In comparison to Italian and Vietnamese food, Japanese food is not deeply rooted in the culture of Melbourne.
Japanese immigration to Australia, on the other hand, has been slow and steady as opposed to the massive influx of people from those countries after World War II and the Vietnam War.
This only further attests to the special allure of Japanese food, which has remained one of Melbourne's most pervasive and popular cuisines for so long.
Numerous upscale establishments offer multicourse experiences prepared by master sushi chefs in chic settings. However, Melbourne really shines in the casual to moderate price range.
Those of us who live in Melbourne can truly say that we are spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants.
Some of the best chefs in the world are right here in your neighbourhood, ready and waiting to serve you any dish your heart desires.
And Japanese cuisine is not an exception.
Especially because of the fantastically large migrant chef community in Melbourne, we tend to think that Melbourne's Japanese restaurants are among the best in the world. These chefs bring with them not only their culinary traditions, but also a fiery passion for treating us Melburnians.
Whether you're in the mood for a quick bowl of ramen, a luxurious omakase or kaiseki dinner, a lively yakitori bar, or a dark and smoky izakaya stocked with rare whiskies and saké, you'll find the perfect Japanese restaurant in this city.
These days, Melbourne is a great place to find sushi, saké, and outlandish fusion cuisine. Everyone has their go-to for Japanese food in the neighbourhood, but these are our top picks.
FAQs in Melbourne
A love affair with Japanese food in Australia is driven by the cuisine's seasonality, simplicity, and abundance of flavour. However, Australians also think sustainability and the ethical sourcing of ingredients drive interest in the cuisine.
Australians love nigiri, maki, and Inari the most. However, more "Westernised" are also available, like sushi rolls and hand-rolls.
Omakase is a traditional Japanese dining style in which the chef provides a meal tailored to your preferences based on availability, budget, taste, and seasonality. While Omakase most often refers to sushi, non-sushi items such as salads, tempura, and soups find their way into omakase experiences.
These days, try getting your tongue around furikake, koshihikari, kushiyaki and omakase. And that's just for starters. Japanese, for long a culinary byword for sushi and miso, has all other cuisines to become the hottest trend in contemporary Australian dining today.
As many course menus tend to be, omakase sushi tends to be more expensive due to the many dishes you're provided with and the quality. There are also set menus and set price omakase places, where both the menu and the price are already determined for the day.
Best Japanese Restaurants In Melbourne
From the best Japanese restaurant in Australia to the fun and funky izakayas where the music is loud, and the beer is ice-cold, Melbourne's Japanese offerings are diverse, inspired and all-around delights.
Though securing a seat at Australia's best Japanese restaurant can take the patience of a Zen master, it's a wait that's always worth it for the seafood fans who revere Koichi Minamishima's quiet confidence with fish and rice.
Picking Melbourne's best Japanese restaurant is like its own mini-game. At least half a dozen restaurants could lay claim to the title.
But here's the first one we're going to chuck in. Minamishimia in Richmond serves the omakase of Chef Koichi Minamishima.
This guy's got 25 years of experience in preparing A-grade sashimi.
You get one piece at a time, made lovingly with incredible attention to detail. We don't throw around terms like 'Melbourne's best sushi' lightly, but we're doing it here.
Over 15-odd omakase courses at this three-hatted temple, flavours range from delicate (sake-steamed Hokkaido scallops, say, or sweet ama Ebi prawn with cod roe) to knock-you-sideways sublime.
A swatch of buttery bluefin tuna belly was sourced directly from Tokyo and swiftly seared to bring out the best of itself.
Sommelier Randolph Cheung oversees a great sake and wine list, and starch-collared staff move with poise and grace. Total elegance.
Go-to dish: You only live once – splash out for the optional fugu course if it's offered.
The Chef's Table At Kisume
Kisume translates to "a pure obsession with beauty," which is fitting for the setting.
There's a bar/omakase area on the third floor, a sushi restaurant on the first, and a hot kitchen in the basement.
The staff, led by Chef Yonge Kim, is also top-notch. There is probably nothing these guys don't already know that you should know about sushi and sake.
