10 Best Japanese restaurants in Honolulu servue up sushi, sake and everything else
By Jade Eckardt
Big Island, Honolulu, and Kauai Local Expert
Sometimes, the urge to have Japanese food strikes, and nothing satisfies until you get it. When that happens, count on 10Best to point you in the direction of Honolulu's best Japanese restaurants. We understand the desire to have a great meal, and we work hard to bring you the top places to eat in Honolulu. We vet restaurants carefully for quality, and when we recommend popular eateries like Kobe Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar or tell you that Nobu Waikiki gets good reader feedback, you can believe it. We'll make sure you get - and eat - what's best.
But Japanese food in Honolulu isn't just about sushi. With our guidance, it's not hard to find some of the best home style Japanese eateries serving up classic dishes such as curries, katsus and miso soups. Irifune Home Style Japanese on Kapahulu is one of the town's longest standing family style Japanese restaurants.
Yanagi Sushi is another home style joint serves a lot more than sushi. In it's main dining room as well as it's private rooms, traditional dishes such as shabu shabu and grilled fish and meats are the most sought after in Honolulu. Being that it's open till 2 a.m., you'll get the feel that it's serving those looking for that classic, like home restaurant that will keep you company all night long.
10 Nobu Waikiki
The Nobu mystique is alive and well at this Honolulu outpost, which counts Robert De Niro among its owners. Even without a celebrity connection, the restaurant would be a culinary destination, courtesy of chef Nobu Matsuhisa's spectacular food and the place's careful service. Sushi and saké get lots of attention, but so, too, do tobanyaki and tempura selections. Omakase dinners are popular as well, especially when you want to splurge. Quality does come at a price, so be forewarned, but it's hard to bypass Nobu when you crave excellent Japanese fare. The ambiance is a balance between dark and mysterious, and crisp and refreshing. (808-237-6999)
Spare and stylish, this airy restaurant presents diners with top-notch Japanese cuisine in the traditional manner. Talented chefs prepare exquisite sushi, as beautiful as it is delicious, and cooked dishes include yakitori, tempura, and more. The well-attended lunch buffet is a perennial draw, and the sushi buffet, which runs Wednesday through Sunday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. is a favorite with hotel guests and locals as well. Kaiseki meals, consisting of a number of small, elegant, seasonal dishes, are an upscale alternative to standard fare. Make sure to make reservations for this oh so sought after eatery, popular with locals and visitors alike. (808-944-4494, 808-956-1111)
8 Restaurant Suntory
Although prices run a bit steep, no one can quibble over the quality of Suntory's food or its terrific preparation. Authentic cuisine draws on the best culinary traditions, and rooms devoted to sushi, shabu shabu, and the like are set aside for themed dining. For groups looking to share flavor and engage in a fun and flavorful night, shabu shabu is the way to go In addition to the impeccable raw cuisine and hot-stock-cooked dishes, patrons can also count on teppanyaki and tempura items. All of the fish is fresh and locally caught. The restaurant's interior is stunning and provides an apt backdrop for the spectacular food. (808-922-5511)
7 Banzai Sushi Bar
Sushi, sushi, and more sushi - all made from locally caught fresh fish and seafood can be found at the North Shore's Banzai Sushi Bar. And yes, there's definitely a full bar boasting a varies amount of beers, wine and specialty cocktails. Live music happens throughout the week and it's best to check beforehand what's going on that night. In addition to the delicious menu and casual Hawaiian ambiance, Banzai Sushi is also a hot spot for nightlife. From a mellow bar scene to wild dance parties boasting unique and fun themes, Banzai Sushi is an all around fun place. Cs ((808) 637-4404)
6 Yanagi Sushi
Yanagi's been around for decades and is a favorite destination of celebs, so it's frequently crowded, especially at dinner. That's hardly a surprise when you consider its impeccable food and convivial atmosphere. Sushi is outstanding, and the chefs take great pride in their skills. Table service is also available, and folks take advantage of cooked dishes, like shabu shabu, tempura, and teriyaki items. Great sakes and late-night hours add to the appeal, and lunch is a more affordable option that offers fewer crowds. Private dining room separated from the rest of the restaurant with shoji doors make this a unique place to dine. (808-597-1525)
5 Wasabi Bistro
In a textural, contemporary space, this well-received restaurant tempts diners with its updated Japanese cuisine. The original location of the expanding chain offers a number of innovations, most notably Kumi's Special, an appetizer composed of halibut, crab, and avocado. Other signature dishes include baked scallops topped with spicy aioli and the Hawaiian roll, a sushi offering that incorporates Spam and pineapple. Naturally, you'll find plenty of seafood, and it all gets a kick from Wasabi's forward-thinking chefs and owners. To add excitement to your dinner, choose a front row seat at the sushi bar and be amazed. You'll be intrigued by -- and sold on -- their creativity. (808-735-2800)
4 Kobe Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar
It's dinner and entertainment rolled into one at this Japanese hot spot. Vivacious chefs chop, slice, and sauté steak, chicken, shellfish, and vegetables right before your eyes in an exuberant display of teppanyaki cooking. It's just the place to visit if you're in the mood for an evening of sociability and fun. If you need a sushi fix along the way, don't despair -- they'll set you up with an assortment of your favorite rolls. The superb bar begins serving drinks at 5pm, including sake and Japanese beer. The fished served on the menu is all fresh and locally caught. (808-941-4444)
3 Sushi Sasabune
Aficionados clamor to this upscale sushi joint, where everything from crab to sea urchin has a story and a provenance. While you sit at the bar, the chef gifts you with what he desires, so you may end up with scallops, squid, blue-fin, or even monkfish liver. As a result, your palate has to have a wide range and your trust has to be substantial. If both conditions fit, you'll revel in the exquisite offerings and the attention given to everything from the cut of a filet to the texture of the rice. Take a walk from the restaurant around the beautiful sights of Waikiki. (808-947-3800)
2 Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar
Traditional Japanese entrees and some of the freshest sushi around are on offer at this resort mainstay. Let superb ocean views soothe you as you indulge in dishes like Asian shrimp cakes and Japanese calamari salad. Inventive sushi rolls include the Sansei Special, a combination of spicy crab, cilantro, fresh cucumber, avocado, and sweet Thai chili sauce. Open from 5:50 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Weekends, Sansei combines amazingly fresh fish with nightlife entertainment that is central to the rest of the Waikiki nightlife. Menu samplers are a great way to span the culinary offerings in a single evening and are available in a wide price range. (808-931-6286)
So ono (delicious), as the locals would say! At Irifune you'll find perhaps the best Japanese food a person can find in Honolulu, and it's decently priced, low key, a home style. The hole in the wall restaurant hides it great food behind a very modest exterior wall with a very homey feel inside. On any given night there's the chance of a short wait in the small waiting room with a fish tank, but it's very worth it and you can pass the time by enjoying a drink you brought or checking out all of the celebrity photos taken in the eatery. If anyone in your party is celebrating a birthday, you can give the management a heads up (without the birthday person knowing) and they'll surprise everyone with a lights-out birthday song and their signature ice cream crepe. The food is simply great. It's Japanese but not sushi. Notice the unique bathroom wallpaper of tattooed people. All of the food is good and there's several vegetarian options. ((808) 737-1141)
About Jade Eckardt
Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and exploring the island. A regular visitor to Kauai, Jade recently authored a full-length Kauai guide book. She is a writer and photographer, whose work has been published in numerous regional and national magazines. When she's not writing, Jade enjoys a good beer, a good surf, and time in her garden with her son.
Read more about Jade Eckardt here.
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