The Best Japanese Restaurants in Bangkok
Thailand is a popular destination for hordes of visitors from all over the globe -– especially those from colder climes. However, it has also long been one of the favourite overseas destinations of the Japanese for both visiting and working, as the many Japanese workers in the country demonstrate.
The majority of Japanese stationed in Thailand by their home-based companies are apparently more than happy to indulge in a spot of expat life in the old land of smiles, reportedly due to the apparent feeling of freedom it allows them in terms of cultural restrictions, but also the fact that there is all-year-round warm weather and a much lower cost of living than anything they are used to back home. Domo arigato.
It has even been reported that Thailand has one of the world’s largest Japanese populations outside of Japan, and the tropical SE Asian tropical certainly has its fair share of Japanese companies set up in the industrial, leisure, and banking sectors, to name but a few, and these companies are obviously employers of large numbers of Thais, which makes their presence that much more palatable to the locals.
As something of a side note, Japan also happens to be one of the most popular holiday and travelling destinations for the Thais who holiday away from local shores.
There are various Japanese ‘hot-spots’ ten, in and around some of the central city areas, namely along the Sukhumvit Road line from Phrom Pong and moving up towards Thong Lor. These regions contain reasonably large numbers of Japanese expat families, a fact which is evident from the rather more upscale appearance of the area compared to say, Nana, a bit further back down the line.
If you find yourself in close proximity to these regions of the city, you may notice more in the way of Japanese schools, cafes, massage parlours and eateries around these stretches of central Bangkok, and if you dig a little deeper still you will even find the Thai capital’s own ‘little Tokyo’ nestled somewhere slightly deeper among the backstreets of the area, not too far from the popular high-end shopping malls Emporium and Emquartier, in Phrom Pong (where there is a BTS stop of the same name).
Needless to say, there is no shortage whatsoever in some of the central city regions of Japanese-style avenues of leisure, these coming by way of whiskey bars, sushi counters, massage parlours, and of course – Japanese restaurants. The thing to know in a place outside of Japan though, according to expats resident in Bangkok, is that there are Japanese restaurants, and then there are Japanese restaurants.
Food trends do come and go in Bangkok, and although Korean-style eating and fashion has taken something of a hold in recent years, a decade or so back all things Japanese were the rage. Needless to say, Japanese cuisine started popping up all over the city, and while some of the places that may have opened during that time have long since disappeared, there are many that have stood the test of time.
It is not even that uncommon to find Japanese restaurants listed in some of Bangkok’s ‘Best Restaurant’ guides, as the cuisine has long been a staple favourite alternative for the ever-growing number of Thais who have come to fancy something a bit different to the usual local fare. And although many of them are content with the Japanese equivalents of McDonalds by way of Oishi or other similarly cheap and cheerful attempts at presenting a taste of Japan to the Thai masses (okay, maybe not quite McDonalds), there are still plenty who know the difference.
Even the admittedly popular standard ‘high-street’ Japanese affairs such as Fuji, and some of the more frequented ramen restaurants pale in comparison to what you could actually find with a little digging, and if you know what to look for.
That said, there are plenty of high-calibre, authentic Japanese eateries that you will find packed with Japanese expats, visitors ‘in the know’, and a sprinkling of locals, that are dotted around various locations of the city and are well worth checking out.
So with that in mind, let’s take a somewhat closer look at some of the best restaurants in Bangkok.
1. Nihon Saiseisakaba
Now with more than 20 branches across Asia, including this one in Bangkok opened in 2018, here we have one of the world’s most famous izakaya.
Not surprisingly, this brand originated in Tokyo, and the specialty is motsuyaki, which is basically traditionally Japanese-style skewers of meat and offal, seasoned with soy sauce, sake, and sugar, and grilled over charcoal.
The meat options on offer here include chicken, pork and beef, with a range of offal by way of various animal innards popular in such restaurants. This comes by way of beef tongue and pig diaphragm, just to give you some idea –- or maybe you’d rather stick with the delicious chicken teriyaki.
There are thankfully a few vegetarian options as well, just in case none of that sounds exactly your thing.