To a select group of 12 guests, the gifted and imaginative sushi chef Shinya Nakano of Kyoto, Japan, will present a carefully choreographed showcase of Australian seafood consisting of 18 or so bites.
The dishes on the menu present a daring reinvention of traditional sushi preparations.
Traditional Kyoto-style pickles are sprinkled atop a bed of rice that has been topped with raw tuna belly and seared tuna.
When the chef breaks the fourth wall by passing around a hand roll of tempura-coated Moreton Bay bugs, the results are delicious.
The timing, the presentation, and even the plates and vessels are all praised for their exquisite beauty.
Try the Japanese-style oyster sabayon, where champagne is replaced with premium sake and yuzu adds a spark. The omakase menu varies every 19 courses.
A meal here has the gentle arc of a ceremony. Diners are welcomed into the venerated tradition of kaiseki dining, a formal progression of seasonal dishes.
Each course is created properly in front of 16 diners ringing an open kitchen.
Intricate vegetable carving, artful jellies, elaborate garnishes and delicate plateware are key kaiseki projects and a big part of the experience.
You might start with a tiny sphere of bonito jelly enclosing jewel-like vegetables and topped with caviar and gold leaf.
More miniature masterpieces follow, perhaps poached daikon topped with foie gras or spectacular sashimi. Finally, ask about the elaborate takeaway bento boxes.
If you've got a bit of a big budget and are looking for some Japanese food to spend it on, look no further than Ishizuka.
It is one fancy restaurant with food that backs it up. The menu changes seasonally and daily.
A revolving nightly set menu of 11 unbeatable dishes. And here's the kicker: it only serves 16 diners each evening.
So uh, book ahead. Spots fill up like weeks in advance. Check out that beautiful decor too. Go-to dish: The outrageously rich wagyu beef course is served with a choice of five salts.
The food here has always been difficult to categorise. Still, Kazuki Tsuya's quintessentially evolved his menu to greater heights of refinement since opening his new address at the centre of the city.
Start with the plentiful and intricate snack offerings, from a silken lick of taramasalata on a nori crisp bejewelled with salmon roe to an ethereal chicken liver macaron.
Kazuki's mark is on everything, from the left-field brilliance of pickled mussels with meaty tomatoes to hapuka in yuzu-spiked beurre blanc with salty pops of avruga.
Chef Kazuki Tsuya (formerly the Chef's Hat awarded Kazuki's Daylesford, now Sakana), and his partner Saori, transported Kazuki's from its former home in Daylesford to Lygon St several years ago.
Kazuki's is based on the tradition of 'Omotenashi', which refers to an intuitive, kind and distinct Japanese approach to hospitality.
The restaurant offers both a set tasting menu and à la carte menu (seasonal, using only the freshest produce), so whether you're greedy or curious is irrelevant—they're both sure to satisfy.
Go-to Dish: We love the simple, slippery luxe of Moreton Bay bug wontons.
Behind a nondescript door, chef Shigeo Yoshihara-san prepares delicious morsels in measured progression to a 12-seat counter.
Courses may be as simple as a spear of asparagus or a perfect prawn, lightly battered, judiciously fried and coaxed to magnificence.
The arc of each meal also includes multi-faceted dishes, perhaps tuna wrapped around avocado and sheathed in nori or scallop stuffed with sea urchin.
In every case, the product is the main story, the restaurant's reverent stage.
Delicate zensai (snacks), simple but beautiful sashimi and elegant desserts – perhaps yoghurt jelly dressed with Cointreau – are part of the parade.
Go-to Dish: The mushroom filled with minced prawn is a perennial favourite.
On the minimalist menu by Kyoto-trained chef-owner Kenji Ito, you'll find traditional Japanese dishes such as crisp, delicate tempura mixed with the likes of hoji tea-smoked duck breast with duck neck chorizo and pickled quandong on the sushi platters.
Yes, there's technical knife work and fussy plating. Still, all of that technique feels incidental when the black ceramic lid is lifted from a shared pot of tender charred octopus tentacles, big clusters of enoki mushrooms, burdock and umami-rich rice.
