clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Where to Eat Japanese Food in San Diego

From easy-going yakitori joints and izakayas to upscale kaiseki

View as Map

Diners don’t have to travel far for Japanese food in San Diego. Sister city to Yokohama since 1957, San Diego has plenty of restaurants specializing in traditional Japanese cuisine, including two sushi bars that were recently awarded with Michelin stars. From fancy outposts to neighborhood strip mall favorites, here’s where to go for Japanese cuisine in the county.

For a deeper dive into more specific Japanese fare, check out Eater’s dedicated ramen and sushi maps.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Kaito Sushi

Copy Link

This Encinitas spot prepares sushi in the classic Edo-style. With room for only 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. Visit the restaurant’s Facebook page for sushi specials.

Himitsu

Copy Link

The sushi bar at this cozy La Jolla spot might be one of San Diego’s most intimate dining experiences so reservations are highly recommended to save a spot for one of the eight seats. Expect traditional high-end nigiri, small plates, and an omakase menu at this hidden gem (the restaurant’s name is Japanese for secret).

EE NAMI Tonkatsu Izakaya

Copy Link

Known for their tonkatsu, this family-owned and operated restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. For those new to the restaurant, order the katsu sando, a Canadian black pork fillet sandwich, only available on the lunch menu. Or taste your way through the small plates like chicken nanban, a deep fried chicken thigh served with tartar sauce and vinegar or any one of the rice dishes.

Okan Diner

Copy Link

Craving traditional Japanese home cooking? Head to this sister restaurant to Convoy Street’s Wa Dining Okan where kamameshi, a rice dish cooked in an iron pot is a specialty. Standouts include the braised pork belly cooked in tonkotsu broth with poached egg, and chicken with mixed mushrooms, quail egg, and gobo.

Yakitori Hino

Copy Link

This Japanese spot specializes in traditional yakitori grilled over Japanese bincho charcoal. Choose from skewers featuring chicken wing, heart, liver, and gizzard to beef with wasabi, and pork shiso. Or opt for yakitori sets of 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.

Yakitori Taisho

Copy Link

This quiet spot is a favorite industry hangout, offering a menu of specialty skewers. Make a meal from from karaage, deep-fried wings, tsukune (meatball) or hatsu (heart) skewers.

Robataya Oton

Copy Link

This Kearny Mesa restaurant offers traditional yakimono (grilled) dishes like marinated black cod with miso and yellowtail cheek, along with hotpot dishes (nabemono). Reserve a private table featuring private tatami screened booths; slippers are provided to all guests so shoes can be removed before entering. 

Hidden Fish

Copy Link

This omakase-only sushi bar in the Convoy District has dining space for 12 diners. The 90-minute Omakase Premium meal is $135 and includes 18 pieces. A la carte dishes are available too, including chu-toro, sea bream and cured mackerel.

Hinotez

Copy Link

Find classic Japanese dishes like yakitori, ramen, yakisoba, udon, and rice bowls as well as comforting Japanese breakfast at this well-loved low-key joint. Contactless ordering via tablet leaves room to peruse the extensive menu.

Musashiya

Copy Link

Find Japanese comfort food inside Mitsuwa Marketplace. Hot and cold noodle dishes are popular choices including rice bowls filled with tempura, tonkatsu and egg, or beef and onion. If you’re craving a little bit of everything, order one of the combination sets like teriyaki chicken or mabo tofu. All sets come with cabbage salad, potato salad, egg, pickled veggies, miso soup and rice.

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou

Copy Link

With 10 outposts throughout Yokohama, San Diego is host to the only U.S. location. Like the Japanese locations, the restaurant offers traditional kushiyaki skewers grilled over binchō-tan charcoal. Menu standouts are hatsu (chicken heart), gyu kalbi (prime beef short rib), and nasu (Japanese eggplant).

