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Where to Eat Japanese Food in San Diego

From yakitori joints and izakayas to kaiseki

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Sister city to Yokohama since 1957, San Diego is home to a robust Japanese food scene with Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa a longstanding go-to for some of the region’s most authentic dishes. And, with its often meticulously presented aesthetic, traditional Japanese cuisine doesn’t just taste amazing; it looks fantastic too. From splurge-worthy kaiseki menus and chef’s whim omakase (the Japanese word for entrusting) to old favorite strip mall standbys for sushi, here are 17 stellar spots for Japanese food in San Diego. For a deeper dive into more specific Japanese fare, check out Eater’s dedicated Ramen and Sushi maps.

- Please note map points are listed in North to South order.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Kaito Sushi

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130-A N El Camino Real
Encinitas, CA 92024
(760) 634-2746
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Chef/owner Hiromi Kimura and Tokyo-trained Kazuo Morita mostly prepare sushi in the classic Edo-style at this well-loved strip mall spot. The bar seats around 14 diners, the omakase is always popular and the a la carte menu expansive – think everything from fresh Hokkaido uni to big fin reef squid. Small plates also feature, like sansei-oroshi (mountain veggies and ground daikon) and maguro-natto (fermented soybeans and tuna). In celebration of its 10th Anniversary, Kaito debuted an interior makeover this year.

2. Himitsu

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1030 Torrey Pines Rd G
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 263-4463
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With eight-seats total, the sushi bar at Himitsu might be one of San Diego’s most intimate dining experiences. Expect traditional high-end nigiri, small plates, and an omakase menu that changes nightly at this hidden gem (the restaurant’s name is Japanese for secret) from Sushi Ota protégé chef Mitsu Aihara. During lunch, try the $20 Sushi Lover set or the Saikyo miso-marinated black cod for dinner. There’s a well-curated sake list, natural wines, and Japanese beers.

3. Okan Diner

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5430 Clairemont Mesa Blvd G
San Diego, CA 92117
(858) 278-4228

This sister restaurant to Convoy Street’s Wa Dining Okan specializes in traditional Japanese home cooking, namely kamameshi a rice dish cooked in an iron pot. Standouts of which include the braised pork belly cooked in tonkotsu broth with poached egg, and chicken with mixed mushrooms, quail egg, and gobo. Small plates, nabeyaki udon, assorted ramen, and sushi also feature. 

4. Yakitori Hino

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7420 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 880-6048

Specializing in traditional yakitori grilled over Japanese bincho charcoal, Hino’s skewers range from chicken wing, heart, liver, and gizzard to beef with wasabi, and pork shiso; while yakitori sets include the chef’s choice of four, seven and ten skewers. Small dishes range from spicy fried chicken and monkfish liver with plum sauce to rice bowls topped with poke. Behind the bar, there’s a variety of bottled sake plus soju and soju-based cocktails, and beer.

5. Yakitori Taisho

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5185 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92117
(858) 752-0468
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Debuted in 2014, this intimate 15-seat spot is a favorite industry hangout, offering a menu of specialty skewers from the owners of Yakitori Yaktudori. Whether you’re after karaage, deep-fried wings, tsukune (meatball) or hatsu (heart) skewers with a bottle of Sapporo, and a glass of soju on the side, this place won’t disappoint.

6. Robataya Oton

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5447 Kearny Villa Rd D
San Diego, CA 92123
(858) 277-3989
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Showcasing the art of robatayaki, original Japanese barbecue cooked in front of and served directly to customers, Robataya Oton is a super authentic spot to enjoy traditional yakimono (grilled) dishes like marinated black cod with miso and yellowtail cheek, along with hotpot dishes (nabemono). A real Japanese sit-down style place, tables are situated within private tatami screened booths with slippers provided to all guests so shoes can be removed before entering. 

