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Best Japanese Restaurants in Sydney

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1. Yoshii

 

Sometimes, Japanese food is as much about its creator as it is about the final product. Yoshii Ryuichi, originally from Nagasaki, is once such case. Nestled in the rocks is this quaint restaurant where guests can indulge master Yoshii's exquisite sushi of a lunch or evening. Known around the fine dining traps as probably the sushi master, Yoshii's been in the biz for over 30 years and will undoubtedly wow you with his delicate creations. For sushi aficionados, we recommend you book ahead, nab the joint's prime seat at the sushi bar and go for a sashimi and sushi course ($125 per person). You'll be dished up an appetizer, six types of sashimi, special seasonal nigiri sushi, sushi roll, miso and dessert. Almost unchallengeable.

115 Harrington Street, The Rocks; 02 9247 2566; www.yoshii.com.au

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2. Toko Surry Hills

 

Our quintessential advice? Go early, because Toko Surry Hills doesn't take bookings. Once you're in, however, the wait will redeem itself as worth it; let the wonderland of Japanese culinary excellence unveil itself in front of you. Popular for its first rate sushi bar, robata grill and considered wine list, Toko's the ticket to a colloquial experience of Japan's intricate cusine. Our picks include the swordfish tataki, yuzu, ginger with dried miso ($17.20), the robata grilled scallop, mentaiko butter with yuzu scallop relish ($21.90) and the duck breast, sansho pepper with pickled nashi pear (28.80). A little wallet heavy, yes, but completely justified.

490 Crown Street, Surry Hills; 02 9357 6100; www.toko.com.au

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3. Ume

 

Bourke Street's newish Japanese offering serves up mod Japanese that is both sculptural and approachable. What diners should enjoy most is a lesson in the striking aesthetics of the cuisine. Head chef, Kerby Craig, makes Cone Bay barramundi ($34) in shiro dashi butter, with Jerusalem artichokes, crisp wakame, topped with soy and yuza dressing and sea flora a flavour bomb sensation and a visual beauty. Our seafood pick would be the seared salmon carpaccio ($16). And keep your eye on Ume in the summer time. We hear the narrow backspace is tipped to become the hot seat. Japanese under the stars, anyone? Yes please.

478 Bourke Street, Surry Hills; 02 9380 7333; www.umerestaurant.com.au

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4. Tetsuya's

 

We've all heard of him, we've all heard of his restaurant, but very few of us may have had the luxury of dining at his Japanese dining fort. We'll admit it, Tetsuya's it not for everyone, and its probably better left celebratory occasions on the count of what it'll set you back, but the place is undeniably one of Sydney's best. His ten course degustation will cost you $210 and offer you insights into natural seasonal flavours executed by classic French techniques. Tetsuya's signature dish, a confit of Petuna ocean trout served with konbu, celery and apple is one to keep an eye out for.

529 Kent Street, Sydney; 02 9267 2900; www.tetsuyas.com

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5. Izakaya Fujiyama

 

New York meets downtown Sydney, this is Izakaya Fujiyama. All the usual suspects appear on the menu here – sushi, nigiri and sashimi – and they’re done exceptionally well. But the real highlights are to be found on their tapas menu. The Kingfish Nuta with fried tortilla chips makes for an ideal precursor to Kenji’s Fried Chicken, best enjoyed with a generous dollop of wasabi mayo. Izakaya is one of Concrete's cult favourites.

Shop G09, 38-52 Waterloo Street Surry Hills; 02 9698 2797; www.izakayafujiyama.com

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6. Kaya

 

Welcome to Oxford Street's latest Japanese palace offering both restaurant and chic standalone bar. Head chef Stephen Lim packs a seriously tasty punch with 25 years of cooking experience, six of the most recent spent in Osaka honing his skills before hitting Aussie shores. The menu itself is cheap in the right places and expensive where it counts, focusing on yakitori and grilling over a binchotan-fuelled Robata. Japanese food lovers: eat your heart out. Spiced edamame ($5) accompanied by renkon chips (deep fried lotus root) with wasabi mayonnaise ($8) make for fine nibbling, as does the crunchy and sweet seaweed and blue swimmer grab salad with candied walnut ($9).

96 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst; 02 8354 0057; www.kayasydney.com

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7. Niji

 

There is an abundance of Asian eateries in Kingsford, but Niji Sushi Bar stands out, for all the right reasons. First of all, it looks good, is located on a corner and fully glazed. And secondly, there's plenty of room in this place to make an occasion out of your visit. And students rejoice, there's a sushi-train style bar wrapping around the open kitchen. Try the kingfish carpaccio ($11) and mango Taru Taru ($10.50). Best for value is the Sashimi 21 ($29.80), three piece of tuna, salmon, kingfish, snapper, scallops, cuttlefish and fish of the day.

333 Anzac Parade, Kingsford; 02 8068 4849; www.nijisushi.com.au

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8. Waqu

 

Crows Nest's diamond in the rough, Waqu is all about the fusing contemporary Japanese with Western accents. The six course summer menu ($68) is verging on cheap considering the offerings. Jerusalem artichoke soup, crystal bay prawns, cured salmon, barramundi, full-blood wagyu and a ginger lemon tart will have you drunk on the delicacy of Waqu's food. A modest room with a mature air, this place is just as we'd hope. Sophisticated, educated and in the know about how to put on a show.

308 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest; 02 9906 7736; www.waqu.com.au

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9. Sokyo

 

Elegance is something that's impossible to achieve if someone doesn't own it. It's not something than can be purchased, it just is. Hard in a casino. Yet Sokyo do elegance extraordinarily well. The menu is divided between sashimi, tempura, robata, mains, soups, nigiri and sushi. The wagyu tenderloin with pumpkin, wasabi butter and shio konbu jus ($48) snaps together and the Moreton Bay Bug tempura with goma ponzu with cauliflower puree, king brown mushrooms is definitely a goer. Sydney can do stylish well, but substance is harder won. Sokyo does both.

The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont; 02 9777 9000; www.star.com.au/sokyo

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10. Sake

 

Sushi has become so commonplace, it's usual to see it revolving around kitchen staff on colour-coded dishes on a conveyor belt or packaged in Woolies trays for the lunchtime business rush. There's not a lot of genuinely great sushi chefs in Sydney, but we've found a venue home to a few: Sake in The Rocks. Sake has an extensive menu that's printed on fold-out paper, perhaps a vague nod to the art of origami, but it's more akin to opening up a Tokyo train network map. Appropriate, as there are many potential trips through Japanese cuisine to take, from delicate silver cod lettuce cups ($20 for four) to steamed dumplings ($17), either Chinese-inspired prawn shumai with spicy ponzu or wagyu beef with ginger and chives. Enough said.

12 Argyle Street, The Rocks; 02 9259 5656; www.sakerestaurant.com.au

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