Pungent fish floss for seasoning and pickled daikon is served on the side. It's moreish and as comforting and understated as Ito's quiet restaurant.
Go-to Dish: Sink your teeth into a delicately fried creamy lobe of tempura uni.
This sushi bar may be nudging 40 but shows few signs of weariness, quietly rolling out the classics with confidence and finesse its Flinders Lane neighbours should envy.
Case in point, deftly sliced slips of sashimi, all killer, no filler crab hand rolls, and whisper-light tempura vegetables.
Those who like a hands-on approach (or first date ice-breaker) can share cook-at-the-table nabe ryori – wafer-thin beef slices with assorted vegetables and piquant sauces.
Perched at the bar for the theatre of live-action sashimi-slicing, or settled into the warmly lit room under the watchful eyes of discreet, sweet waitstaff, its low fuss, high comfort stuff.
The Melbourne benchmark is the chawanmushi, a steamed egg and dashi custard concealing seafood.
The ever-expanding international food hub around Glen Waverley station holds many treasures.
While hardly a secret, Shira Nui remains one of its most glittering. Cheerful staff need to keep plates moving with two seatings at lunchtime and two at dinner.
Nasu dengaku (that's baked eggplant with a miso glaze) is practically a savoury pudding, and the tight, tasty gyoza may beckon. Still, it's chef Nishikura's omakase menu that keeps the reservation book full.
A gently paced parade delivers such sushi jewels as garfish seasoned with salt and lemon, ark clam with a cod mayo, seared steak with spring onions, marinated kingfish, salmon draped in sweet seaweed, and a seared oyster and house-made mayo wrapped in nori.
Go-to Dish: Order the omakase and revel in Nishikura's fresh sashimi.
It's as much about having a good time as it is about the food here at this bright izakaya.
Alongside a vibe as busy as the Tokyo streetscape mural running along one wall, highlights from the menu, primarily jump between Japan and Korea, come from the hibachi grill.
Cuttlefish and wagyu skewers come in sets of two, and there's even a whole spatchcock basted in a sticky-sweet bulgogi glaze.
Modern dining's catchphrase "designed to share" really does apply here. Interactive dishes like the hulking, crisp pork hock ssam, served with ssamjang, pancakes, ginger, cucumber, and kimchi, facilitate fun at the table and guest interaction.
Go-to dish: Marinated in brown sugar caramel, gochujang, soy, mirin and sake, the hibachi-grilled whole spatchcock has satisfying char.
Collingwood's favourite Japanese cafe and homewares store has moved to a bigger space, and now there's even more room for what it does well.
Simple, clean, flavoursome Japanese dishes – like their traditional salmon breakfast or nourishing rice bowls – are a great refuel before you browse their range of covetable stuff for the home.
It is your friendly neighbourhood Japanese retreat with Japanese cooking classes, specialised groceries, and fresh produce.
Go-to Dish: Keep things light and bright with the tofu balls rice bowl with shiitake mushroom and teriyaki sauce.
Gyoza is iconically Japanese, and Izakaya Den does the best little bags of steamed goodness in town.
The restaurant is not only aesthetically pleasing, with its chic wooden bar, open grill and concrete floors, but it offers a treat for your tastebuds, with an incredible range of traditional offerings like grilled octopus, agedashi tofu and salted edamame. We suggest booking ahead—this place gets pretty rammed on Friday and Saturday nights.
Supernormal is Andrew McConnell's crown jewel and home to Melbourne's most famous lobster roll.
The Supernormal menu is changing all the time. Still, it's always designed to be shared, so grab a couple of mates (or that date you're trying to impress) and get yourselves a serve of duck bao, a whole snapper with burnt butter sauce, wild watercress and shaved kombu, some beef tartare, and whatever else you can fit in.
Ichi Ni Na Na
At Ichi Ni Na Na, treat yourself to wafu-seasoned wagyu beef tartare with pickled shallots, radish, shiso and croutons, just-out-of-the-ocean sashimi salads and charcoal-grilled king prawns with yakitori sauce.
Wash it all down with a cocktail up on the Rooftop Bar and in for a top-notch evening at one of Melbourne's favourite Japanese restaurants.
