The Best Restaurants In Little Tokyo guide image


The Best Restaurants In Little Tokyo

Everywhere you need to be eating and drinking in LA’s Little Tokyo.

One of the last three remaining Japantowns in the country, Little Tokyo has been an essential Los Angeles neighborhood since the early 1900s. Originally a settling place for Japanese immigrants, it later became a refuge for families returning from World War II internment camps and is now one of the city's most restaurant-dense neighborhoods. Little Tokyo is unique, a quirky blend of tradition and the 21st century: here, you'll find 100-year-old mom-and-pop joints, Japanese bookstores, modern art museums, robot gift shops, and of course, incredible places to eat.

From curry specialists to refined sushi bars to more noodle spots than you knew existed, here are the 21 best restaurants in Little Tokyo.


photo credit: Holly Liss

Sushi Gen review image

Sushi Gen


422 E 2nd St, Los Angeles
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Sushi Gen’s appears on almost every “Best Sushi” guide in the city (including ours, hello), but with its cozy atmosphere and regulars, this Little Tokyo restaurant still feels like a local secret. That said, don’t expect to be seated quickly—doors open at 11:30am and lines form before that—but once inside, you’ll be quickly wrapped up in its festive, chaotic atmosphere. Walls are painted bright red, the line for to-go orders trails out the door, and nearly every table has the same thing on it: 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, just in a designated dining room. Make sure you're in there.

Yes, the rumors are true. Azay is the only restaurant in Los Angeles proper serving a traditional Japanese breakfast set (we love you Gardena, but you’re a separate city). Yet this Little Tokyo spot does so much more than one trick—though only open since 2019, it’s become a core part of the neighborhood and is home to rich Little Tokyo history. There are one-day specials, like lobster chowder and miso black cod, highlighting the chef's unique half-Japanese, half-French abilities. Azay has its own community fund, host readings on postwar Japanese Americans, and features acoustic sets from local musicians. Apart from the breakfast, don’t miss out on their pork belly omurice or the Nagoya-style hitsumabushi, a grilled eel dish that’s eaten in three parts—perfect for lunch or brunch.

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You go to Kouraku for Japanese-style comfort food, plain and simple. Come here when your favorite tennis player loses a slam, or in times where the only solution is, clearly, a big ol’ bowl of fried rice. Curries are king, served with either stewed beef, deep-fried shrimp, or the classic chicken katsu. Bowls are filled to the brim with a deep brown gravy and glistening bed of rice. 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.)

By far the most upscale sushi option in Little Tokyo, getting into Sushi Kaneyoshi is a battle. Not only making the reservation, but physically entering the premises, which includes wandering through a hotel lobby, buzzing in, and descending downstairs into their dungeon lair. You feel like you’ve entered another world (feudal Japan, maybe?) where they’re serving a $400 omakase to 10 seats per night. A bit beyond your budget? Here’s a hack: order takeout. It’s the same quality but a fraction of the cost. Prices range from $90-$200, and include gorgeous chirashi boxes, omakase nigiri, and “jewelry boxes” premium options layered with pristine cuts of tuna and blue crab.

It wouldn’t be a well-rounded Japanese neighborhood without a go-to yakitori (grilled chicken skewer) spot. For Little Tokyo, that place is Torigoya. Located on Weller Court’s second floor, Torigoya is a laidback restaurant where you can order rounds of meatballs, charred gizzards, and shishito peppers. There are fewer options here than at other yakitori-yas, but you can sample what’s available by ordering the 10-skewer set menu. It’s the perfect amount of food and will let you taste your way through more parts of the bird than you thought were possible.

Hawaiian food is a complex blend of cuisines—Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Filipino, and native Hawaiian flavors—all of which are on display at Aloha Cafe, located in the plaza as Sushi Gen. This is a perfect brunch spot, a place to eat big breakfast specials (the Komai comes with Spam, two types of sausage, and corned beef hash) and saimin, a ramen-like dish with a clear broth and fresh buckwheat noodles. Our favorite is the kalua pork plate lunch, a massive combination of tender pulled pork, a bit of cabbage for crunch, white rice, and creamy mac salad.

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 haiku. Needless to say, raw fish is the specialty here, where you’ll eat well at around $50 per person. Orders are taken on sheets—which you mark yourself—so try to grab a seat at the bar and get to X-ing. The sushi set meals are great, 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.

Hidden away on Weller Court’s third floor (so far removed from anything else open, you might miss it) lives Sushi Takeda: a fairly fancy option ideal for special occasions. Overlooked in favor of flashier spots like Sushi Kaneyoshi or the crowd-pleasing Sushi Gen, Sushi Takeda is more subdued, falling somewhere in the middle of those two. It’s a $150 omakase where you’re seated at a serene, light wood bar. You get a cold towel at the start, the sushi chef shapes, then plops pieces of sea bream, saba, and otoro onto the stone in front of you with the rhythm of a metronome. You’ll have very nice cuts of fish, as well as signature dishes like the iwashi maki, or soy paper-wrapped sardines rolls, and delicate bowls topped with ikura and uni. It's a high-class experience that doesn't completely blow out your bank account.

