The Best Japanese Restaurants In Seattle

You'll find kaiseki tasting menus, sashimi, kushiyaki, highballs, and more at Seattle's best Japanese restaurants.
The Best Japanese Restaurants In Seattle image

photo credit: Nate Watters

Great Japanese restaurants in Seattle are as abundant as tomatoes in August, or soft rock one-hit wonders at the dentist’s office. You simply can’t escape them. But unlike “Drops Of Jupiter” by Train, these spots are worthy of enjoying on repeat. On this list, you'll find sushi staples that have been around for decades, sake bars that serve stellar snacks, and everything in between. There’s excellent raw fish, noodles, dumplings, and kaiseki tasting menus for everyone. 

Searching for the best sushi in town? We have a guide for that. Looking for ramen specifically? We have a guide for that, too. Gyoza? Absolutely.


photo credit: Chona Kasinger



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As Seattleites, one of our most cherished tourist activities is watching burly fishermen toss around their fresh catches. And while there are plenty of crab cakes and deep-fried halibut to try around town, our highest nautical achievements can be found at Sushi Kashiba. A night at this institution, run by Shiro Kashiba who was trained by Jiro Ono (yeah, that Jiro) is perfect and worth the price, whether you’re at a table or you showed up before they open to secure seats at the bar. It’s all a blur of sake, soy-brushed tuna, silky uni, fried prawn heads, seared flounder fin, Norwegian smoked mackerel, and a sweet egg finale that deserves its own extended tribute on our NPR affiliate. (Quick, someone send this to Bill Radke.)

You don’t have to be loud or boisterous to be a big deal—just ask a baby bat, Jake from State Farm, or Kamonegi. A meal inside this quiet soba-focused Japanese restaurant in Fremont can be reserved for a massively special night out that’s disguised as a tame one. There’s a relaxed mood in the dining room that’s most appropriate for knocking things back like fresh sea urchin and marinated ikura on a delicately battered shiso leaf, chewy buckwheat noodles in potent curry broth, and spicy habanero-infused plum sake. The fried kabocha “wings” tossed in sticky duck demi-glace and toasty sesame seeds alone are worth putting Kamonegi on this guide.

This tiny sake bar in Fremont serves excellent drinking snacks—we wouldn't expect less from the same team behind Kamonegi next door. Hannyatou features quite the lineup of rice wine flights, as well as extremely knowledgeable servers who can help you brush up on your sake smarts. We can’t say enough about the ever-changing bar food, though, like tangy kasu-marinated sharp cheddar, katsu sandwiches, or hot dogs covered in soy-braised beef. Stop in before or after dinner at Kamonegi, but don’t be surprised if you fill up on Muddy Buddies-style Chex cereal tossed in white chocolate, tahini, and matcha. And if they have it available, do not pass up (we repeat, do not pass up) a shot of spicy-sweet habanero umeshu.

At Taneda Sushi In Kaiseki, an omakase restaurant with only nine chairs, you’re often left with no choice but to book a seat for one—if you can even find a reservation to begin with. Conveniently, it’s actually better that way. Because when you’re shooting the breeze with a chef who becomes your confidante after tossing you 25 courses of quality fish, it never feels lonely. While the $195 menu changes every month, you can expect amazing bites like otoro hand rolls with pickled daikon, torched A5 miyazaki wagyu nigiri topped with caviar, sweet shrimp wrapped around custardy uni, and grilled eel placed directly into your open hand like a love note. This is the best kaiseki experience in the city, and much like running a marathon or traveling the world, you can enjoy it all by yourself.

Maneki has been around since 1904, making it older than the pogo stick, the Model-T, and any other Japanese spot in Seattle. Almost 12 decades later, this International District icon consistently serves some of the greatest Japanese food in the city, from multiple types of buttery salmon nigiri to excellent takoyaki, a.k.a. our favorite way to eat tentacles. The very best way to make the most of Maneki, however, is by reserving a private tatami room in the back. There’s this meditative zen that happens when it’s just you and some friends, sans shoes, interrupted only when someone periodically stops by to hand off raw fish and beer. This all-star lineup of sushi, appetizers like pan-seared gyoza and nanban, and hot dishes like yakiudon and miso black cod collar is best split among friends while sipping Sapporo in socks, just like a similar group might have done in the early 20th century.

photo credit: Nate Watters

This very special restaurant in the ID specializes in onigiri, and with ties to the late Tsunkshinbo, it’s not surprising that this place rules. The long list of fillings covers a lot of ground, like marinated egg, shrimp tempura with honey-laced mayo, and spicy cod roe. And sure, the rice parcels are so good that you could end up perfectly happy by flipping a coin to decide your order. But don’t leave it all to chance—the yaki onigiri is non-negotiable, whether grilled in sweet soy sauce until crackly and topped with a pat of melted butter or covered in torched cheese. Don't forget some textbook pan-seared gyoza, brothy salmon and roe ochazuke, and silky curry udon noodles.

photo credit: Nate Watters



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At Itsumono, you'll find a relaxed space that has everything from Iron Chef to New Girl playing on TV. You'll also find a short lineup of unlikely mash-ups like tonkatsu tikka masala, loco moco scotch eggs, cheesy dungeness crab arancini doria, and miso soup risotto. This gastropub is mukokuseki-themed, which translates literally to "without nationality," and makes sense why there's biang biang noodle bolognese and scallion pancake birria quesadillas on the same menu. Use this place for a first date alongside drinks and snacks, and if things go well, order more food. If things go extremely well, invite us to your wedding.

