The Best Japanese Restaurants in Melbourne

Updated 1 week ago


Japanese cuisine isn’t as embedded in Melbourne’s culture as, say, Italian or Vietnamese. People from those countries migrated here en masse following World War II and the Vietnam War respectively. Yet Japanese immigration to Australia has been more gradual, steadily ticking along.

And yet, Japanese is one of Melbourne’s most widespread and popular cuisines, which says a lot about its unique appeal. We’ve also got many tiers of Japanese dining. There are the coveted seats at Minamishima’s omakase bench, vinyl-powered nights at moody izakaya Tamura Sake Bar and warming bowls of tonkotsu ramen at Hakata Gensuke. Whichever experience you’re chasing, we’ve curated a spot for every occasion in this guide.

  • The hushed, reverent atmosphere here is well suited to owner-chef Koichi Minamishima's awe-inspiring knife skills. He works with both local seafood and fish flown direct from Toyosu Fish Market in Tokyo to produce his peerless sushi. This is the best Japanese restaurant in Melbourne.

  • This is one of Melbourne's best Japanese restaurants. It's certainly its most ambitious. There's a New York-style sushi bar at street level, a pumping izakaya-style basement and an upstairs private dining room – Kuro – for intimate kaiseki-style meals.

  • Rough-hewn stone walls, high ceilings and golden accents set the mood at this subterranean Japanese diner. Take the glass lift underground for charcoal-cooked Wagyu, delicate sashimi and exciting detours into Chinese cuisine.

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  • This is the Melbourne outpost of the globally-renowned Nobu Japanese restaurant chain. Peruvian flavours are expertly combined with Japanese cuisine in dishes such as yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno and black cod with miso.

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  • Perch at a dedicated yakitori table for succulent chicken skewers, or retreat to the private dining room for an omakase experience where high-end Kobe beef is the star. It’s from the Wagyu Ya and Niku Ou team.

  • In 2018, this Euro-Japanese fine diner moved from its home in Daylesford to Carlton. We're glad it's made the move to the city. The dishes here, delivered thoughtfully across several multi-course options, are a compelling argument for fusion done the right way.

  • At this elegant 16-seat Japanese fine diner, which is inside a giant paper lantern in a Bourke Street basement, you'll find one of the best kaiseki – a traditional degustation-style multi-course meal – experiences in town.

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  • Some of the city’s finest sushi and sashimi is served at Kenzan’s intimate 12-seat counter. And in the main and private dining rooms, à la carte Japanese standards ranging from sukiyaki to shabu-shabu. A Melbourne institution since 1981.

  • Beautifully executed pan-Asian offerings by Andrew McConnell. Come for Korean-style barbequed meats, Shanghai dumplings and Melbourne’s most famous lobster roll.

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  • Walk down an unassuming strip of shops to find the suave eight-seat sushi omakase, which takes diners through 23 ever-changing courses. You might start with an oyster, move onto nigiri, and finish the savoury journey with soup.

  • An intimate, 12-seat omakase bar, where no two meals are the same. Experience 20 or more individualised courses while being entertained by the chefs' playful banter. Expect top-quality seafood that might be squid, sea urchin, salmon roe, King George whiting or bluefin tuna.

  • An intimate omakase experience from a group behind Michelin-starred restaurants. Perch at the counter for nine theatrical courses or commandeer the eight-person private dining room. Dishes might include saltwater eel, green-tea soba noodles or decadent Wagyu and foie gras katsu – all expertly paired with Japanese sake.

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  • Izakaya are Japanese bars where the eating is just as important as the drinking. That's true at this CBD favourite. There's a selection of drinking-friendly dishes that accompany the excellent sakes and Japanese-influenced cocktails.

  • A large, colourful restaurant with a menu that touches on nearly every aspect of Japanese cuisine. Here you'll find sushi, gyoza, tempura, plus hearty bowls of braised-beef curry. Plus a fun drinks list that includes sakes, Japanese-influenced cocktails and craft beers from Tokyo. Also in St Kilda.

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  • Take a seat at the stone counter for a 10-course sushi degustation, or order an assortment of sashimi, miso-marinated black cod and savoury steamed custard topped with foie gras à la carte.

  • Enter the cyberpunk facade to find Chris Lucas’s two-level Japanese diner. Watch chefs turn skewered meat over jumping flames, slurp your noodles and call it good manners (it is in Japan), and sip cocktails named after Tokyo’s neighbourhoods.

  • This jazzy Fitzroy 30-seater blends Japanese izakaya, craft sake bar and record store. Stop by for izakaya-style small plates such as yakitori, agedashi tofu and gyoza. And add on “third wave” sake.

  • Find classic Japanese snacks and party-friendly cocktails at this sprawling izakaya, from the team behind Tamura Sake Bar. Across two levels, go for karaage and gyoza alongside natural wines, cocktails made with Japanese whisky and Stomping Ground rice lager on tap.

