Japanese-People Approved Best Japanese Restaurants in Chicago

Not being close to the ocean or to Japan for that matter didn’t stop Chicago from hosting an increasing number of Japanese restaurants. Whether you crave fresh raw fish, authentic made from scratch ramen, or small izakaya dishes, you are in luck. There is quite a variety of great Japanese restaurants in Chi-Town.

1. Kai Zan


When Melvin & Carlo Vizconde were working at various sushi restaurants in the Chicago area, they both had regulars often asking them to make “something special.” So expect something special at Kai Zan, the twin brothers’ first restaurant of their own. For example, one of their popular dishes, scallops wrapped in salmon, is lightly seared with a citrus glaze and when you bite into it, the contrast between fatty salmon and lean scallop makes perfect sense. Also, there’s a Do-It-Yourself uni and toro hand roll, which comes with a quail egg yolk, as if the uni and toro were not rich enough already. On top of that, there’s no set menu for the omakase ($50), but it depends on what you are in the mood for. In the same omakase budget range, it usually comes with what’s available on that day, and sometimes the sushi chef won’t even ask you what you like.


Photo Credit: http://www.eatatkaizan.com/

What to order:

If you are not ordering omakase, make sure to order their creative dishes. A local favorite is escolar pearls, which is spicy seared escolar with soy and truffle oil soaked scallions. Want something authentic? How about grilled fish collar of the day served with ponzu sauce.

Restaurant Info of Kai Zan:

Navigation: 2557 W Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60622
Ring: 773-278-5776
Surf: www.eatatkaizan.com


2. Juno

The beautiful interior and the equally beautiful presentation of sushi by Chef BK Park are the obvious reasons that Juno is always on Chicago’s best sushi list. However, just like that pretty girl you have crush on happens to be also kind, smart and funny, you’ll pleasantly discover that Juno’s food is also amazing from their appetizers to the omakase menu. The Omakase requires a 24 hour advance reservation, but you are in for a treat. Every piece of sushi is a piece of art, that is seasoned with magic. Botan ebi (shrimp) is quickly seared and topped with a marinated brunoise vegetable. Rolls are also unique at Juno. There are not too many places that offer a roll with spicy tuna that includes chopped taco inside as well.


Photo Credit: http://junosushichicago.com

What to order:

Omakase is definitely one of a kind at Juno, but it comes with a hefty price tag of $150. A great alternative is the $50 sashimi omakase, which comes with plenty of fresh fish, and is shareable. Not into raw fish? Their chicken wings are confit-ed and seasoned with a pepper marmalade, kohlrabi and togarashi. Translation: Chicken wings are slowly cooked in its own oil at a low temperature to achieve a melt in your mouth tenderness, and the Japanese togarashi pepper gives a great heat, dressed with heirloom vegetables. The best part: it’s boneless!

Restaurant Info of Juno:

Navigation: 2638 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60614
Ring: 773-935-2000
Surf: http://junosushichicago.com


3. Naoki



Photo Credit: http://naoki-sushi.com

Within a year of opening, Naoki has already received numerous accolades. Naoki’s name has appeared on the ‘best’ lists of Chicago Zagat, Chicago Magazine, Infatuation and Thrillist to name a few. Chef Naoki Nakashima, a native of Fukuoka, Japan, consulted and revamped sushi menus around the world prior to opening his namesake restaurant in 2016. Everyone agrees that Naoki style sashimi is a great way to start the meal. The Chef picks the best seafood of the day, whether it be salmon, scallops or albacore, and seasons it with yuzu dashi, serrano and shiso oil.


Photo Credit: http://naoki-sushi.com

What to order:

If you are looking for traditional, authentic sushi, order from the classic selections. Each fish is of supreme quality and will be masterfully prepared. Specialty pieces lean towards fusion, to showcase Chef Naoki’s worldly experience.