It may seem obvious, but just get the curry. Champion’s has other options, like Japanese-style sandwiches (we got the chicken katsu one and liked it just fine), but you’re here for the thick, gravy-like curries made Kanazawa-style. They come with a dark brown, almost black sauce that smothers everything on the plate. A great lunch option, if you’re in the area, both dine-in and takeout.

If you were sentient during the early aughts, it’s likely you’re 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 pilgrimage every ramen disciple must take. Daikokuya’s tonkotsu packs in a ton of flavor: tender pork belly chashu, a lusciously soft-boiled egg, and the requisite vegetable toppings: bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, and green onions. You might fall asleep afterwards, but it will have been worth it. 

This 47-year-old Little Tokyo institution, which was originally found by two sisters, is filled with all kinds of homey Japanese dishes, like chicken katsu curry, oyakodon (stir-fried chicken and egg), and cold soba with a side of tempura. Plus, most things cost less than $15 here—which might be even more comforting than the food itself.

Sure, being a jack-of-all-trades sounds nice in theory, but have you ever tried looking for a meme on your phone while pretending to work while also driving? It’s a bad time. Focusing on one thing and mastering it, that’s what Chinchikurin does best. It’s a small Japanese shop in Little Tokyo that serves one dish: Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Although usually translated to “savory pancake,” okonomiyaki is more than that: a base of yakisoba noodles are thick and chewy and covered in a wonderful, molasses-like sauce. A giant egg blankets the entire thing, and the pork is crispy. Really, it’s a perfect dish, something we’d happily eat on hot days, freezing days, days when we have tons of work and need a reprieve, and other days when we’ve got nothing to do at all. In other words, all the damn time.

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). Only open for breakfast and lunch, their chashu hash skillet is worth driving across the city. But if you happen to be in the area, it’s also just a nice place to stop in, grab a cup of Stumptown coffee and enjoy that excellent side patio in peace.

Build-your-own ramen is a concept that sounds gimmicky, but Shin-Sen-Gumi works—the ramen is great and the operation’s well run. By build-your-own, we don’t just mean you get to throw a few green onions on top. From the thickness of the noodles to the richness of the broth, you can customize your bowl to any degree you want here, and that’s the kind of power that keeps people lining up.

One of Little Tokyo’s many allures is the relative affordability of its dining options. Kagaya does not fall under that category. This is high-end Shabu Shabu and one of the best in the city. It's a DIY-style cooking set-up with raw platters of premium meats and seafood and a big hot pot of broth and sauces to dip it all in. Kagaya is small and refined, but if you’re looking for that go-big experience in Little Tokyo, Kagaya is where it’s at.

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 here daunting, but it’s worth it. Come sit at the bar, order that outrageously delicious Miso Carbonara udon, and watch in awe as they cut and roll every massive noodle by hand behind the glass.

Yes, there’s a dependable street taco stand in Little Tokyo. It’s at the very edge of the neighborhood, at the corner of Alameda and E. 4th Street, set up in a mostly empty parking lot. There’s not a lot here, other than a taco and burrito station and a spit for al pastor. But it’s open late (there are no official hours, but we’ve stopped by as late as 11pm) and there’s lots of room to stand around, either after a concert or before a night out. We prefer to supersize things and get the burrito filled with carnitas, paired with a giant cup of horchata or jamaica agua fresca.

Kaminari specializes in Utsunomiya-style gyoza, a pan-fried dumpling that uses a paper-thin wrapper. In Japan, Utsunomiya is a town apparently known for gyoza stuffed 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. Gyoza can be ordered either pan-fried, deep-fried, or boiled, and filled with chicken, pork, shrimp, or vegetables. Order as a six-piece set or add them to that chaotically good bento combo above, either for a quick lunch or secret snack away from the office.

If the crew’s rolling deep and no one can decide what they feel like, Honda-Ya Izakaya is the answer to all your problems. This Japanese pub (on the second floor of a shopping mall) has a menu with everything from yellowtail sashimi to miso udon to vegetable tempura, and it’s all pretty delicious. And with the large group tables, excellent party vibes, and the never-ending bottles of Kirin, good luck getting the group to ever leave.

In need of 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 fun little housemade pickles, too: Napa cabbage with carrots, shiso-flavored daikon, and burnt-orange mountain burdock root. Hand rolls here aren’t bad but will get soggy if ordering for takeout. Eat ‘em fresh.

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