I tend to try and avoid sweeping statements about an entire country’s cuisine, but is there a better culinary contribution for wide appeal than Japanese food? Perhaps it’s just our Irish interpretation, but there really does seem to be something for everyone and every craving. Looking for something light and fast? Sushi is what you want. Comforting and warming? Ramen, please. Eating vegetarian or vegan? Tofu and vegetables galore. Not to mention tempura anything. And then, of course, there’s the all-important umami focus, which quite simply makes every bite all the more satisfying. Hungry for some Japanese? Here’s a great selection of spots to get your fix.
The Ramen Bar, 51 South William Street, Dublin 2
Ramen reigns supreme at this handsome Japanese spot – all dark wood, paper lanterns and bamboo. They make luscious broth bases from scratch and fresh handmade noodles are piled in every bowl. The classic tonkotsu is a firm favourite, stuffed full of warming soup, tender pork chashu, nori and a seasoned egg, as are the aromatic garlic lovers’ ramen and the virtuous spicy salmon. They are a joy to slurp through and there is plenty of options for customisation on the menu. Tempting appetisers are worth squeezing in as sides or starters – niku-man burgers are steamed buns with pork and spicy sauce, and the pumpkin korokke and the sharing prawn cracker nachos are equally exciting.
Tokyo Kitchen, 42 Bow St, Smithfield, Dublin 7
Good sushi needs spankingly fresh fish and Tokyo Kitchen couldn’t be better located, setting up shop with seafood specialists and suppliers Kish Fish in Smithfield. The compact takeaway restaurant is only open 11 am – 4 pm, Tuesday to Sunday, but they are doing a roaring trade doling out superb sushi and hot wok dishes. Choose from classic nigiri and maki with tuna, salmon and rotating specials using ray, monkfish, sea bass and whatever takes their fancy from the shop. King prawn tempura and soft shell crab rolls are a must-try with perfect, soft sushi rice.
Musashi, various locations Dublin
These lively and casual noodle and sushi spots have a solid reputation for serving up the best and authentic sushi, sashimi and maki in the city. Sushi is served in a traditional manner and beautifully displayed, made fresh to order so there’s never a bit of cold rice (the cardinal sin of sushi). Order beyond sushi for tempting tempura and katsu and plenty of authentic Japanese favourites, like Tako Sunomono (a cucumber, seaweed and octopus salad). They do a solid ramen selection as well as perfect serves of bento. There’s a good selection of Japanese drinks – beers, sake and plum wines to tuck into.
Yamamori, various locations in Dublin
A familiar facade on Georges Street, Yamamori have been feeding hungry Dubliners with their take on Japanese dining since 1995. They’ve since branched out to three locations with the founding spot serving up tempura, sushi, Japanese grill and ramen. Across the street, you’ll find Yamamori Izakaya and Sake bar, serving great informal sushi, sake, cocktails and Japanese craft beers. Their Ormond Quay outpost does a bit of both and does it well. All venues do an extensive sushi menu, always made fresh, and their signature Japas menu serves Japanese favourites tapas-style, where you can mix and match tempura, wonton, chashu, yakatori and lots more. Late night fans should check out Tengu at Ormond Quay and downstairs at Izakaya.
Michie Sushi, Ranelagh, Dun Laoghaire, Sandyford
Since opening a hideaway restaurant down a lane in Ranelagh in 2007, Michie have received plenty of accolades for their fresh, skilful sushi. Now, even with plenty more competition around, they are still serving up consistent, fresh trays and plates of pretty Japanese fayre. The small but solid menu has some fantastic bright, elaborate rolls with options like soft shell crab and fire dragon with seven spice. The eel and avocado is always great, as is the chirashi with salmon, tuna, sea bass, octopus, prawn, eel, mackerel, flying fish roe, salmon roe and seaweed. There are comforting hot dish options including gyoza, katsu and karage. Along with their three branches in Ranelagh, Dun Laoghaire and Sandyford, they have also teamed up with Avoca and have two sushi bars; one in Avoca Rathcoole and one in Avoca Kilmacanogue.
KuRaudo, Townsend Street & Stoneybatter
KuRaudo on Townsend Street, and with a recently opened branch in Stoneybatter, is a charming, under-the-radar option for your Japanese fix. This intimate eatery does a mean trade in bento boxes at lunchtime, with rotating specials which may include duck teriyaki, pork gyoza, shrimp rolls, bulgogi beef and always with warming miso. Their freshly-made sushi and sashimi are served artfully on slates. There are plenty of options for seafood lovers and vegetarians. The menu goes on to cover the usual dishes we’ve come to expect, with lots of noodles, some good ramen and a few tasty rice dishes. Add a concise drinks menu and you’ve got a great all-rounder for a cosy fast-fix a little off the beaten track in town.
Ukiyo, 9 Exchequer St, Dublin 2
Perhaps better known as the place to head when you need to belt out a good tune (downstairs for karaoke) this Japanese/ Korean restaurant and bar also serves up quality East Asian food, so you can get your Bon Jovi on with a full stomach. By day, head here for an express sushi lunch and bento boxes. A more extensive menu is served in the restaurant in the evening, with plenty of sharing dishes and cocktails. This may not be the most authentic Japanese food in town, but with great drinks, group menus, karaoke and a busy dance floor, it continues to be a popular spot with good reason.
Zakura, Wexford Street and Baggot Street
Zakura is a relaxed Japanese eatery and part of the cluster of multicultural restaurants that make up the Camden and Wexford Street stretch. The restaurant quickly fills up with students – hungry hordes that flock for its affordability and generous BYOB policy. But it’s more than just a cheap and cheerful place to booze. In both outposts (Wexford Street and Baggot Street), they serve an extensive menu of á la carte sushi, serving meticulously turned out rolls. Their futomaki (large sushi rolls) prove popular, as does their steaming bowls of ramen. The menu covers several distinct styles of Japanese cuisine, including gyoza, tempura, yakitori, sushi and sashimi. The broad appeal, cosy Japanese interiors and friendly service makes Zakura a popular and busy option for tucking into some comforting, filling food.