The Best Restaurants In Little Tokyo

Where you should be eating and drinking in LA’s Little Tokyo.

photo credit: Jakob Layman

One of the last three remaining Japantowns in the country, Little Tokyo was first established in the early 1900s as a settling place for Japanese immigrants. Years later, the area became a refuge for families returning from World War II internment camps. Now, you'll see 100-year-old mom-and-pop joints next to robot gift shops, blending tradition with the 21st century. It's also one of LA's most restaurant-dense neighborhoods. This means you can walk around to curry specialists, excellent sushi bars, and more noodle shops than anyone could ever visit in one day. The next time you're in the area, these are the 17 restaurants to prioritize.


photo credit: Nikko Duren


Little Tokyo

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If you look past the servers in suits giving monologue dish descriptions, Sakurako is a surprisingly fun, free-wheeling omakase experience. The chef behind the nine-seat counter cracks jokes while slicing snapper filets, and strangers pour sake in their neighbors’ glasses like it’s a dinner party. The sushi here relies on gorgeous fish to shine, and most nigiri need only a gentle swipe of soy or dab of wasabi to melt like margarine on toast. At $280 per person, Sakurako is firmly in the “major birthday or anniversary” camp, but the delightful mayhem and attention to detail make it a satisfying splurge. Expect an entire dry-aged sushi section, plus a few appetizers, grilled fish, and tiramisu.

photo credit: Holly Liss

Sushi Gen appears on almost every “Best Sushi” guide in the city (including ours, hello). But despite the fame, this Little Tokyo restaurant still feels like a place that's built for regulars. Don't expect to be seated quickly—doors open at 11:30am and lines form before that—but once you're inside, you’ll be in the thick of the fun. Nearly every table orders the sashimi special. For $23 ($32 at dinner), you’ll get generous cuts of tuna, yellowtail, toro, squid, three kinds of chopped fish, broiled fish, miso soup, cucumber salad, and tofu. It’s an incredible deal. One that is so popular, you can’t even order it at the sushi bar, only in a designated dining room.

If you're looking for a fancy dinner that won't completely blow out your bank account, try this very good sushi spot located on Weller Court’s third floor. The omakase costs $280 per person, but they also offer a $140 sushi-only option and a lunch omakase for $110. Expect the sushi chef to shape and plop pieces of seabream, saba, and otoro onto the stone in front of you with the rhythm of a metronome. You’ll eat pristine cuts of fish, as well as signature dishes like the iwashi maki, or soy paper-wrapped sardines rolls, and bowls topped with ikura and uni.

Focusing on one thing and mastering it—that’s what Chinchikurin does best. This small Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo serves one dish: Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Their base of thick and chewy yakisoba noodles get covered in a wonderful sweet-salty sauce with veggies, crispy pork, and a giant egg blanketing the entire thing. It’s a perfect dish we’d happily eat on any day that ends with "Y." Don't miss the creamy strawberry shaved ice for dessert.

Kaminari specializes in Utsunomiya-style gyoza, a pan-fried dumpling that uses a paper-thin wrapper. In Japan, Utsunomiya is a town known for gyoza paired with experimental and non-traditional ingredients, so don’t be surprised to see bentos made with spaghetti, breakfast potatoes, and cilantro dipping sauces at this Little Tokyo shop. Choose between chicken, pork, shrimp, or vegetable gyoza, prepared either pan-fried, deep-fried, or boiled (we like the pan-fried best). Order as a six-piece set or add them to that chaotically good bento combo above, either for a quick lunch or a secret snack away from the office.

You can't talk about the best izakaya in LA without mentioning Kinjiro, a quiet spot in Honda Plaza that feels like a private supper club. They offer two seatings nightly, which can only be booked by emailing the restaurant directly. The high-quality sushi, noodle dishes, and grilled meats are designed to pair with their extensive drinks list. So order some hot tea or sake for the table and start with the best things here: miso black cod, red snapper sashimi, thick-cut beef tongue, and silky agedashi tofu in mushroom broth. Although drinking is part of the fun, eating at Kinjiro still feels laid-back enough for a nice date night or a calm meal with friends.

Azay is a half-French, half-Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo that's one of the few places to serve Japanese breakfast in the LA area. You'll get a tray of broiled fish, tamago, tofu, miso soup, and a side of rice, plus a few pickles, and think about why you'd ever eat anything else at 10am. Apart from the breakfast, don’t try their pork belly omurice or the Nagoya-style hitsumabushi, a grilled eel dish that’s eaten in three parts. At dinner, the menu leans more French with dishes like salmon tartare and rack of lamb with mustard sauce.