Restaurant Info of Naoki:

Navigation: 2300 N Lincoln Park W, Chicago, IL 60614
Ring: 773-868-0002
Surf: http://naoki-sushi.com


4. Sushi Dokku



Photo Credit: http://sushidokku.com

The Michelin Bib Gourmand title is given to restaurants serving superior food at a moderate price, and Sushi Dokku was awarded this honor more than once. Sushi Dokku’s menu is big, from standard appetizers like agedashi tofu to ramen noodles, to variety of fresh sushi. One of the main attractions here is the chef’s special nigiri sushi. For example, fresh salmon comes with sweet ginger soy and fried ginger to balance out its fattiness. Tuna is quickly seared and seasoned with a truffle sauce and crowned with avocado. When you finish the meal, go downstairs and check out their bar.


Photo Credit: http://sushidokku.com

What to order:

The Chef’s creative nigiri and rolls are pleasing to the eyes as well as to the palate.

Restaurant Info of Sushi Dokku:

Navigation: 823 W Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60607
Ring: 312-455-8238
Surf: http://sushidokku.com


5. Sumi Robata Bar



Photo Credit: http://www.sumirobatabar.com

Sumi Robata Bar is as authentic as a charcoal grill restaurant can get in Chicago. Chef Gene Kato dedicates himself to elevate the Japanese culinary scene to the next level, introducing more than just sushi to Chicagoans. Therefore, there’s no sushi on the menu; second, it’s all about the charcoal, or “sumi” in Japanese. Charcoal cooking has been utilized in Japan for ages. Some studies even indicate that the Japanese have been using charcoal for over 2000 years. At Sumi, the charcoal is used to cook meats, fish and vegetables, because the high temperature of charcoal shortens the cooking time, which results in the ingredients retaining their original flavor.


Photo Credit: http://www.sumirobatabar.com

What to order:

Try the robata dishes. Asparagus and shiitake are great choices for vegetables; shrimp, scallop, skirt with sansho pepper, tontoro (pork jowl with black pepper) are safe, but delicious choices as well. For your second visit, venture out of your comfort zone a bit, and try gyutan (beef tongue), chicken heart, and make sure to find out what a chicken oyster is!

Restaurant Info of Sumi Robata Bar:

Navigation: 702 N Wells St., Chicago, IL 60654
Ring: 312-988-7864
Surf: www.sumirobatabar.com


6. Wasabi



Photo Credit: http://www.wasabichicago.com

Japanese restaurants in Chicago, Wasabi attracts not only the Japanese, but anyone in search of authentic Japanese comfort food. Their ramen is made from scratch using heritage berkshire pork from Iowa for their broth and for their juicy tender chashu. Known also as Kurobuta, Berkshire pork is as highly regarded in the pork world, as Kobe beef is for beef, thanks to its beautiful marbling and flavor. For sushi, you can go with the traditional or some more creative rolls, which are fun. The “Meat Lover” literally comes with bbq beef, and “Le Japon” is a shrimp tempura roll with smoked salmon, eel, salmon roe and ginger mayo.


Photo Credit: http://www.wasabichicago.com

What to order:

Their tonkotsu ramen is one of the best in Chicago, and their house made dumplings will go well with it.

Restaurant Info of Wasabi:

Navigation: 2115 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60647
Ring: 773-227-8180
Surf: www.wasabichicago.com


7. Momotaro



Photo Credit: http://www.momotarochicago.com

One step into this chic restaurant and you are transported to a contemporary izakaya in Tokyo. The open kitchen in the middle is lively and sends out delicious sushi and grilled robata dishes. Momotaro in Chicago serves a beautiful modern Japanese menu that perfectly matches the interior. Start your meal with Momotaro tartar, which is not beef but made with Japanese sweet tomato. Then order some grilled wagyu beef from the robata bar, or raw beef wrapped uni. If you are looking for something straight out of a sushi text book, you’ll have a hard time finding it here, because every nigiri sushi is dressed with a twist. For example, negitoro, a simple toro and scallion sushi comes with akami and julienned wasabi.


