On the menu

Ten of the best Japanese restaurants in London

From traditional Edomae sushi to authentic Wagyu beef, the capital’s Japanese food scene is thriving

London’s Japanese food scene is thriving and the delicacies on offer in 2022 go well beyond sushi rolls and ramen noodles. Here are some of the best places in the capital to get a true taste of the land of the rising sun. 

1

157 Westbourne Grove, W11 2RS

The interior of the 40-cover restaurant

Sumi

Sumi sits at one end of a short parade of restaurants on the leafy Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill. Named after sushi master Endo Kazutoshi’s mother, it’s unassuming from the outside and cosy from within – all golden wood and gentle lighting. But at this newish spot, “spectacular provenance and exacting craftsmanship meets an unexpected human warmth and looseness”, said the London Evening Standard. And, if you’re lucky enough to be sat on one of the four stools facing the chef’s table at Sumi’s entrance, you’ll be witness to the chefs’ punctilious artistry – and organised chatter – throughout your meal.

Read our full review here.

2

2 Ham Yard, W1D 7DT

Engawa facade

Engawa

Not only is Engawa one of the few menus in London to boast authentic Wagyu beef, but it claims to be the only UK restaurant to import the whole cow. Butchering in-house means diners have a range of cuts to choose from. Continuing the premium theme, the five or three-course omakase menu features the chef’s daily selection of fish, Wagyu and vegetables, with complementary wine pairings chosen by the in-house sommelier. For “serene ’n’ clean” Japanese fare in a lovely corner of Soho, Engawa “ticks all the (bento) boxes”, said Time Out

3

2 New Quebec Street, W1H 7RW

The ‘hassun’ course at Roketsu

Roketsu

Roketsu is London’s first authentic kaiseki restaurant, meaning “a formal meal consisting of a dozen or so meticulously prepared dishes served in a prescribed order”, explained the FT. Its origins lie in the ceremonial meals served to Buddhist monks, and it retains a monastic sense of discipline. There are just ten seats at Rokestu, with each dish meticulously prepared by owner and chef Daisuke Hayashi. The menu changes frequently, but dishes can include pureed asparagus, seasoned with little shreds of crisped wagyu and served cool, or lobster deep fried in a light batter.

Read our full review here.

4

18 Shepherd Market, W1J 7QH

Maru chef Taiji Maruyama

Maru London

Maru’s minimalist dining room directs attention to the food – and to the chef. Guests sit side-by-side, facing the counter at which Taiji Maruyama will prepare their meal. He works, where possible, with produce from the UK. The tuna served at Maru may come from Spanish and Portuguese waters, but the rest of the menu – with scallops from Orkney, trout from Hampshire, mackerel and shellfish from Cornwall and squid from Devon – is a tour of the British coast. Each ingredient plays its part in the omakase service, a Japanese concept which translates literally as “I’ll leave it up to you”.

Read our full review here.

5

132 Seymour Place, W1H 1NS

Yakitori being grilled

Junsei

Junsei, which opened its doors in 2021, is one of London’s few Japanese restaurants focused around yakitori – the practice of grilling food, ordinarily chicken, using skewers over a charcoal fire. Located on Marylebone’s Seymour Place, this intimate and elegant restaurant places an emphasis on zero-waste cooking, using every part of the animal, from hearts and neck to arteries and gizzard. Alongside the meat skewers, veggie skewers, donabe (rice) bowls and seasonal Japanese hot plates are also on offer, as well as a wide variety of sake, wine and cocktails.

Read our full review here.

6

117-119 Old Brompton Road, SW7 3RN

Yashin Ocean House

Yashin Ocean House

Upon opening, renowned patron chefs Yasuhiro Mineno and Shinya Ikeda based their restaurant around utilising all parts of the fish, using traditional methods to serve roe, flesh, skin and everything in-between. While Yashin Ocean House is “fairly expensive, especially given the small portions, if it’s flare and creativity you’re after, you’re in the right place”, said Time Out.

7

19 Motcomb Street, SW1X 8LB

Sachi’s stunning interior

Sachi at Pantechnicon

This fledgling dining spot in the heart of Belgravia boasts a menu crafted by Collin Hudston (formerly of Roka) and Chris Golding (of Nobu and Zuma, other top Japanese restaurants). Sachi is located on the lower ground floor of Pantechnicon – the swanky, five-storey Nordic and Japanese food and shopping centre which opened in September 2020. Guests can choose to sit at a central table, in a noren-covered, Covid-friendly private booth or at the eight-seater sushi counter, crafted from warm oak, brass and blue clay brick, to watch the chefs at work.

Read our full review here.

8

19 Old Park Lane, W1K 1LB

Sashimi at Nobu

Nobu

If you have not yet made it to one of Nobu’s 40-plus restaurants, spanning five continents, you’ve at least seen a paparazzi shot of celebrities leaving one. However, when you sit down at London’s original location on Old Park Lane, you certainly don’t feel like you’re in a chain. The Japanese-Peruvian fusion menus are individually stylised for each location, and options on Old Park Lane include yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno and tea-smoked lamb anticucho. “The laid-back feel of modern day Nobu London Old Park Lane is far more appealing than its early days as a celebrity magnet,” said Country and Town House. “And, importantly, the food is better than ever – a result of many years of fine tuning.”

9

23 Conduit Street, W1S 2XS

Tokimeite platter

Tokimeite

Named after the Japanese word for butterflies in the stomach, Tokimeite employs a range of traditional Japanese techniques for its hyper-seasonal menu. The spot is owned by Japan’s agricultural cooperative, Zen-Noh, which flies in the country’s best produce and rare seasonal delicacies, making the already unique dishes that extra bit special. “The food is of the highest quality,” said the FT. “The clean flavours of the tempura batter, and the chef’s dexterity with his knives were certainly equal to anything I have eaten in Japan.”

10

240 Argyll Street, W1B 3BR

Aqua Kyoto interior

Aqua Kyoto

With its moody interior, Instagram-perfect lighting, eye-wateringly expensive cocktails and slightly hostile “if your name’s not down, you’re not getting in” vibe at the reception desk, Aqua Kyoto certainly feels like a “scene” – or at least a direct import from party capitals Ibiza or Mykonos. Headed up by Pavel Kanja, who is known for his Japanese, Korean and Nordic-inspired dishes, this Oxford Circus eatery is the Japanese branch of the Aqua restaurant group’s large portfolio, which includes Aqua Nueva and Aqua Shard. But it’s important not to judge a book by its cover here. With its gloriously fresh sashimi, stunning sushi platters and creative dishes – including soft-shell crab tempura with yama gobo slaw, katsuobushi (fermented tuna) floss and tentsuyu broth – Aqua Kyoto is far from style over substance. 

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