7. Hidden Fish

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4764 Convoy St ste a
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 210-5056
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San Diego’s first omakase-only sushi bar has room for eight diners during its 50-minute, 12-piece Omakase Teaser menu ($50) while five seats are dedicated to its 90 minute, 18-course Omakase Premium meal ($90). Made with fresh local seafood and a fish sourced from Tokyo’s famed Tsujiki Market, current sample courses could include bluefin tuna with uni, black truffle, and sturgeon caviar and “toro” tartare with uni and ikura. A la carte dishes are available too, including chu-toro, sea bream and cured mackerel.

8. J/Wata Temaki Bar

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4646 Convoy St #103
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 251-4071
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All temaki are assembled to order at chef/owner Junya Watanabe’s creative hand roll concept on Convoy. Ingredients start with the three vinegar-seasoned sushi rice (cooked in small batches), high-grade soy sauce, and specially-sourced seaweed that’s toasted over an open flame. Fillings range from hamachi golden-ratio tare to premium ingredients like Maine lobster. Order a la carte or from set menus of three, four, and five. Can’t stop for a sit-down lunch? The to-go menu offers temaki as a 6-piece cut roll instead.

9. Hinotez

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7947 Balboa Ave
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 565-4244
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You’ll find classic dishes like yakitori, ramen, yakisoba, udon, and rice bowls on the menu at this well-loved low-key joint, which not only offers a superb breakfast deal (starting at $8 it comes with rice, salad, miso soup, and hot tea, plus add-ons like steamed gyoza, teriyaki salmon, and potato croquettes), but a great late-night happy hour too, when select bottles of sake, shochu, and wine are discounted from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

10. Mitsuwa Marketplace

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4240 Kearny Mesa Rd
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 569-6699
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Mitsuwa’s deli has grab and go onigiri and fluffy egg salad sandwiches (come by before 11 a.m. for the best pickings), but for a sit-down lunch or dinner there are two (cash only) counter-serve spots in the food court. Musashiya serves up udon, soba and donburi bowls, plus plate meals like katsu curry, and teriyaki chicken with miso, salad, rice, and a slice of tamago for dessert. While the adjacent Santouka, a famous chain from Japan, specializes in delicious and authentic shio, shoyu, and miso ramen. Try the salt ramen with with pork cheek.

11. Yokohama Yakitori Koubou

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3904 Convoy St #108
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 277-8822
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One of the most well-known and loved yakitori restaurants in Japan has its only U.S outpost right here in San Diego where the atmosphere is low key and relaxed. Here, the traditional kushiyaki skewers – from hatsu (chicken heart), gyu kalbi (prime beef short rib), and nasu (Japanese eggplant) –are all grilled to perfection over binchō-tan charcoal that produces virtually no flames or smoke but generates just the right kind of heat. Try the yakitori omakase, which will get you six skewers for $15, and enjoy alongside a draft Asahi and carafe of crisp Junmai daiginjo sake.

12. Wa Dining OKAN

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3860 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 279-0941
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With its homestyle comfort food focused on fully cooked fare, this intimate spot on Convoy (nestled next door to Nijiya Market) is another one of San Diego’s most enjoyable Japanese dining experiences. Perhaps the best bento lunch box in town, at Okan dishes are beautifully presented on lacquered trays, like the salmon sashimi, which comes with rice, miso soup, and assorted tapas, like seaweed salad. Other fan favorites here include the pork cheeks, salted mackerel, and grilled duck.

13. Sushi Ota

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4529 Mission Bay Dr
San Diego, CA 92109
(858) 270-5670
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Chef/owner Yukito Ota’s award-winning strip-mall eatery has amassed a loyal following from locals and visitors in the know since opening in 1990. On any given day you’ll find a line of people patiently waiting outside for a table (reservations recommended). If time and budget constraints allow, grab a seat at the sushi bar and go omakase - seafood is local or Japanese and local urchin the chef’s favorite - priced at $150 it includes courses of sashimi, sushi, a cup of chawanmushi (savory egg custard), plus a cooked seasonal dish.

