Love Japanese food?
Then you likely love Japanese restaurants as well.
But what kind of of restaurants are there? Well, in this guide → you’ll learn the 15+ types of Japanese restaurants that you’ll find in Japan… and outside of Japan.
What’s an izakaya?
Izakayas are Japanese bars where people gather after work or on weekends to unwind, relax, and drink. It features small dishes that pair well with alcohol. The extensive menu can include fried, skewered, pickled, grilled, and raw dishes. These dishes are meant to be shared and are perfect for socializing over drinks. You’ll also find that some of these restaurants have all-you-can-drink options and they can function as a place to throw parties.
Next on the list of types of Japanese restaurants…
2. Sushi Bars
These are sushi restaurants dedicated to serving high-quality sushi. It is typically limited seating with only one or two chefs working. When you sit at a sushi bar, you can see the sushi-making process come together right in front of you. Becoming a sushi chef is a long process with strict training. The chefs allowed to handle, cut, and serve fish are masters of their craft. Higher-end sushi bars will have an “omakase” menu. This means that you leave your meal up to the chef.
3. Ramen Shops
This is one of the most common types of Japanese restaurants… and so, there are many ramen shops all over Japan.
Ramen is considered one of Japan’s comfort foods, after all. Each region and shop will have its unique style and twist with different types of broths, noodle thicknesses, and toppings. The variety of ramen is endless. You could find a pork bone broth or tonkotsu in one shop, and a soy sauce-based broth in another. Most ramen shops also allow you to customize your toppings and noodle texture by request.
4. Soba and Udon Restaurants
Making soba and udon from scratch requires years of practice as it is tricky to form the dough and cut the noodles.
At soba and udon restaurants, you will find either buckwheat noodles, known as soba, or wheat noodles, known as udon. The restaurant will let you choose if you want it served cold with a dipping sauce or warm with a fish soy sauce broth. Depending on the restaurant they will also have additional toppings and options for your udon or soba.
5. Kaiseki Restaurants
Kaiseki is a type of Japanese cuisine with small and unique dishes.
Kaiseki restaurants are where you can find the most refined Japanese cuisine. They emphasize presentation, seasonality, and variety of flavors in their dishes. It typically comes in multi-course meals that use the finest ingredients in small portions. You will be impressed if you get a chance to visit a kaiseki restaurant on both the visuals and flavors that the master chefs can prepare.
6. Tempura Restaurants
Tempura is a dish that requires a high level of training to cook. Various ingredients like vegetables and fish are lightly coated in a batter and deep fried. Since the batter is such a thin layer, it provides a crisp yet delicate crunch that keeps you wanting more. Unlike other heavy deep-fried foods, tempura doesn’t feel as oily after eating. Tempura is either served with salt or with a dip of soy sauce fish broth.
7. Yakitori Stands
Yakitori is just grilled chicken skewers.
So, these are just skewer restaurants that specialize in skewered grilled chicken. The grill is usually directly in front of customers who have bar counter seating. Yakitori restaurants will use almost all parts of the chicken so that you can taste each part separately. Each part is cut, flavored, and grilled to enhance that specific part of the chicken. The atmosphere of these restaurants is often lively and the skewers are meant to be accompanied by alcoholic drinks
By the way, yakitori is one of the most common Japanese street foods… which you can also get at a stall.
8. Okonomiyaki Restaurants
Okonomiyaki is a type of savory Japanese pancake that’s filled with cabbage, meat, or seafood. “Okonomi” means “as you like” and customers are expected to choose which ingredients they want inside of them. They are then cooked in front of customers and served directly on the grill. The pancakes are topped with an okonomiyaki sauce and thinly sliced dried bonito fish.
9. Nabe Restaurants
Nabe means “hot pot” in Japanese and these restaurants usually feature a pot in the middle of the table where the customers cook themselves. They either serve sukiyaki, which is a sweet soy sauce-based sauce, or shabu-shabu, featuring a lighter broth. If you decide to order shabu-shabu you can dip meats in veggies to cook inside the pot. The menu features various vegetables, meats, and noodles and you can even create your dipping sauce.
Now, you may know of this next place on my list of types of Japanese restaurants…
Kaitenzushi is also known as a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.
Kaitenzushi is a cheaper alternative to a traditional sushi bar. The sushi is on a rotating conveyor belt that goes to each table. You can choose to take the sushi that you want when it comes to you. Each plate is color-coded so you know how much it costs.
11. Teishoku Restaurants
These are the perfect restaurants for lunchtime as they serve various traditional set meals. It usually features a main dish with rice, miso soup, and pickles. Teishoku restaurants are also affordable so that you can dine healthily on a budget. These restaurants truly showcase the healthy and well-balanced nature of Japanese cuisine.
12. Yoshoku Restaurants
In Japanese, youshoku means Western food and Japan has developed its version of Western-style food. Typical dishes at these restaurants can include mentaiko (spicy pollack roe) pasta, omurice (omelet with rice), or Japanese-style curry rice.
13. Tonkatsu Restaurants
Tonkatsu is a Japanese dish that features a breaded and fried pork cutlet. It has become a very important Japanese dish that is loved by all ages! When you go to a tonkatsu restaurant they will usually have special bread crumbs that they crumble themselves. The restaurants can also be particular about the type of pork that they use. Tonkatsu is not to be missed if you want to try a Japanese comfort food.
14. Family Restaurants
This is a type of restaurant that you’ll see all over Japan that features a versatile and extensive menu. You can find everything from rice dishes to Western-style pasta. The concept of the restaurant is that it has food for all tastes and can be easily visited by families. There is usually a drink bar where you can get unlimited sodas and teas. It’s a great place to come with friends and family.
Just keep in mind that you wouldn’t want to take a date here. Family restaurants aren’t very high on the totem pole of Japanese cuisine.
15. Gyudon Restaurants
Gyudon is a popular Japanese dish that includes thinly sliced beef simmered in a sweet soy sauce with onions. It is put on top of rice and served in large bowls. Gyudon restaurants usually serve this dish with a variety of options from sizes to toppings. You can choose to top it with egg, cheese, kimchi, and more! It is a quick but satisfying meal that you’ll want to try when you are in Japan.
Some popular gyudon places are Yoshinoya and Matsuya.
Don’t Read This Last Part
Now you know the top types of Japanese restaurants.
Which ones are your favorites?
Have you been to any?
Leave a comment!
– Team IJ