The Best Restaurants In Japantown

Where to get sushi, ramen, matcha ice cream, and more.
Someone blowtorching the cheese on top of the kalbijjim at Daeho

photo credit: Melissa Zink

Japantown is only made up of a few blocks, but it's packed with so much to do and eat that it would take multiple days and a detailed spreadsheet to check out all of its stores, cafes, and restaurants. So the next time you find yourself spending an afternoon wandering the aisles at Daiso or shopping for shiba inu tea cups, use this guide when you get hungry. From an omakase counter tucked at the end of a Japan Center hallway to a lively Korean spot with cheesy kalbijjim, here’s where to go.


photo credit: Carly Hackbarth



$$$$Perfect For:BirthdaysDate NightSpecial Occasions
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When you want to get flirty with a date over the best tasting menu in the neighborhood, beeline to 7 Adams. It’s a casual fine-dining restaurant, right on the border between Japantown and the Fillmore, serving five impressive yet non-stuffy courses for $87 per person. Hyper-seasonal dishes are the main event, like torch-kissed scallops, tagliatelle in silky lamb ragu, and pork collar so tender you could pull off a piece with just your pinky finger. Save this place for nicer-than-average romantic dinners, or any time you want to drink wine and feel sophisticated in a swanky space. 

photo credit: Julia Chen

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerDining SoloLunch

The Japanese restaurant on the second floor of the Japan Center East Mall has something for everyone, whether you’re dropping in for lunch or a date night reservation you made a week ago. Get the 14-course omakase if you’re through making decisions today, the chef’s choice sashimi that arrives in an adorable wooden box, or the mini donburi topped with uni and ikura. The energy of this place is casual, but everything on the menu matches the quality of fancier omakase and sushi spots across the city, which is why you'll return for weeknight hangs and day-off lunches.

The kalbijjim croissant from this Japan Center Mall bakery is filled with umami-packed short rib from nearby Daeho, topped with mozzarella, and torched until charred. It’s savory-sweet perfection, and there’s nothing else like it in the city. This place also does other flawless Korean- and Japanese-inspired pastries, like the squishy butter mochi that has just the right touch of vanilla, seasonal kouign amann with sugary, golden-brown shells, and injeolmi croissants covered in stretchy rice cake. Grab one of each to go. 

Dinner at Nari always includes fancy Thai dishes that are heavy on spice, and so good you won’t mind your nose running all night. The squid and pork jowl appetizer is an explosion of sticky-sweet umami. Cubes of fried branzino are dotted with chilis that build lingering heat. And pandan and Thai tea-infused cocktails are there for you when you need to cool off. For an all-out splurge, the $125 tasting menu is a non-stop parade of the menu’s greatest hits. The fact that this place looks like a lush, monstera lover's dream is simply an added bonus. Save this spot, located inside the Hotel Kabuki, for special nights when you want to bust out something chic from your closet.   

photo credit: Haley Heramb

$$$$Perfect For:Dining SoloDate Night

Oma SF Station is located at the end of a stark hallway inside the Japan Center, and its casual location is part of the appeal. Throughout the night at this omakase spot, you’ll hear ambient mall chatter while making small talk with the chefs across the bar. The approachable energy extends to the food. There are three omakase options ($95, $125, and $165), each with an increasing number of courses—so you can choose how much you want to spend on nigiri and small plates, like miso black cod or unagi with tamago. Whatever route you go, expect the high-quality fish to keep you coming back. 

The coffee crunch cake from Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop is San Francisco dessert royalty. Each slice of light, airy cake is topped with honeycomb-like candy that adds the iconic sticky, crunchy texture. It’s one of the fantastic baked goods coming out of this tiny spot—another is the assortment of roll cakes filled with lemon or strawberry cream. Pay attention to those, because the sponge cake is some of the fluffiest in town. This bakery operates out of Super Mira Market, and is cash only, so come prepared.

