Eating at the best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne means indulgence without overindulgence. That’s because unlike say American diner food, Japanese cuisine is an exercise in exploration, presentation, harmony and, quite often, restraint–your meal will commonly be parsed out in small bites, giving you room to pace yourself and digest.
As a result, you leave satisfied, but rarely feeling as though you’ve been stuffed via feeding tube. We like to call it quality through quantity, and the best Japanese restaurants Melbourne can muster have the method down cold. So pull up a chair, order some sake, grab those chopsticks and try a little of everything without resorting to overkill. And make sure you’re at one the following 15 Best Japanese Restaurants in Melbourne when you do.
Wabi Sabi Salon
Resembling the kind of cosy and unpretentious nook you might find down a back-alley in Tokyo, Wabi Sabi Salon in Collingwood uses fresh, local ingredients to deliver massive flavours at affordable prices. A favourite among vegetarians and carnivores alike, this is one of the best Japanese restaurants Melbourne calls it own. Bring a group and try it all, or stop by for lunch and order one of their legendary bento boxes.
94 Smith St, Collingwood VIC 3066 – ph: 03 9417 6119
Little Ramen Bar
As the latest global food craze, ramen is now so much more than that thing you ate every day in college so you could spend all your money on beer. For proof, look no further than Little Ramen Bar. With great prices, a limited menu and some of the most delicious ramen in town, this bustling joint is as straightforward as it is satisfying. Pop in to see what all the fuss is about.
5/346 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000 – ph: 03 9670 5558
Ichi Ni Izakaya
Ichi Ni Izakaya celebrates our two favourite epicurean mainstays–small bites and alcohol–in spectacular fashion. This wildly popular St. Kilda destination covers all the classics while keeping the prices within reason. Order a fresh pint of beer or a glass of cold sake and pair that with some yakitori and resoundingly fresh sashimi. In other words, indulge to your heart’s content at one of Melbourne’s best Japanese restaurants.
12 The Esplanade, St Kilda VIC 3182 – ph: 03 9534 1212
Follow the aroma of cooked pork belly and ebi tempura into an elegant, minimalist warehouse space. You’re now in the hands of Masahiro Horie and his wife Ji-ah, who run Hako, easily one of the best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne. Make a selection from the extensive sake menu and, if money isn’t an issue, go with the omakase dinner. Then pick up those chopsticks and prepare your taste buds for a roller coaster ride of flavour.
310 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000 – ph: 03 9620 1881
The name pretty much says it all. Tucked away inside hidden basement digs is Izakaya Den, an absolute haven for good times and great Japanese drinking food. Once you’ve actually found the place, you’ll want to come back until you’ve tried everything on the menu. Bring a group of friends or impress a date with your knowledge of the Melbourne underground.
114 Russell St, Melbourne VIC 3000 – ph: 03 9654 2977
Ambitious in concept and brilliant in execution, Kisume is three stories of gastronomic splendour. Brought to us from the veritable tastemakers behind the Lucas Group, Kisume eschews the team’s normal blitzkrieg antics in favour of streamlined sophistication, copious variety and unforgettable taste. Choose between the street-level sushi bar, the omakase upstairs or the hot kitchen in the windowless basement, and leave your worries behind.
175 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000 – ph: 03 9671 4888
The quintessence of minimalist Japanese dining, and Time Out Magazine’s 2015 Restaurant of the Year, Kappo extracts huge flavours from spare, quality ingredients. Opt for a five, seven or nine-course omakase and receive in return a leisurely masterclass in culinary creativity. You’ll still be thinking about single bites days later.
1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000 – ph: 03 9639 9500
For all the black belt sushi enthusiasts of Melbourne, Minamishima is more than a destination, it’s a mecca. The discreet, omakase-only restaurant is arguably the best Japanese restaurant in Melbourne, and with good reason. Chef Koichi Minamishima’s technique is second to none and his cuisine is some of the tastiest you’ll find outside of Japan. Prepare to drop serious cash and yet still feel like you walked away with a deal.
1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000 – ph: 03 9639 9500
Decades before the sushi epidemic took the world by storm, Kenzan was serving up mouthwatering slices of fatty bluefin tuna belly and sweet, tenderly grilled eel. To call this place an institution would be an understatement. To call it one of the best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne is more or less obligatory. Put simply, Kenzan is old school sushi done right.
Collins Place, 45 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000 – ph: 03 9654 8933
Headed by a former Kenzan chef, Komeyui executes Japanese classics with surgical precision and a touch of creative flair. Indeed, sometimes you just want a satisfying, familiar menu–you’ll find that here and then some.
396 Bay St, Port Melbourne VIC 3207 – ph: 03 9646 2296
In the hyper-serious world of food culture, it’s always refreshing to encounter a restaurant that kicks back and has a little fun while nevertheless serving killer eats. In that regard, Tokyo Tina duly abides. Inspired by the street food and visuals of Japan, this wildly popular destination keeps the atmosphere festive and the bites tasty, saving any overwrought intensity for the kitchen.
66A Chapel St, Windsor VIC 3181 – ph: 03 9525 2774
Between Shoya’s whopping six levels, you’ll find pretty much everything you can think of. That includes karaoke, fine dining, casual lunches, omakase dinners, full bars, fresh sushi and expertly grilled meats alike. Needless to say, this award-winning palace of degustation begs to be discovered many times over.
25 Market Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000 – ph: 03 9650 0848
No restaurant is more synonymous with sexy, upscale Japanese dining than Nobu, and their Melbourne outpost is no exception. Located in the Crown Casino, the renowned hotspot delivers brilliant ambience, gorgeous people and delectable Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine. The result is an epicurean experience that’s firing on all cylinders, and naturally one of the best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne.
Crown Riverwalk, Crown Melbourne, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank VIC 3006 – ph: 03 9292 5777
Sake Restaurant and Bar
Along with sister locations in cities like Sydney, Melbourne’s perennially popular Sake Restaurants have modern dining down to a science. However, don’t take that global franchise potential to mean the food here isn’t spectacular. Indeed, people flock from near and far to try Sake’s array of Japanese fusion dishes while sucking down delicious cocktails. The Hammer Hall location doubles down on the indulgence by way of stunning glass walls and riverside views.
100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne VIC 3004 – ph: 03 8687 0775
121 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000 – ph: 1300 670 910
Gaining entry to Tempura Hajime is kind of like getting into a secret society, and the experience once inside is no less sacrosanct. Take a seat and let Shigeo Yoshihara seduce your taste buds one dish at a time. This is foodie heaven.
60 Park St, South Melbourne VIC 3205 – ph: 03 9696 0051