14. Kokoro Restaurant

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3298 Greyling Dr
San Diego, CA 92123
(858) 565-4113

A little off the beaten path, chef/owner Akio Ishito runs a “quiet temple to the art of sushi” in Serra Mesa, where reservations are highly recommended – especially for the omakase, which requires three days notice. While the pristine sushi here shines, there are tasteful, hot dishes too, including a salted Okhotsk Atka mackerel (hokkke) and yellowtail collar. During lunch there are seven set menus, one of which is a deluxe bento with tempura, sashimi, grilled, and simmered dishes. 

15. SOICHI

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2121 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 677-2220
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The 12-seat bar at veteran sushi master Soichi Kadoya’s cozy Adams Avenue spot has been a hot-ticket reservation since the restaurant opened back in April. Soichi, who spent five and a half years at Sushi Tadokoro, does do a la carte sushi but the main attractions here are the two omakase menus. There’s a nigiri version for $85 and a two-hour experience for $125 that covers seasonal appetizers, grilled fish, sashimi and nigiri using pristine seafood like sweet shrimp, fatty tuna and sea urchin. Sake enthusiasts will appreciate the specialty sakes produced from small breweries in Japan.

16. Izakaya Masa

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928 Fort Stockton Dr
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 542-1354
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With just five tiny booths, reservations are a must at this jewel box restaurant in Mission Hills. Open until 1 a.m. while the ramen and sushi here are tasty, the best way to experience an izakaya is with a selection of appetizers and a beer. Alongside familiar dishes like gyoza and agedashi tofu more exotic offerings include chuka karage (spicy jellyfish), takowasa (wasabi marinated octopus), and ankimo (monkfish liver with ponzu sauce). Next, try some ochazuke (a rustic rice dish in hot tea) before ending with a little black sesame ice cream. 

17. Sushi Tadokoro

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2244 San Diego Ave
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 297-0298
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For traditional Edomae-style (Tokyo) sushi in San Diego, it’s got to be Sushi Tadokoro. Chef/owner Takeaki Tadokoro’s intimate restaurant in Old Town (which recently celebrated its 7th Anniversary) is famous for its uni (some say the best in San Diego) and other preparations of pristine seafood, much of which gets flown in from Japan, including baby barracuda from the island of Kyushu. With just ten seats at the sushi bar and seven tables reservations are advised.

1. Kaito Sushi

130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

Chef/owner Hiromi Kimura and Tokyo-trained Kazuo Morita mostly prepare sushi in the classic Edo-style at this well-loved strip mall spot. The bar seats around 14 diners, the omakase is always popular and the a la carte menu expansive – think everything from fresh Hokkaido uni to big fin reef squid. Small plates also feature, like sansei-oroshi (mountain veggies and ground daikon) and maguro-natto (fermented soybeans and tuna). In celebration of its 10th Anniversary, Kaito debuted an interior makeover this year.

130-A N El Camino Real
Encinitas, CA 92024

2. Himitsu

1030 Torrey Pines Rd G, La Jolla, CA 92037

With eight-seats total, the sushi bar at Himitsu might be one of San Diego’s most intimate dining experiences. Expect traditional high-end nigiri, small plates, and an omakase menu that changes nightly at this hidden gem (the restaurant’s name is Japanese for secret) from Sushi Ota protégé chef Mitsu Aihara. During lunch, try the $20 Sushi Lover set or the Saikyo miso-marinated black cod for dinner. There’s a well-curated sake list, natural wines, and Japanese beers.

1030 Torrey Pines Rd G
La Jolla, CA 92037

3. Okan Diner

5430 Clairemont Mesa Blvd G, San Diego, CA 92117

This sister restaurant to Convoy Street’s Wa Dining Okan specializes in traditional Japanese home cooking, namely kamameshi a rice dish cooked in an iron pot. Standouts of which include the braised pork belly cooked in tonkotsu broth with poached egg, and chicken with mixed mushrooms, quail egg, and gobo. Small plates, nabeyaki udon, assorted ramen, and sushi also feature. 

