You don’t make friends with salad, but you absolutely do with a decent spot of Japanese grub. Australia may be a far cry from the bustling yakitori laneways and ramen streets of Tokyo, but what we miss out on in variety we make up for with fine produce and a distinct flavour (that’s ‘Umami’ for you Japanophiles).
Sydney is a great spot for Japanese if you look hard enough and forego your local supermarket sushi wrapped in bloody disappointment and a free ride to the ER.
From ramen to Yakitori to classic sushi, these are the Sydney Japanese restaurants you need to hit up when Japan is a bit
too close to North Korea out of the way.
Newly opened Sasaki comes from the mind of Japanese cafe owner, Yu Sasaki. The goal of this tiny 25-seat eatery was to branch into home-style Japanese cooking which paid homage to Sasaki’s hometown with the help of fresh Australian produce of the organic variety. The food here is presented with absolute intricacy but the cool Japanese interior alone makes this place worth checking out. Those keen should book ahead.
Think ramen in Sydney and only a few names come up in the fiercely contested circle of Japanese-style noodles. Gumshara has been around for a while now and they’re renowned for their thick Tonkotsu (pork) broth which can be polarising to newcomers. Nonetheless they’re one of the city’s most authentic ramen joints and if you don’t mind eating in a typical Chinatown foodcourt then it’ll make for a fast, cheap and satisfying meal.
Satisfy your Izakaya (casual/pub) cravings the right way at Izakaya Fujiyama in Surry Hills. The crew here serve up an impressive menu which is nothing like the chicken-schnity equivalent of the western world. Think fresh sushi, sashimi, oysters, whole tuna head, wagyu, pork belly and fried chicken alongside an extensive Japanese drinks list.
It’s odd that some of Sydney’s best ramen is often found in Chinatown food courts as opposed to standalone shops. Nonetheless, Osan Ramen is another hot contender in Sydney’s ramen scene. They hand make their own noodles on-site and offer Tonkotsu broths that have been simmering for two decades (we’re exaggerating). The flavour is on point and the prices are even better which should make up for the enchanting food court ambience.
Fine Japanese cuisine meets Sydney’s trendiest crowds at Toko. It’s all about the Izakaya (casual/pub) style dining here with everything from salad and tempura dishes from the kitchen to sashimi, nigiri and a selection of meat, seafood and vegetables cooked over robata grill. The Toko name has built a reputation for utilising some of the city’s finest produce but we think the slick interior design is also right up there. Be sure to book.
Another fine Japanese entrant which brings the noise of Tokyo’s dining scene to Sydney is the elegantly appointed Sokyo. Located at The Star and headed by chef Chase Kojima, Sokyo has become a local favourite for those after a premium feed which doesn’t compromise on produce, flavour, innovation and aesthetics.
Ippudo is an international chain of ramen so it wins when it comes to flavour consistency, authenticity and an array of options to personalise your noodles. The price is a bit high for something that normally costs around the $10 mark in Japan, but what you’re paying for is likely a nice ambience, decent service and the high rent of its locations. They also have other locations in Chatswood, Macquarie Shopping Centre and Central Park.
Forget about the steak on a barbie. This is Yakiniku – the Japanese way of BBQ. Located in North Sydney, Rengaya brings the authentic and intricate flavours of Japanese grill to locals in an upmarket setting. Like the others here, they pride themselves on the highest quality produce including Japanese Black Cattle specifically bred for Yakiniku. The slick facilities also ensure you don’t walk out smelling like charred wood.
One city can never have enough ramen joints to indulge in especially since every shop has its own style. Ryo’s is considered a front-runner alongside the others mentioned here and people can be seen queuing out their door during peak times on a daily basis. If you make it inside, you’ll be greeted with a casual Japanese aesthetic which lets the food do the talking. Prices are also reasonable here and they have an extra location in Bondi.
Get your grill on with more Yakitori, this time located on Sydney’s north side. Yakitori eateries are notoriously small so be sure to book ahead. This also applies to the go-to local spot known as Yakitori Yaruppi, a relaxing and casual dining space where diners can enjoy skewered grilled meats and veges alongside a solid Japanese drinks menu which includes whisky.
Hakata-Maru is a hidden gem in Sydney’s ramen scene. Slotted next to the entrance of a non-descript office building, the place isn’t the easiest to locate if you’re not a Chatswood local. Find it though and you’ll be greeted with another fine ramen entrant boasting authentic flavours.
Suhsi Bar Hiro
No-nonsense authentic Japanese is why Sushi Bar Hiro is an actual hero of the south. The family-owned and operated business does a killer trade amongst locals so you’ll need to book well in advance if you’re planning to go during peak time. They do fresh sushi, sashimi and all of the other Japanese favourites which includes a customisable dinner menu all at very affordable prices. It’s so old school that it even boasts an interior that looks like grandma’s lounge room and zero online presence. You get an address and a phone number to book (9580 8219).
498A King Georges Road, Beverly Hills
If you find yourself dodging uni students in search of good Japanese ramen then you’re in luck. On the main restaurant strip of Kingsford is Ramen Manpuku, a nice little eatery designed to feed you contently before you run along your merry way to do something better. Whilst it doesn’t boast the cult following of the other ramen joints here, it’s still tasty and affordable. They also have a shop in Chatswood.
Yakitori Jin is barely a month old from the time of publishing this but already it’s gotten the Japanophile foodies raving. Authentic Osaka-style Yakitori is the specialty here with beautifully prepared skewers served alongside udon noodles, seafood, gyoza and a fine selection of Japanese drinks like sake, whisky, beer and plum wine. It’s also hella-tiny so you better book in advance to lock a table.
Fat Panda always feels like home wherever you come from. The slick husband and wife team here are considered local celebrities for their own quirky reasons but it’s the Japanese fusion menu backed with French cooking that truly makes Fat Panda a standout. You want a traditional sushi train? You get that. You want Wagyu Carpaccio? They also have that. It’s an anomaly in the local dining scene that oddly works and continues to deliver for those seeking fresh and contemporary Japanese with a cool twist. They also have Japanese beer and sake on the menu.
Cho Cho San
Tokyo style Izakaya gets a re-imagining thanks to owners Jonathan Barthelmess and Sam Christie alongside their chef, Nic Wong. The space is decked out in designer interior goodness and their extensive menu is beautifully prepared with everything from fresh seafood to pork katsu to fried chicken to wagyu to lamb. The top notch drinks menu is also what you’d expect from a trendy Eastern suburbs eatery.
You don’t get any closer to the source than at Raw. This Japanese eatery sitting at North Bondi has been around for a while under the careful watch of head chef, Shintaro Honda. They do everything from fresh sashimi to nigiri to udon noodles to bento boxes and tempura. They’re also a fully-licensed bar so you can kick back to the sunset as you chow down and knock back a beer.
Double Bay’s Sake is one of the city’s finest Japanese fusion restaurants. It’s a seamless affair here from the service to the open kitchen which showcases the maestros at work in an elegantly appointed space. Paired with the innovative menu from Kim, Sake has won various accolades for its approach to modern Japanese fine dining which utilises premium produce with flair. Rockpool Dining Group Culinary and Brands director Neil Perry has recently added lovely new dishes to the menu. It won’t be your cheapest meal but it will be one of your most memorable.