Photo Credit: http://www.momotarochicago.com

What to order:

Uni chorizo toast with pickled celery was selected as one of the best dishes of 2016 by Chicago Magazine. Sizzling scallop onigiri comes dressed with chili mentaiko, katsuobushi and liquid shio koji. They limit this dish to 6 servings per night.

Restaurant Info of Momotaro:

Navigation: 820 W Lake St., Chicago, IL 60607
Ring: 312-733-4818
Surf: www.momotarochicago.com


8. Umai



Photo Credit: http://www.umaichicago.com

Umai means “delicious” in Japanese. Chicagoans think Umai is so delicious, that within a few years, a second location opened. At both locations, the menu is large, from sushi and creative sushi rolls to beef tongue grilled over charcoal and of course, the foods of the hour, ramen and poke. If you are looking for something quick and filling, Katsu Kare, pork cutlets or shrimp tempura on Japanese curry over rice is a favorite Japanese college kids and businessmen. Their omakase is very reasonable starting $25 for 10 pieces. No matter what you choose, there’s no doubt that you’ll utter “umai” when you taste their food!


Photo Credit: http://www.umaichicago.com

What to order:

Assorted sashimi and the robata grill is a great way to start the party. Also, asari butter, manilla clams sautéed with garlic and butter will go perfectly with beer.

Restaurant Info of Umai:

Navigation: 730 S Clark St., Chicago, IL 60605
Ring: 312-986-8888

Navigation: 1217 W Fullerton Ave., Chicago, IL 60614
Ring: 773-248-8886

Surf: www.umaichicago.com


9. Arami



Photo Credit: http://www.aramichicago.com

Arami is the rare Japanese restaurant that offers a wide ranging menu, yet somehow, expertly maintains the quality of their food. There are sushi, ramen and even robata (charcoal) grilled items on the menu to choose from. Thanks to having two executive chefs, Arami is able to focus both sushi and hot food from the kitchen. Their sushi is prepared in the traditional style for the most part, but you’ll taste the chefs’ creativity in the small details like the sweet potato in the salmon hotate sashimi, or that hint of lime in the yellowtail, salmon and tuna roll.

What to order:

Start with the toro tartar bite, which was selected as one of best bites in Chicago by Michigan Avenue Magazine. Here, you’ll find minced fatty bluefin tuna, asian pear, chive, caviar, house special soy sauce, all in one bite. Arami is also vegetarian and vegan friendly. There is an array of vegetable sushi and maki, which are delicious, no matter what label you put on yourself.

Restaurant Info of Arami:

Navigation: 1829 W Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60622
Ring: 312-243-1535
Surf: www.aramichicago.com


10. Yusho



Photo Credit: http://yusho-chicago.com/

Husband and Wife team, Matthias Merges and Rachel Crowl created this fun Tokyo-meets-Chicago Japanese restaurant. Merges worked as the executive chef to Charlie Trotter for over a decade and created Yusho as his new creative outlet. He combined the Japanese method of cooking, a fun izakaya style menu and the big bold Chicago flavor. Crowl, along with Julie Fisher of fcStudio is the mastermind behind the fun design of Yusho. Some say it is not authentic Japanese, but the result is delicious, nonetheless. Their sister restaurant, Yusho Hyde Park specializes in ramen, buns and drinks.


Photo Credit: http://yusho-chicago.com/

What to order:

Hamachi kama (collar) is perfectly grilled and served on Japanese newspaper. Sunday Noodles on Sundays comes with your choice of a ramen, a dessert and a beverage.

Restaurant Info of Yusho:

Navigation: 2853 N Kedzie Ave., Chicago, IL 60618
Ring: 773-904-8558
Surf: http://yusho-chicago.com/

*All prices, numbers and menu descriptions mentioned in the article are from the time of this article’s publishing. So keep in mind, they may have changed since then.

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