5430 Clairemont Mesa Blvd G
San Diego, CA 92117

4. Yakitori Hino

7420 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92111

Specializing in traditional yakitori grilled over Japanese bincho charcoal, Hino’s skewers range from chicken wing, heart, liver, and gizzard to beef with wasabi, and pork shiso; while yakitori sets include the chef’s choice of four, seven and ten skewers. Small dishes range from spicy fried chicken and monkfish liver with plum sauce to rice bowls topped with poke. Behind the bar, there’s a variety of bottled sake plus soju and soju-based cocktails, and beer.

7420 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92111

5. Yakitori Taisho

5185 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92117

Debuted in 2014, this intimate 15-seat spot is a favorite industry hangout, offering a menu of specialty skewers from the owners of Yakitori Yaktudori. Whether you’re after karaage, deep-fried wings, tsukune (meatball) or hatsu (heart) skewers with a bottle of Sapporo, and a glass of soju on the side, this place won’t disappoint.

5185 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92117

6. Robataya Oton

5447 Kearny Villa Rd D, San Diego, CA 92123

Showcasing the art of robatayaki, original Japanese barbecue cooked in front of and served directly to customers, Robataya Oton is a super authentic spot to enjoy traditional yakimono (grilled) dishes like marinated black cod with miso and yellowtail cheek, along with hotpot dishes (nabemono). A real Japanese sit-down style place, tables are situated within private tatami screened booths with slippers provided to all guests so shoes can be removed before entering. 

5447 Kearny Villa Rd D
San Diego, CA 92123

7. Hidden Fish

4764 Convoy St ste a, San Diego, CA 92111

San Diego’s first omakase-only sushi bar has room for eight diners during its 50-minute, 12-piece Omakase Teaser menu ($50) while five seats are dedicated to its 90 minute, 18-course Omakase Premium meal ($90). Made with fresh local seafood and a fish sourced from Tokyo’s famed Tsujiki Market, current sample courses could include bluefin tuna with uni, black truffle, and sturgeon caviar and “toro” tartare with uni and ikura. A la carte dishes are available too, including chu-toro, sea bream and cured mackerel.

4764 Convoy St ste a
San Diego, CA 92111

8. J/Wata Temaki Bar

4646 Convoy St #103, San Diego, CA 92111

All temaki are assembled to order at chef/owner Junya Watanabe’s creative hand roll concept on Convoy. Ingredients start with the three vinegar-seasoned sushi rice (cooked in small batches), high-grade soy sauce, and specially-sourced seaweed that’s toasted over an open flame. Fillings range from hamachi golden-ratio tare to premium ingredients like Maine lobster. Order a la carte or from set menus of three, four, and five. Can’t stop for a sit-down lunch? The to-go menu offers temaki as a 6-piece cut roll instead.

4646 Convoy St #103
San Diego, CA 92111

9. Hinotez

7947 Balboa Ave, San Diego, CA 92111

You’ll find classic dishes like yakitori, ramen, yakisoba, udon, and rice bowls on the menu at this well-loved low-key joint, which not only offers a superb breakfast deal (starting at $8 it comes with rice, salad, miso soup, and hot tea, plus add-ons like steamed gyoza, teriyaki salmon, and potato croquettes), but a great late-night happy hour too, when select bottles of sake, shochu, and wine are discounted from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

7947 Balboa Ave
San Diego, CA 92111

10. Mitsuwa Marketplace

4240 Kearny Mesa Rd, San Diego, CA 92111

Mitsuwa’s deli has grab and go onigiri and fluffy egg salad sandwiches (come by before 11 a.m. for the best pickings), but for a sit-down lunch or dinner there are two (cash only) counter-serve spots in the food court. Musashiya serves up udon, soba and donburi bowls, plus plate meals like katsu curry, and teriyaki chicken with miso, salad, rice, and a slice of tamago for dessert. While the adjacent Santouka, a famous chain from Japan, specializes in delicious and authentic shio, shoyu, and miso ramen. Try the salt ramen with with pork cheek.