The SF-based chain (with eight more locations across the country) nails their Hakata-style ramen. So it’s not hard to see why this casual spot attracts hordes of noodle soup enthusiasts nightly. The rich, creamy broth hits you like the intensely porky flavor bomb it is. The thin noodles are bouncy perfection every time, and the chashu pork belly almost dissolves in your mouth, it's so tender. We’ll come up with any excuse to get here with friends who don’t mind waiting an hour in line to get this flawless ramen. 

Once-in-a-lifetime omakase may require you to throw down the equivalent of three round-trip, cross-country plane tickets. Not the case at An Japanese Restaurant. This high-end sushi spot located in a secluded corner of the Japan Center offers various set menus ranging between $125-$135 per person, and includes a wonderful mix of exceptional raw fish, mushroom chawanmushi, miso soup, and flaky miso marinated black cod. Everything—like the a la carte sushi rolls and nigiri (there is a $100-per-person minimum)—is light and simple, allowing the fish flavors to shine. The place is about the size of two elevators, so you can sit at the six-seat counter in relaxed silence, or enjoy easy-going conversation with the chef about how deep black bass can swim. Either way, make a reservation via text message to eat here.

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight Dinner

You go to On The Bridge for comforting specials that mix Japanese flavors with Western influences. Think big plates of curry rice and shrimp roe spaghetti, omu-rice, pizzas, and Japanese-style hamburgers. Eccentricity also abounds at this cafe-style Japan Center restaurant that’s been a neighborhood staple for several decades. Sit at the long wooden bar surrounded by plushies, sherbet-colored chairs, and bookshelves filled with every manga imaginable. Of course, unwinding with something from the encyclopedia-long beer and sake menu isn’t a bad idea either. Basically, land here to end good days, hide from the fact that Mercury is in retrograde, or anytime you don't feel like waiting in line at nearby Marufuku. 

Walk anywhere within a two-block radius of the Japan Center and you’re bound to see at least five people with matcha soft serve in their hands. That’s because the sweet treats coming out of Matcha Cafe Maiko are delicious, especially the soft serve that's so thick you could hold a cup of it upside down and it wouldn’t fall out. Whenever we’re at this counter-service dessert spot inside of the mall, we go for the sundae drizzled with housemade kuromitsu syrup and topped with boba. The matcha drinks, shaved ice, and frappes are worth your attention, too. 

For a bowl of noodles that won’t put you to sleep right after, head to Hinodeya. The casual ramen spot specializes in dashi-based soups that are light yet packed with flavor. Our go-to is the garlicky version loaded with clams, but you can’t go wrong with the spicy chili oil one with chashu, or the vegan ramen topped with inari, kale, and acorn squash. Whatever the order, your bowl will be sparkling clean in 10 minutes flat. This walk-in-only spot usually has a line, so take a few laps around Peace Plaza while you wait.

When the large hot stone bowl of kalbijjim arrives, your server will take approximately 53 seconds to erratically blowtorch the shredded cheese on top until it resembles a gooey mound of fire-roasted marshmallow. The bubbling braised beef dish that's achieved nano-influencer levels of power (and social media notoriety) is also worth the hype. There are, of course, other reasons to head to the beef-centric Korean restaurant on Post Street—excellent kalbitang with chunks of tender beef, lots of soju, and a buzzy atmosphere that's perfect for groups await, after you've braved the inevitable line.

photo credit: Taisuke Yamamoto for Mochill Mochi Donut

One way to instantly feel good is to walk up to Mochill Mochidonut. At the Japantown mall kiosk, ring-shaped mochi donuts that come in an assortment of fun colors and glazes are the name of the game. Rich dark chocolate, matcha oreo, black sesame, and even one with puffy Fruity Pebbles on top will beckon you from behind the small glass case. But aside from looking like something we want to dedicate an entire scrapbook to, these donuts are incredible. They’re super chewy and taste about as close to literal sunshine as you can get.

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