  • Tucked beneath an apartment block, an ex-Kisume and Nobu chef perfects the Japanese art of robatayaki using a charcoal-powered parrilla grill. Take a seat at the bar overlooking the small but efficient kitchen for yakitori served every way and a diverse selection of sake by the glass.

  • In a suburb full of good Japanese food, this sushi bar and eatery stands out from the pack. Come for impeccable seafood by an expert sushi chef, plus nostalgic bento and noodles dishes in an understated dining room.

  • This Japanese diner serves up its own version of contemporary Japanese cuisine. The room is sleek, the menu is fun and seafood heavy, and there’s plenty of saké (of course).

  • Run by a passionate French Australian, this 12-seat omakase restaurant is open for just two sittings a day. Book in for a simple chirashi bowl, or an 11-course lunch featuring dishes like dry-aged kingfish sashimi with roasted spring onion oil and Hokkaido scallops with burnt orange gel.

  • The menu at this new-wave Japanese diner is far from traditional, but the flavour-punching dishes stay true to the simplicity of Japanese cuisine. Expect cold dishes, donburi and hits from the Hibachi grill.

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  • The team behind Toji Sake delivers hibachi-grilled yakitori skewers, Wagyu with truffle mayo, and pork “doughnuts” alongside sake-based cocktails and cold Japanese beer.

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  • There are over 80 sakes at this slick Japanese bar and eatery, which is housed in a former bank. Unlike many izakaya – which can get quite dark – Kumo's space is light, open and airy.

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  • We recommend you make a booking at this bustling modern-Japanese restaurant. Even though Ocha opened back in 2011, it's still to this day a difficult task to get a walk-in table here on a weekend.

  • This playful Taiwanese-Japanese restaurant in South Melbourne (no relation to Fitzroy's Peko Peko) is a fun eatery that doesn't take itself or its delicious menu too seriously.

  • This intimate restaurant – with a nondescript entrance under an office building – specialises in the Japanese tradition of tempura: a battering and frying technique that leads to surprisingly light and refreshing dishes.

  • Meaning “community” in Japanese, Machi is inspired by its St Kilda location and eclectic culture. Come here for excellent gyoza, Wagyu beef and Kyoto-inspired dishes.

  • This Japanese restaurant has a particular emphasis on traditional fare – sushi and sashimi, namely – as well as sake: there's an imposing and ever-growing selection on offer.

  • Sake and '80s throwbacks flow freely in this neon-lit eatery. It breaks the mould with nori tacos, ramen gnocchi and a list of fun cocktails infused with Japanese flavours. And there’s a function space upstairs big enough for 60 salarymen.

  • This izakaya serves shareable, drink-friendly food. Order from a small-plate selection brimming with Japanese flavours such as ponzu and yuzu. Then pair your meal with a stiff whisky, cold beer or a plum Margarita rimmed with ume sugar. It’s all set in a sleek, modern space.

  • This place specialises in Hamamatsu-style gyoza, which is served in a crisp, hot spiral. But Chotto Motto doesn’t just do one thing well. Beyond the main event, there are impressive katsu sandwiches, juicy karaage (chicken or cauliflower), and a beer vending machine for cold Japanese suds. Its siblings, Neko Neko and Wabi Sabi Salon, are also worth a visit.

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  • This 25-seat restaurant is run by a husband-and-wife duo who met while working at Nobu. Order the signature hamburger curry udon, hibachi-grilled yakitori and salmon tartare alongside yuzu cocktails and sake. Also in Docklands, Box Hill South and Nunawading.

  • Departing from San Telmo's Latin American flavours, here the group focuses on yakitori and kushiyaki cooked over traditional binchotan charcoal. Also, masterfully-sliced sashimi and sake, in a fit-out that resembles a scene straight from the streets of Tokyo.

  • The first Australian location for the revered global ramen chain brings its signature tori paitan soup to Melbourne's CBD. Expect lines around the block for one of its 28 seats, and be rewarded inside with six different ramen options, snacks and sake pairings.

  • A cafe by day and izakaya by night. Mornings are for bowls of salmon- or Wagyu-topped rice with an umami-rich broth. And in the evenings, sake cocktails and snacky bites like mirin-dressed oysters come out.

  • Looking to avoid the lines at the original, which set the gold standard for Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen in Melbourne? Head to Carlton.

  • The izakaya vibes are high at this south-side diner. Watch the chefs working away at the raw bar or charcoal grill as you enjoy citrusy kingfish, twice-cooked chashu pork belly and a house Martini.

  • Book well in advance for this 10-seat omakase spot, which breaks all the right rules of Japanese cuisine. The nigiri-focused menu mixes in Italian and Malaysian flavours, and includes a rare omakase cocktail pairing.

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