4240 Kearny Mesa Rd
San Diego, CA 92111

11. Yokohama Yakitori Koubou

3904 Convoy St #108, San Diego, CA 92111

One of the most well-known and loved yakitori restaurants in Japan has its only U.S outpost right here in San Diego where the atmosphere is low key and relaxed. Here, the traditional kushiyaki skewers – from hatsu (chicken heart), gyu kalbi (prime beef short rib), and nasu (Japanese eggplant) –are all grilled to perfection over binchō-tan charcoal that produces virtually no flames or smoke but generates just the right kind of heat. Try the yakitori omakase, which will get you six skewers for $15, and enjoy alongside a draft Asahi and carafe of crisp Junmai daiginjo sake.

3904 Convoy St #108
San Diego, CA 92111

12. Wa Dining OKAN

3860 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

With its homestyle comfort food focused on fully cooked fare, this intimate spot on Convoy (nestled next door to Nijiya Market) is another one of San Diego’s most enjoyable Japanese dining experiences. Perhaps the best bento lunch box in town, at Okan dishes are beautifully presented on lacquered trays, like the salmon sashimi, which comes with rice, miso soup, and assorted tapas, like seaweed salad. Other fan favorites here include the pork cheeks, salted mackerel, and grilled duck.

3860 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111

13. Sushi Ota

4529 Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109

Chef/owner Yukito Ota’s award-winning strip-mall eatery has amassed a loyal following from locals and visitors in the know since opening in 1990. On any given day you’ll find a line of people patiently waiting outside for a table (reservations recommended). If time and budget constraints allow, grab a seat at the sushi bar and go omakase - seafood is local or Japanese and local urchin the chef’s favorite - priced at $150 it includes courses of sashimi, sushi, a cup of chawanmushi (savory egg custard), plus a cooked seasonal dish.

4529 Mission Bay Dr
San Diego, CA 92109

14. Kokoro Restaurant

3298 Greyling Dr, San Diego, CA 92123

A little off the beaten path, chef/owner Akio Ishito runs a “quiet temple to the art of sushi” in Serra Mesa, where reservations are highly recommended – especially for the omakase, which requires three days notice. While the pristine sushi here shines, there are tasteful, hot dishes too, including a salted Okhotsk Atka mackerel (hokkke) and yellowtail collar. During lunch there are seven set menus, one of which is a deluxe bento with tempura, sashimi, grilled, and simmered dishes. 

3298 Greyling Dr
San Diego, CA 92123

15. SOICHI

2121 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116

The 12-seat bar at veteran sushi master Soichi Kadoya’s cozy Adams Avenue spot has been a hot-ticket reservation since the restaurant opened back in April. Soichi, who spent five and a half years at Sushi Tadokoro, does do a la carte sushi but the main attractions here are the two omakase menus. There’s a nigiri version for $85 and a two-hour experience for $125 that covers seasonal appetizers, grilled fish, sashimi and nigiri using pristine seafood like sweet shrimp, fatty tuna and sea urchin. Sake enthusiasts will appreciate the specialty sakes produced from small breweries in Japan.

2121 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116

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16. Izakaya Masa

928 Fort Stockton Dr, San Diego, CA 92103

With just five tiny booths, reservations are a must at this jewel box restaurant in Mission Hills. Open until 1 a.m. while the ramen and sushi here are tasty, the best way to experience an izakaya is with a selection of appetizers and a beer. Alongside familiar dishes like gyoza and agedashi tofu more exotic offerings include chuka karage (spicy jellyfish), takowasa (wasabi marinated octopus), and ankimo (monkfish liver with ponzu sauce). Next, try some ochazuke (a rustic rice dish in hot tea) before ending with a little black sesame ice cream. 

928 Fort Stockton Dr
San Diego, CA 92103

17. Sushi Tadokoro

2244 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110

For traditional Edomae-style (Tokyo) sushi in San Diego, it’s got to be Sushi Tadokoro. Chef/owner Takeaki Tadokoro’s intimate restaurant in Old Town (which recently celebrated its 7th Anniversary) is famous for its uni (some say the best in San Diego) and other preparations of pristine seafood, much of which gets flown in from Japan, including baby barracuda from the island of Kyushu. With just ten seats at the sushi bar and seven tables reservations are advised.

2244 San Diego Ave
San Diego, CA 92110

Related Maps