totto is one of New York’s most renowned Japanese restaurants. Traditional yakitori skewers make the most of every part, so expect to broaden your horizons and sample a bit of everything. It’s all delicious so you might as well leave with a story to tell. And as Bourdain said himself, the crispy skins on skewers are ‘crunchy and delicious’, so make sure you get your order in before the kitchen runs out.
This tiny 30-seat Izakaya can be found hidden in the streets of the Lower East Side and is well worth a visit for its impressive sake menu and awesome bar snacks. The best way to enjoy an evening at Yopparai is to let the sake geniuses behind the bar select a few of the best glasses for you to taste, along with a dish to complement it. The yakitori here is virtually on par with the sake, especially the batakushi (pork belly) – you’ll wish you’d ordered more.
Taste buds tingling at the thought of New York’s Japanese food scene? It’s time you hot-footed it to the East Village pronto, and there’s only one way to get there. Send the Orbzii app to your phone and Dream, Plan and Book your ultimate trip to New York.