It would take a natural disaster, restraining order, or an NSYNC reunion tour to keep us away from Kobuta & Ookami. This spot is dedicated to different types of katsu, and it’s so good that you’ll want to line up before they open. That is, unless you’d like to wait for over an hour while scaring other diners by looking sad through the windows at them. The iberico pork cutlet is tender, with breading that stays crisp even after swimming in rich, dark chocolate-spiked curry. But our favorite dish is the mozzarella pork katsu, a.k.a. thin slices of cutlet wrapped around chunks of melty cheese, topped with tangy tomato miso and a flurry of parmesan. Lactose intolerant people, this is your Everest. Make Kobuta & Ookami a frontrunner for a first (or twelfth) date—just make sure you bring Lactaid.

For grilled, deep-fried, and skewered things, Issian should be your first choice. They serve excellent kushiyaki, from minced chicken or sizzling pork belly sticks, to fried snacks like gyoza and shumai, all of which go great with a pint of Sapporo. Or, suppose you wanted to stop in and exclusively eat sushi, you can do that too. Plus, vegetarians have a lot to like about Issian, too, with plenty of options involving tofu, eggplant, and natto. When the night calls for a tornado of tasty plates to hit the table on repeat (or alternatively, a massive hunk of broiled salmon belly), we can't think of much better in Wallingford for a group meal.

Tamari Bar is our favorite spot in town for sashimi. From salmon belly chirashi topped with miso sauce and ikura to perfectly sweet scallops, the fish here is so great on its own that we almost forget about the many other delicious things under their roof—looking at you, pork dumplings drizzled with nutty black garlic oil, soft serve with matcha syrup, and marinated wagyu that you have to cook yourself on a sizzling hot rock. It’s always high-energy here, so treat Tamari Bar like a partytime spot that conveniently also serves fantastic Japanese food.

On paper, none of the food at this $175 kaiseki restaurant seems particularly groundbreaking. A hot kettle full of broth steeped with raw mushrooms, a plate of boiled taro root, and a bowl of rice with shredded carrots all look like recipes from a dated diet cookbook. But Wa’z strips down ingredients to spotlight their simplicity in a way that you could never pull off in your own kitchen. Like a plain-looking single morsel of grilled chicken that’s somehow richer than red meat. Eating here is like pressing a reset button, and it’s pretty outstanding. And chances are, you’ll be thinking about some of the simplest things you had here—like gingko nuts and buckwheat tea—for days after the fact.

Umi Sake House is the original restaurant from the team behind Momiji, a Japanese spot we already like. And this restaurant is proof that the original's always better than the sequel (except in the case of Toy Story). The back dining room, which is where you’ll want to sit, feels like a bamboo garden crossed with a lounge, and it’s perfect for a date powered by salmon nigiri samplers and rolls filled with things like seared snow crab, spicy yellowtail, and jalapeño citrus truffle oil. Beyond all the sushi, Umi’s hits include seafood-stuffed gyoza with chili oil-spiked ponzu for dunking, or a phenomenal grilled mackerel collar. 

This Rainier Beach shop serves some of the best ready-to-eat takeout in the city, by way of panko-coated, deep-fried okazu pan. These savory stuffed pastries make for a $7-or-under lunch that’s just as quick as it is tasty. The dough succeeds on its own, with a crackle on the outside and donut-like airiness on the inside. But then it gets packed with fillings like beef curry, or smoked salmon in a potato cream sauce topped with furikake, which makes choosing a favorite as emotionally challenging as picking the cutest dog in a box full of newborn puppies. The limited specials are where Umami Kushi gets creative, though, and the experiments pay off. Those specials end up being our favorites, particularly the pan loaded with tangy crumbled pork and garlicky kimchi.

Not to be confused with Manna Deli Teriyaki on Aurora, Manna in Lake City is easily one of the best teriyaki restaurants in town for a few reasons. First, they’re quite skilled at getting char marks on every bite of chicken or marinated short rib. Second, they package their iceberg salad in a separate container, which prevents the lettuce from getting soggy from their sweet, thick, and sticky sesame dressing. Third, their eggrolls are gloriously crunchy bundles of ground pork and cabbage that taste particularly wonderful when dragged in the puddle of teriyaki sauce/salad dressing/sriracha that you made on your plate. From spicy thigh to katsu, you’re in good hands with Manna for a reliable takeout dinner at home.

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