Melbourne is home to a huge variety of incredible Japanese restaurants, whether you’re wanting to indulge in a decadent fine dining experience or catching up with friends over a bowl of ramen in a side street. You will easily find many delicious types of Japanese food in Melbourne, from the classics such as sushi, ramen and takoyaki, to the fancier dishes such as scallop nigiri, tempura sea urchin and beautifully marbled Japanese wagyu.
Having an emphasis on using seasonal and fresh produce with a strong focus on eye-catching presentation, Japanese food is well known throughout the world as one of the best cuisines one can experience. Featuring some of the most unique flavours such as wasabi, tonkatsu sauce, shichimi and dashi, here is where to discover Melbourne’s best Japanese restaurants.
We start this list with possibly the best fine dining experience you can find in Melbourne: Minamishima, one of the only handful of restaurants that have been awarded 3 Hats by The Age Good Food Guide. The owner, Koichi Minamishima, has dedicated his entire life to honing and mastering the art of traditional Japanese cuisine, and in particular, omakase. Since moving to Melbourne in 1998, Koichi has cemented his reputation as a renowned sushi chef, serving his customers with only the best sushi that meets his impeccable standards.
With a strong dedication to providing his guests with an enjoyable experience through the art of sushi, each minute detail is extensively catered for. Fresh local produce is used whenever possible to bring the strong traditional flavours of Japan straight to your plate. Their omakase menu offers an elegant selection of handcrafted nigiri sushi that effortlessly showcases Minamishima’s expertise and technique.
Their menu features incredible and robust flavours such as Hokkaido king crab, otoro, Japanese wagyu and bafun uni, with each ingredient being meticulously treated to ensure no quality is lost. Minamishima also has private rooms for a more intimate dining experience, each with its own private sushi chef and connecting sushi bar. And with their Minamishima At Home option, available for pick-up and delivery, you can enjoy the amazing Minamishima experience in your own home!
Nestled along Flinders Lane is where you’ll find Kisumé, another restaurant that stands out as one of the best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne. Utilising fresh Australian produce, this three-levelled restaurant specialises in familiar and traditional Japanese cuisine, as well as their own unique interpretations.
Upon walking through their doors, you’ll instantly be immersed in their fusion of fine dining, art and design. Surrounded by bold works from photographers including Nobuyoshi Araki and Polly Borland, their Chef’s Table and private Kuro dining room provide a contemporary experience that encapsulates the essence of traditional Japanese dining.
Their menu consists of mouthwatering dishes such as crispy pork and kimchi gyozas, kakiage prawns with mushroom and asparagus, and foie gras with grass-fed beef tenderloin splashed with yakiniku soy sauce. As a strong contender for the best sushi in Melbourne, Kisumé’s scallop nigiri and kingfish sashimi are an absolute must-try for anyone’s first visit.
Kazuki and Saori Tsuya, a husband and wife team, are the masterminds behind Kazuki’s Restaurant located on Lygon Street in Carlton. Strongly influenced by the traditional Japanese saying “ichi-go ichi-e”, meaning to treasure every moment, Kazuki’s Restaurant embodies this philosophy down to its very core.
As the epitome of ‘omotenashi’, which means to go above and beyond to provide outstanding service, Chef Kazuki and Saori ensure each guest is warmly welcomed and taken care of as soon as they walk through the door. Achieving a perfect balance between simple and complex flavours, their menu demonstrates rich Japanese flavours crafted with classic French techniques using fresh Australian produce.
Their tasting menu features unique ingredients such as chrysanthemum, Moreton bay bugs and oxtail, with more familiar flavours including crispy duck, succulent tuna toro, chicken liver and fresh salmon – and has an exquisite wine menu that spans 22 pages! Kazuki’s Restaurant feels more like entering a home than a restaurant, providing the perfect place to spend quality time with a loved one while enjoying some of the most delicious Japanese cuisines Melbourne has to offer.
Little Bourke Street is where you will find Little Ramen Bar, specialising in some of the most incredible ramen dishes you will ever try – and we mean it. No packet mix or frozen broths here! While most Melburnians are still asleep in their beds, the team at Little Ramen Bar begin preparing their incredibly delicious ramen broths as early as 5am.
Their famous broth features four simple yet core ingredients: ginger, onions, garlic and pork bones (including some other secret ingredients). With a determination to offer their customers the best ramen Melbournians have ever had, their chefs welcome all feedback and make slight alterations to ensure each ramen is made to perfection.
For classic ramen lovers, their menu has a classic Tonkotsu soup (cooked for over 10 hours for maximum flavour) with spring onions, seaweed, bamboo shoots and slices of BBQ pork. If you like your ramen hot, then you’ll love their tan tan men ramen which is made with chilli-infused soup and spicy minced pork, topped with chashu, nitamago and corn.
Taking creative inspiration from the Blade Runner sequel, Izakaya Den 2029 on Russell Street easily stands out as one of the most unique Japanese restaurants on our list. As the imaginative relaunch of the original Izakaya Den, you will still find some of their old favourites on their menu along with new bold dishes.
