For many, the only images that come to mind when they picture Japanese food are sushi and ramen, and Seattle has its fair share of both. This map, on the other hand, is a resource for the best of the rest, including non-ramen noodle spots making udon or soba from scratch, izakayas, Japanese bakeries and sweet shops, and other restaurants shining a light on various fantastic facets of Japanese fare.Read More
Top Japanese Restaurants in Seattle That Go Beyond Sushi and Ramen
Where to expand your culinary horizons with kaiseki, chirashi, and katsu
Diners should pay special attention if they want to sample the Japanese confections known as wagashi from Phinney Ridge’s tiny Tokara. Due to limited supply, the safest move is to call ahead to order and arrange a time to collect desired treats such as sakuramochi, made with pink mochi, filled with red bean paste, and wrapped in a salted, pickled cherry leaf — typically available during cherry blossom season. In Kyoto fashion, diners should enjoy them with tea.
Yes, patrons can get savory selections like Japanese curry, udon, and sushi here, but the bigger and better draw are the desserts from Setsuko Pastry. They’re sweet, but not too sweet. Favorites include green tea roll cake (sponge cake wrapped around azuki bean paste and fresh cream), strawberry shortcake, purple sweet potato cheesecake, and mochi brownies.
Diners at this U District hot spot grab a tray and slide along the line, cafeteria-style, to place a noodle order. The next step is to choose some deep-fried delights a la carte, like the excellent tempura chikuwa, a fishcake in the shape of a tube. With two locations (the other is on Capitol Hill), this mini-chain is the first in Seattle to serve udon made on-site, with the cold preparations showing off the chewiness of the firm, al dente noodles best; diners can even watch them being made while they wait to order.
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4. Issian Stone Grill
This izakaya in Wallingford is a perfect place for a group to enjoy drinks and share small plates. Dishes include stone-grilled enoki mushrooms, grilled mackerel, grilled tuna collar, a variety of yakitori, fried chicken cartilage, kushikatsu (fried tonkatsu on a stick), and even French fries with wasabi mayonnaise. And, per Japanese custom, to fill the stomach at the end of the meal, diners should order delicious miso-glazed grilled onigiri (rice balls).
5. Fremont Bowl
The “bowl” in the name of this Fremont favorite refers to the restaurant’s many donburi (rice bowl) dishes, including tonkatsu (pork), short ribs, and sukiyaki. But the main draw is the reasonably priced chirashi-don, which features a generous portion of tuna, yellowtail, albacore, salmon, eel, shrimp, fatty tuna scrapings, and flying fish roe. Bonus: This sibling to South Lake Union restaurant I Love Sushi makes soy sauce on-site and uses real wasabi (instead of the fake stuff at most sushi spots).
Kamonegi’s signature dish is Buckwheat soba noodles made from scratch. Preparations run from basic (zaru: cold noodles with dipping sauce) to complex (Kamonegi’s namesake dish: soba with duck, leek, and a duck meatball). The Fremont restaurant also puts the spotlight on tempura, which pairs perfectly with soba. The classic tensoba combination of soba with shrimp tempura is a winner, as are Japanese vegetable options like satsuma yam tempura with buckwheat honey and gorgonzola.
One of Seattle’s only dedicated kaiseki restaurants, located in the shadow of the Space Needle, makes food almost too beautiful to eat. The premium kaiseki option takes diners on a journey that includes small bites, soup, sashimi, a braised dish, a grilled dish, a rice dish, and dessert. In keeping with kaiseki’s emphasis on seasonality, the menu changes monthly, and customers covet the counter seats, where the chef can tell diners the story of each dish, from ingredients to preparation to gorgeous plating.
8. Suika Seattle
Suika, a standout in the Vancouver izakaya scene, ventured south to Seattle in 2014. Diners should start with an uni shooter and some battera (pressed sushi), then fill out their meal with the likes of unagi bibimbap, served in a hot stone bowl, while enjoying sake, beer, or one of the restaurant’s creative cocktails — perhaps one made from the namesake suika (watermelon). If this Capitol Hill spot is too crowded, sibling restaurant Tamari Bar is a good backup just a block away.
Capitol Hill’s Adana is the place for artful and seasonal Japanese fare. In the dining room, three-course, five-course, and seven-course menus change monthly (white asparagus and halibut with tofu pea pure in the spring, for instance), with choices enabling diners to customize their own tasting menus. In the lounge area, bar bites such as a variety of katsu sandwiches complement a creative cocktail program, offering diners a more casual experience.
10. Karaage Setsuna
Setsuna was once a beloved Japanese izakaya near Northgate. After a short absence, it reemerged as Karaage Setsuna in Belltown, with a smaller venue and menu. Food sometimes skews Hawaiian with poke, loco moco, and a saimin-like soup, but the item to prioritize is the namesake karaage, available in three portion sizes. Made from boneless chicken thigh (dark meat, as it should be), this version of fried chicken may forever replace American-style in diners’ hearts.
11. Katsu Burger
Now with five locations (two on the Eastside and three in Seattle, including a fancier Ballard restaurant with the addition of sushi), Katsu Burger serves a slew of panko-breaded, deep-fried meats for its burgers. While beef, chicken, and even tofu are options, pork is classic for katsu, fantastic with mayo and tonkatsu sauce along with the standard toppings of cabbage, tomato, red onions, and pickles. Add nori fries and a green tea milkshake to round out a fast-food fusion meal that’s made to order.
This unmarked, easy-to-miss place in the historic Nihonmachi part of the International District is reminiscent of restaurants in Japan. There’s a wrap-around sushi bar with eight seats, along with a small scattering of tables. The blackboard lists items like the “Ika Special” (squid simmered in its own guts) and other plates that pair well with sake and beer. Tsukushinbo also offers its popular shoyu ramen, a carb-heavy meal that includes gyoza and rice, as part of its Saturday brunch service.
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Maneki has been a mainstay in the International District for more than 100 years, and shows no sign of slowing down. If it’s crowded, diners may start with a seat in the spirited bar area. They’ll find a sushi counter in the back, and tatami rooms for small group gatherings. The menu is comprehensive, with Japanese classics from agedashi tofu to takoyaki and soba to sushi.
14. Fuji Bakery
Fuji Bakery, with locations in Interbay, Bellevue, and the International District, is an East-meets-West enterprise, combining ingredients and techniques from Japan and France to create wonders like the yuzu bacon epi. Many people visit Fuji for its savory breads and pastries, such as kare-pan (curry bun) and brioche saumon (salmon brioche). Others prefer the sweets, like anpan, green tea Danish, year-round panettone, and best-selling crunchy cream doughnut.
15. Sandwich House TRES
Sandwich House TRES in Bellevue focuses primarily on doing one thing and doing it right: beloved crustless sandwiches made with soft and spongy white bread. (Crouton alert: Customers can help themselves to crusts from the “free” bin.) This sparse spot with just two tables does bustling to-go business, offering an extensive sandwich menu featuring four “zones”: meat, seafood, vegetable, and fruit. It’ll take two sandwiches to fill most diners; make one a pork cutlet.