Location: Nihon Saiseisakaba, Warehouse 26, Sukhumvit Soi 26, Bangkok, Thailand
Hours: daily 4:30-11pm
Tel: 097-232-4782; 02-070-7676
Like many of the top Japanese restaurants in Bangkok, Sushi Ichi has its roots in a ‘Mother’ branch back in Tokyo. Needless to say, the emphasis is on uncompromising authenticity by way of omakase-style sushi.
Apparently the freshness of the ingredients here (which are flown in on a daily basis) is second to none, and you will witness the complete Japanese restaurant showcase in full effect here, in typically subtle ways while artfully attending to details.
This means traditionally-garbed chefs, with elegant yet lethal-looking knives scraping away at boards strewn with wasabi, shagreen, and all manner of other subtly authentic delights.
Location: Ginza Sushi Ichi, LG/F, Erawan Bangkok, 494 Phloen Chit Rd., Bangkok
Hours: Tue-Sun noon-2:30pm; Tue-Sat 6-11pm; Sun 6-10pm
3. Mihara Tofuten
This particular establishment is the brainchild of a partnership between a big name in Asian cuisine (Gaggan Anand) and a top Fukuoka restaurant (La Maison de la Nature Goh).
The concept behind this was the presentation of a fine-dining experience dedicated to tofu from Kyushu. The showcase comes by way of 12 courses, served in classic Japanese style around the kitchen counter. Here you can expect shots of tofu milk and bento boxes including delightful varieties of tofu.
These usually serve as starters to main dishes such as the highly-tender Kobe beef rib-eye (served suki style), and sweet kinki fish fillets topped with emulsified tofu. emulsion.
Location: Mihara Tofuten, Narathiwat Ratchanakarin Soi 5, Bangkok
Hours: Wed-Sun 11:30am-2pm, 6-11pm; Mon 11:30am-2pm, 6-11pm
4. Sushi Zo
A bit further away from the concentrated hotbed of Japanese eateries, where you are actually likely to find Japanese people indulging in the fare, is another omakase restaurant in the form of Sushi Zo.
Not too far away from Central Chit Lom along the Wireless Road, Sushi Zo has been operating in Bangkok since 2017 under the expert supervision of Hokkaido-born head chef Toshi Onishi.
There is a touch of uniqueness to some of the 18-course omakase cuisine in that it varies the rules of traditional Edo-style sushi somewhat, by adding such touches as striped Saba fish marinated in olive oil and topped with Sichuan pepper, just by way of example. Needless to say this place is a popular choice for both locals, visitors and expats always willing to soak up anything with a hint of fusion involved.
Location: Sushi Zo, G/F, Athenee Tower, 63 Wireless Rd., Bangkok, Thailand
Hours: Tue-Sun 6-8pm, 8:30-10pm
Heading back up the Sukhumvit Road again, a bit closer to many of the other top Bangkok Japanese restaurants, we can find Ten-Sui on Soi 33, nestled among many of the city’s other top eateries of all description.
Here you will find yet more expertly-crafted dishes flowing from the kitchen to fuel another slightly mixed crowd likely to be made up of both locals and Japanese expats, during both lunchtimes and evenings.
Ten-Sui is not quite as pricey as some of the other options in this post, and you can experience the hugely-popular multi-course lunch sets which are served gracefully and graciously, adding to the vibe of the place and it pleasant environment, and going some way towards explaining the consistently packed environment.
Location: Ten-Sui, 33 Sukhumvit Soi 16, Bangkok, 10110 Thailand
Hours: daily 10:30am-1pm, 4:30-9pm
Jua opened its doors in 2017 in the recently-trendy Charoenkrung region of Bangkok, far away from the usual Japanese hotbed areas.
The establishment is set quite a way down a residential soi on the Charoenkrung Road, but many expat Japanese ad local food buffs find this stylish and modern izakaya the perfect start point for big night out.
Needless to say, there are usually plentiful amounts of sake in full flow to complement the shochu and umeshu. Expertly-prepared Japanese-style grilled skewers are in full effect here, and obviously the produce used demonstrates both the freshness and high-quality typical of Japanese restaurants like this one.