Their Head Chef Jarrod Di Blasi has worked tirelessly to create an izakaya menu that features robust flavours with a few surprises. You can enjoy dishes including steamed Murray cod with dashi and ginger, sumiso with BBQ pork belly, and seasonal sashimi with wasabi dressing and crystal seaweed. Their vegan menu features dishes such as nama yuba sashimi, kiritanpo with miso-glazed roasted rice, and fioretto cauliflower with shiitake mushrooms and pine nut dressing.
Aside from Izakaya Den 2029’s tasting dishes, imported Japanese beers and traditional sake, their underground restaurant has an intimate yet futuristic atmosphere. This is established through the use of long narrow spaces with a balance of dark hardwood, dim lighting and cement interior. Whether it’s for a late-night snack, grabbing a drink or taking in the unique aesthetics while enjoying a delicious Japanese meal, Izakaya Den 2029 is your ultimate destination.
Since first opening its doors all the way back in 1981, Kenzan on Flinders Lane has been one of the top players when it comes to Melbourne’s best Japanese restaurants. And with multiple awards including a Chef’s Hat in 2007, 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2019, it’s not hard to see why. As teleporting straight to Tokyo is still a long way off, visiting Kenzan is the next best option.
Specialising in traditional sushi, Kenzan has been plating up old school style dishes of grilled eel and bluefin tuna belly long before Melbourne began its love affair with sushi. Their lunch menu offers a selection of fresh, thinly sliced sashimi, pan-grilled salmon brushed with teriyaki sauce, and lunch boxes featuring prawn dumplings, sushi rolls and miso soup.
Their dinner menu offers a delectable selection of nabe ryori (Japanese hot pot) with thinly sliced vegetables and Japanese marbled beef cooked in sukiyaki sauce or a clear broth with a side of sesame and ponzu dipping sauces. If you’re visiting with a group of friends, you can dine at their sushi bar or book their chef’s recommended banquet course that includes sashimi and sushi platters, gyu teriyaki, agedashi tofu, misoshiru and more.
Consisting of three levels including a sushi bar, fine dining area and traditional tatami seating, Shoya on Market Lane is driven by their passion for delivering contemporary, authentic and traditional Japanese fine dining. Decorated with elegant Japanese paintings and calligraphy, Shoyu’s interior immediately captures your senses.
Their Head Chef and founder Shigeo Nonaka has achieved a long list of awards for Shoya, including winning Best Japanese Restaurant in Melbourne from 2006 to 2013 – which is a pretty good indicator of what to expect. Their menu features a constantly evolving selection of dishes and ingredients that push the boundaries and play with century-old techniques, delivering the purest and most delicate flavours.
Apart from casual lunches, Shoya’s degustation menu offers decadent dishes such as lightly miso grilled golden perch with duck liver and sun-dried mullet roe, whole tempura Hokkaido crab leg dusted with green tea salt, and gently smoked sous vide lobster tail with Kabosu butter sauce. And for the perfect way to end the night, head up to the executive lounge on the top floor and warm up your singing voice for a round of karaoke!
If you’re looking for a Japanese restaurant to wow your friends or clients, then head over to Tempura Hajime in South Melbourne. On the outside, it’s just a wooden door with a small sign located under an office building. On the inside, however, it’s a completely different world.
Providing a very intimate atmosphere and seating up to 12 diners, Tempura Hajime is a one-man operation headed by sushi chef Shigeo. Winning a Chef’s Hat each year from 2008 to 2020, every dish is prepared and cooked right in front of you, showcasing Shigeo’s mastery of Japanese cooking and filling the air with tantalising aromas.
Tempura Hajime’s dinner menu offers incredible dishes including chef Shigeo’s selection of delicious tempura with mixed seaweed salad and Japanese wagyu beef layered on top of vinegared sushi rice. Their lunch menu offers tempura dishes such as eel, John Dory, scallop, nori, potato and sea urchin, although it does depend on what’s in season. Don’t be fooled by the small interior as Tempura Hajime offers one of the best izakaya experiences in Melbourne.
As the newest venture of the San Telmo Group, who already operate Pastuso, Asado, Palermo and of course San Telmo, the Robata Japanese Grill has already created quite a buzz as the newest hot restaurant in Melbourne. Located in the Herald Sun building, which proudly stands on the corner of Exhibition and Flinders street, Robata (meaning “fireside”) specialises in their own unique interpretation of the traditional Japanese grilling method called “Robatayaki” (meaning “fireside cooking”).
Exploring Robata’s menu takes you on a culinary adventure through ancient Japan, featuring standout dishes such as tonkatsu with cabbage and fried pork cutlet, beautifully seared salmon with a side of Japanese mustard miso, and chirashi handrolls filled with caviar, salmon, tamari soy sauce and avocado. You also can’t visit without trying their yakitori (grilled chicken), with your choice of chicken breast, wing, thigh or heart flame-grilled with spring onion, cured yolk, shio koji, yuzu salt and more!
Robata also offers an extensive drink menu, including sweet potato amber ale, sparkling sake, cider, a large selection of Japanese whiskey, beer, wine and some very creative cocktails. For the perfect ending to your meal, don’t forget to try their mouthwatering sparkling sake and sakura sorbet.
Unlike other types of cuisine that can leave you feeling bloated from heavy, carb-filled dishes, Japanese is the perfect choice when you want indulgence – without overindulgence. Now that you know where the best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne are, book yourself a table and enjoy a traditional Japanese lunch or dinner that you won’t have to travel all the way to Tokyo to experience!