The Hottest Japanese Restaurants Across the U.S.

By Zagat Staff  |  September 24, 2014
Credit: Daniel Krieger

Japanese food has come a long way from basic spicy tuna and California rolls in the U.S., and thanks to a slew of hot new openings, there's no shortage of top-notch Nippon fare in cities ranging from San Francisco to Washington, DC. From pristine sushi temples to creative ramen joints, here are the hot spots to hit up next time you're craving raw fish, noodles and more.

  • Credit: Daniel Krieger

    Toki Underground in Washington, DC

    The ramen may be Taiwanese, but the space and some of the other offerings at Erik Bruner-Yang’s incredibly hot Atlas District spot — such as the dumplings and the cocktails — more than satisfy Japanophiles.

    Must-Try: The Toki classic ramen is probably the signature dish, but we urge you to try the Taipei chicken curry ramen. You may never go back.

    Insider Tip: Many people don’t realize that the tiny noodle shop started serving lunch last fall. That and the Union Market pop-up are great ways to avoid the dinnertime lines.  

    1234 H St. NE; 202-388-3086

  • KazuNori in Los Angeles

    The group behind fast-casual sushi chain Sugarfish, Kazunori Nozawa and the Nozawa family, recently debuted a hand-roll-only bar in Downtown LA. Like Sugarfish, this is fast and efficient sushi at an affordable price, except here it's all hand rolls, all the time. After all, Nozawa was a hand-roll pioneer at his original Sushi Nozawa, the beloved Studio City sushi bar he closed in 2012 after 25 years. It's a no-brainer.

    Must-Try: The blue crab hand roll, which Nozawa made popular, is still the one to beat.

    421 S. Main St.; 626-470-7655

  • Shabu and Mein in Boston

    This just-opened entry is a glossy new go-to for ramen and hot pot, with plenty of flat-screen TVs and a vibrant bar scene for tossing back sake and plum wines.

    Must-Try: The hot-pot soup bases include selections like cilantro with preserved duck egg ($3) and herbal goji berry ($6). 

    Insider Tip: It comes from a family of restaurants that includes Fuji at Kendall — so if you're already a fan of that eatery, expect to be smitten anew.

    148 First St., Cambridge; 617-577-7888

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    PABU in San Francisco

    Sushi master and chef-owner of the long-beloved Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park, Ken Tominaga joined forces with Michael Mina to open Pabu in July, along with neighboring The Ramen Bar. While there are izakaya and robata grill dishes, it's the nigiri tasting menu ($95) that produces the most "wow" moments.

    Must-Try: Four rounds of four different pieces of nigiri (16 cuts of fish total). A standout is an ethereal round of tunas, from fatty bluefin to wild bonito.

    Insider Tip: Sommelier Stuart Morris is one of the great sake masters in the U.S. Take advantage of his expertise — his pairings will change the way you think about sake.

    101 California St.; 415-668-7228

  • Juno in Chicago

    After a successful opening, this Lincoln Park sushi spot was forced to shut down when a fire destroyed the bar area. But co-owner Jason Chan, chef BK Park and recent addition Sam McDermott are back and better than ever with a new bar, a hot food menu and sophisticated seafood offerings such as smoked sashimi, uni shooters and toro tartare.

    Must-Try: Seared scallop with Nebrodini Bianco mushroom, squid ink and pumpkin seeds.​

    Insider Tip: It reopened this past weekend, so stop by before the crowds return. 

    2638 N. Lincoln Ave.; 872-206-8662

  • Sushi Nakazawa in New York City

    This den of sushi from Daisuke Nakazawa, a protégé of sushi master Jiro Ono, offers omakase-only dining either at the 10-seat bar (live out your Jiro Dreams of Sushi fantasies) or in the 25-seat back dining room. The no-frills setting makes the sushi the focus, and its prices match the exclusivity: $120 for the 20-course tasting menu ($150 at the counter).

    Must-Try: The omakase at the counter is a must ($150).

    23 Commerce St.; 212-924-2212

  • Hanabi Ramen & Izakaya in Houston

    The new Fort Worth noodle house boasts an array of ramen as well as skewered meats and authentic Japanese homestyle entrees.

    Must-Try: Karami tonkatsu ramen — the classic pork belly soup, with a hit of spice.

    Insider Tip: Venture outside your comfort zone and try dishes like a grilled quail egg wrapped in bacon or the grilled salted beef tongue.

    3204 Camp Bowie Blvd.; 817-420-6703