Without a doubt, another of the best cheap Japanese Melbourne has to offer, Don Don, will have your chicken katsu curry in your hand faster than you can order it.
Many lunchtime diners like to get their phone out and time how many seconds it takes to whip the chargrilled chicken from the grill and dollop on a big spoon of tasty curry sauce (their PB is 12.)
Don Don is a favourite of students and busy corporates alike. So get underneath Don Don's black shutters and hectic kitchen for a bento box, and proceed to park yourself on the State Library Lawn for maxed out pleasure levels.
Since 1975, Melbourne diners have been flocking to Teppanyaki Inn, one of the city's oldest and most reputable Japanese restaurants, to have an egg thrown "artfully" at their waiting face bowl.
They perfected the art of the open grill and serve the freshest, most delectable fare this side of the equator because they were the first teppanyaki restaurant in Australia.
Weekend reservations are a must if you want to try the renowned Moreton Bay Bugs and broken fried rice at Teppanyaki Inn, whose fame has spread across the country.
Going to Gogyo is a good choice if you're searching for a Japanese restaurant north of Melbourne.
The charred miso ramen is their signature dish, and the spicier options really pack a punch (try the karaka-men bowl for a real punch in the tastebuds).
You can trust that your bowl of Gogyo ramen will be delicious because the chain is owned by IPPUDO, a behemoth in the Japanese ramen industry.
IPPUDO is the epitome of ramen spots, and it's one you have to check off the bucket list.
The Shiromaru Motoaji tonkatsu ramen is a must-try, made of signature creamy tonkatsu broth, bouncy hand-pulled noodles, pork loin, bean sprouts, and black fungus.
Find IPPUDO on Artemis lane in QV—follow the crowds to this institute of a Japanese restaurant.
Back-to-back ramen recommendations? Yes, please. How does 24-availability sound? Slurp up your soup at 7 pm, slurp it at 4 am, it's all the same at Shujinko.
Even better, the food is good. Our pick? Pretty classic. Go for the Shujinko ramen—a pork broth with grilled pork belly, spring onion, bok choy, marinated egg and bean sprouts. Try the Black Ramen if you're after an added chilli kick.
Little Ramen Bar
Little Ramen Bar is a must-visit for any ramen fan.
This tiny restaurant has become something of a Melbourne institution, and it is widely considered to be among the city's finest Japanese options for a quick bowl of noodles.
You can't go wrong with the $7 Sapporo Draught on tap special and the limited menu (which includes only ramen, edamame, kimchi, seaweed salad, and gyoza).
Start early, and bring a small group: The restaurant is decorated in traditional Japanese fashion, so the seating area is quite small. However, despite the difficulty of securing a table for a larger group, we highly recommend eating here.
Melburnians over in the north, don't think for a second that we've forgotten about you. You're a lucky bunch, with Deneke right in your neighbourhood, just over in Preston.
It's a rocking izakaya bar, and it's almost worth a visit just for the decor (Star Wars retro meets Japanese biker gang).
The menu is all good (really, really good), but our suggestions are the karaage and the deep-fried Kushi-age eggplant skewers.
Don't forget to wash it down with a range of hot and cold boutique sakes. The guys behind the bar are lovely here—ask them what spirits match well with your food.
Ichi Ni Izakaya
If you liked the Ichi Ni Na Na cut, you should check out the rest of the family.
Ichi Ni Izakaya in St. Kilda may be able to make your dream of eating sushi in an open kitchen without having to spend a fortune on airfare a reality.
This is one of the best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne for a romantic sushi dinner for one because it is a bit fancier than most while still maintaining the traditional bar-snack approach.
Sit down on a stool with a pair of chopsticks in hand, and get ready to enjoy some of the finest sashimi and beer in town.
Japanese cuisine can be found in a wide variety of Melbourne and suburbia establishments. Your expectations for a tasty and genuine Japanese meal will be more than met. No matter what Japanese dish you're in the mood for (Sushi, Ramen, or Teppanyaki), you can find it at a local restaurant. In that case, why delay any longer? Get out there and sample the incredible Japanese restaurants Melbourne has to offer!