Somewhere in America’s all-out ramen frenzy, udon was seemingly left for dead. But if you ever see the line wrapped outside Marugame on any given day, you’ll understand why these thick, bouncy noodles deserve equal billing. Yes, the wait can seem daunting, but it’s worth it. Come sit at the bar, order that outrageously delicious miso carbonara udon, and watch as they cut and roll every massive noodle by hand behind the glass.

Hama Sushi tells you everything with a sign out front: “No Tempura, No Teriyaki. No Noodle, No Rice Alone. Only Sushi, Sashimi.” It almost reads like a poem. Needless to say, raw fish is the specialty here, and you can eat like a baby prince for around $50 per person. You place your order via sheet, so try to grab a seat at the bar and get to X-ing. Get a $30 sushi set meal, which comes with a combination of various nigiri, plus a California roll that’s silky as a Bruno Mars/Anderson Paak collab. But don’t skip out on more creative options, like the gigantic soft-shell crab roll or albacore sashimi with ponzu.

Sawa is a slightly less formal omakase experience from the chefs of Sushi Kaneyoshi (located in the same building), but reservations are just as competitive. The hushed room feels like a ten-seat sushi vault, and the chefs make you feel like a pampered poodle eating an 18-piece omakase. While the mostly traditional Edomae-style nigiri is very good, the real highlights are the cocktails, or rather, the cocktail pairing option. For $45 you can pick any three from the menu and let the masters course out toki highballs and dashi martinis alongside the omakase. Just know that, with drinks, you’ll drop close to $500 on dinner for two.

You go to Kouraku for Japanese-style comfort food, plain and simple. Come here when your favorite team loses a game, or when the only remedy to a bad week at work is a big ol’ bowl of fried rice. Get a curry dish, served with either stewed beef, deep-fried shrimp, or the classic chicken katsu. The bowls are filled to the brim with a deep brown gravy and a glistening bed of rice. You'll want to eat this with a spoon during lunchtime and reflect on everything going on in your life (work, family, the fact that you’ve still never had a TikTok go viral, etc.)

Getting into Sushi Kaneyoshi, by far the most upscale sushi option in Little Tokyo, is a battle. Not only making the reservation, but physically entering the premises. You'll have to wander through a hotel lobby, buzz in, and descend a staircase to what looks like a dungeon lair that happens to serve a $300 omakase to 10 people per night. Each meal includes 20 courses of appetizers, sashimi, and nigiri, all prepared behind an elegant wood sushi counter. If eating some of the best sushi in LA is on your bucket list, consider Kaneyoshi a worthwhile investment.

Located inside the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, this nine-course tasting menu spot is one of the most unique dining experiences in LA. Each meal is a marathon (priced at $175 per person) that begins with a tour of the property’s gardens followed by drinks and “LA Nikkei” small bites, a nod to the chef’s LA upbringing as a fourth-generation Japanese American. Eventually you’ll move to an interior sushi bar for the main courses—like marbled wagyu steak in teriyaki and a play on the California roll made with crab, uni, and avocado. From there, it’s back to the garden for dessert. We suggest hanging around to watch the sunset while sipping green tea.

Our go-to yakitori spot in Little Tokyo. Located on Weller Court’s second floor, Torigoya is a laidback restaurant where you can order rounds of meatballs, charred gizzards, and shishito peppers until your heart says it's time to stop. There are fewer options here than what you'll find at other yakitori spots, but you can try everything the restaurant has available by ordering the 10-skewer set menu. It’s the perfect amount of food and will let you taste your way through the majority of the bird.

If you were sentient during the early aughts, you’re likely aware of Daikokuya. This ramen legend remains one of the neighborhood’s most popular spots (expect a line) and a visit to the original Little Tokyo shop is a journey every ramen disciple should take. Daikokuya’s tonkotsu packs in a ton of flavor: tender pork belly chashu, a soft-boiled egg, and the requisite vegetable toppings: bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, and green onions. You might fall asleep afterward, but it will have been worth it. 

JiST Cafe is one of those places you walk into and wonder why it took you so long to get here. It might be hard to tell from its current modern digs, but this bright little cafe has been around for over 70 years (albeit under a different name). Open for breakfast and lunch only, this spot serves a chashu hash skillet worth driving across the city for. But if you happen to be in the area, it’s also just a nice place to grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the side patio in peace.

Need a quick snack? There’s not much better than Rice & Nori, a tiny onigiri shop on the ground floor of Weller Court. Perfect, triangular-shaped rice balls are coated in furikake and filled with shiitake kombu, Spam, or a spicy tuna mayo that’s creamy without overdoing it. There’s also a collection of housemade pickles, too: Napa cabbage with carrots, shiso-flavored daikon, and burnt-orange mountain burdock root. The hand rolls here aren’t bad but will get soggy if you're ordering for takeout. Eat ‘em fresh.

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