Canberra is lucky enough to be home to a sprawling foodie scene that is rich, multicultural and varied. Among the innumerable venues to choose from, Canberrans are pretty partial to Japanese cuisine, whether it’s a simple sushi train or a lively teppanyaki bar.
With light options like sashimi or tempura, or heartier meals such as ramen or yaki udon, Japanese cuisine offers something for everyone. Plus, modern Japanese cuisine can be so varied and experimental that there is always something new to try.
If you’re craving Japanese for your next night out in Canberra, you might find yourself spoiled for choice when trying to pick a restaurant. Luckily, you’ve landed in the right spot. In this article, we’ll take you through what makes a great Japanese restaurant, and provide a guide to some of Canberra’s best.
What makes a great Japanese restaurant?
Not sure what to look for in a Japanese restaurant? Keep these few traits in mind when looking for a great venue:
- High quality produce. Any cuisine is only as good as its ingredients, and this is especially true for Japanese food which often uses raw meat in its dishes. A great Japanese restaurant prioritises the quality of its ingredients in order to serve up the best food possible.
- Catering to dietary requirements. A lot of Japanese food is naturally gluten-free and dairy free, but if you have particular allergies then you want to be in a restaurant that is happy to cater to your needs.
- Great atmosphere. From nice interior décor to unintrusive music and a good crowd, the atmosphere of restaurant can contribute enormously to your enjoyment. Look for a restaurant that makes you comfortable, as well as serving delicious food.
- Good value. No one wants to pay huge amounts of money for subpar food or tiny portions. A great restaurant knows that their prices should reflect the quality of their food.
- Friendly staff. Whether you’ve never had Japanese food before, are looking to branch out from your regular choice, or you have some general questions about the menu, you want to feel comfortable with approaching the staff. Great restaurants are staffed by friendly and helpful waiters who are there to make sure you have the best dining experience possible.
The best Japanese restaurants in Canberra
RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.
Located on the Lonsdale Street strip of bustling bars and restaurants, Lazy Su has mastered the art of American-Japanese-Korean retro restaurant culture. Laid out and decorated like a hole-in-the-wall bar-restaurant straight out of a Tokyo laneway, food and drink here are served up express and designed for sharing. It’s loud and quirky, and the menu features decadent and indulgent pieces from cheeseburger spring rolls, spicy prawn & bacon wontons and jalapeno poppers to fried chicken ramen and tea-smoked duck pancakes.
‘Local Guide’ Courtney Walsh left the following review for Lazy Su, “Amazing drinks and food. One of my favourite places. Great staff. Great ambience. I love the fried chicken ramen. So tasty.”
Ramentic is a dedicated ramen bar, with a slick interior of black tiles and pale wooden benches and stools. The menu is all about quality over quantity, as they keep it simple with a few classic ramen dishes and a few tasty snacks and nibbles to boot, it’s easy to see why Ramentic is fast becoming the go-to for locals seeking modern Japanese cuisine.
As Facebook user Angie Cooper writes in this review, “My first ramen experience and really enjoyed. Fast service and great food on a busy long weekend.”
At Iori, expect fine Japanese dining in a relaxed atmosphere that strives for authenticity. This restaurant offers a range of menu options, from traditional Japanese dishes such as hot pots, sushi and sashimi to modern Japanese cuisine. By ensuring that only the freshest of produce is used, Iori guarantees you the highest quality possible with excellent service to boot.
As Facebook user Peter Horrocks describes their experience in this review, “Great banquet menu, excellent food and wonderful, friendly staff.”
Established in 2015, Shin Sen Teppanyaki delivers on entertainment as much as the quality of their food. With a large open teppanyaki bar in the centre of the restaurant, pull up a chair and watch the chef prepare your meal on the hot grill right in front of you. Whether you’re planning a company dinner party, a birthday party, or a social gathering, Shin Sen is here to create a heart-warming & memorable night.
As Facebook user Michelle Collins-Skipper writes in their review, “Absolutely brilliant! Our chef was hilarious, food was delicious, and they made my son’s birthday one to remember! Highly recommend.”
Raku has become a favourite on the Canberra fine dining scene. Their philosophy is to combine the precision and artfulness of Japanese culinary traditions with the vibrant energy of modern Australian dining to create unique and exciting dishes. With a selection of set menus as well as delicious items such as the melt-in-your-mouth unagi foie gras nigiri and their wide selection of maki rolls, Raku is here to provide you with not just a meal, but an experience.
As ‘Local Guide’ Alessia Mathewson writes in their Google review, “I really wish we had discovered Raku sooner. Sitting at the table watching the chefs work their magic was an awesome experience. We got the $80 set menu, and the food was incredibly fresh and tasty. The dessert even surprised us. Highly recommend Raku and we look forward to returning.”
Craving Asian food for your next night out, but can’t decide where to go? Maybe we can help – check out our articles on the best Chinese, Thai and Yum Cha restaurants in Canberra for some great recommendations.
Should something a little more fancy be on order take a look at our article on the best fine dining options in the region. Conversely for more relaxed dining options in Canberra, you might like our article on the best pubs, the best gastropubs, and the best steakhouses Canberra has to offer. And, should you fancy a tipple perhaps the best cocktail bars or the best wine bars may also be of interest.
Your experience with Japanese restaurants in Canberra
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback, if you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Have you had experience with any of the Japanese restaurants listed above? Have we missed your favourite? If so, please share your feedback in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Japanese food gluten free?
While rice (which is gluten free) makes up the majority of Japanese dishes, Japanese cooking often uses wheat-based soy sauce, which is not gluten-free. If you’re at a restaurant, make sure you ask your waitstaff if they have gluten-free options for you.
Is sushi expensive?
It can be, but luckily Canberra is home to many affordable chain restaurants and sushi trains that sell sushi at an affordable price. However, upscale restaurants that use higher quality fish and professionally trained sushi chefs may sell their sushi for a much higher price.
What’s the difference between ramen and phô?
While both dishes are similar, the key difference is the broth. Phô is a Vietnamese noodle soup with a herbal broth and light noodles, while ramen is a Japanese noodle soup with a much heartier broth and denser noodles.
Can I get Japanese food to take-away in Canberra?
Absolutely! While not every single Japanese restaurant may offer delivery, a large number of them do, either through their own delivery system or a service such as Deliveroo and Menulog.
What does “Japanese fusion” mean?
Fusion cuisine is cuisine that combines ingredients, flavours and techniques from multiple countries or cultures. Japanese fusion combines Japanese culinary traditions with those from other countries, such as Chinese, Thai, Australian or American.