Wa Dining OKAN

Copy Link

Nestled next door to Nijiya Market is this intimate spot for Japanese comfort food. Okan dishes are presented on lacquered trays, like the salmon sashimi, which comes with rice, miso soup, and assorted tapas, like seaweed salad. Other favorites here include the pork cheeks, salted mackerel, and grilled duck.

Sushi Ota

Copy Link

Reservations are highly recommended for chef/owner Yukito Ota’s award-winning strip-mall eatery. If time and budget constraints allow, grab a seat at the sushi bar and go omakase. It includes courses of sashimi, sushi, a cup of chawanmushi (savory egg custard), plus a cooked seasonal dish.

Kokoro Restaurant

Copy Link

Omakase at this Serra Mesa spot run by chef/owner Akio Ishito requires three days notice for the chef to prepare. Head in on Saturdays for Shiraki Gozen lunch.

The 12-seat bar at Soichi Kadoya’s Adams Avenue spot has been a hot reservation since the restaurant opened and even more so since it won a Michelin star. The headliners are the two omakase menus. There’s a nigiri version for $95 and a two-hour experience for $135 that covers seasonal appetizers, grilled fish, sashimi and nigiri using pristine seafood like sweet shrimp, fatty tuna and sea urchin.

Izakaya Masa

Copy Link

Reservations are a must at this tiny restaurant in Mission Hills. Popular for its ramen and sushi, also try a selection of appetizers and a beer. Dishes include gyoza and agedashi tofu, or more exotic offerings include chuka karage (spicy jellyfish), takowasa (wasabi marinated octopus), and ankimo (monkfish liver with ponzu sauce).

Sushi Tadokoro

Copy Link

This Old Town restaurant serves Edomae-style (Tokyo) sushi. Don’t miss out on its uni. Much its seafood, including baby barracuda from the island of Kyushu, gets flown in from Japan. With just ten seats at the sushi bar and seven tables reservations are advised, especially since it’s now a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Kaito Sushi

This Encinitas spot prepares sushi in the classic Edo-style. With room for only 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. Visit the restaurant’s Facebook page for sushi specials.

Himitsu

The sushi bar at this cozy La Jolla spot might be one of San Diego’s most intimate dining experiences so reservations are highly recommended to save a spot for one of the eight seats. Expect traditional high-end nigiri, small plates, and an omakase menu at this hidden gem (the restaurant’s name is Japanese for secret).

EE NAMI Tonkatsu Izakaya

Known for their tonkatsu, this family-owned and operated restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. For those new to the restaurant, order the katsu sando, a Canadian black pork fillet sandwich, only available on the lunch menu. Or taste your way through the small plates like chicken nanban, a deep fried chicken thigh served with tartar sauce and vinegar or any one of the rice dishes.

Okan Diner

Craving traditional Japanese home cooking? Head to this sister restaurant to Convoy Street’s Wa Dining Okan where kamameshi, a rice dish cooked in an iron pot is a specialty. Standouts include the braised pork belly cooked in tonkotsu broth with poached egg, and chicken with mixed mushrooms, quail egg, and gobo.

Yakitori Hino

This Japanese spot specializes in traditional yakitori grilled over Japanese bincho charcoal. Choose from skewers featuring chicken wing, heart, liver, and gizzard to beef with wasabi, and pork shiso. Or opt for yakitori sets of 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.

Yakitori Taisho

This quiet spot is a favorite industry hangout, offering a menu of specialty skewers. Make a meal from from karaage, deep-fried wings, tsukune (meatball) or hatsu (heart) skewers.

Robataya Oton

This Kearny Mesa restaurant offers traditional yakimono (grilled) dishes like marinated black cod with miso and yellowtail cheek, along with hotpot dishes (nabemono). Reserve a private table featuring private tatami screened booths; slippers are provided to all guests so shoes can be removed before entering. 

Hidden Fish

This omakase-only sushi bar in the Convoy District has dining space for 12 diners. The 90-minute Omakase Premium meal is $135 and includes 18 pieces. A la carte dishes are available too, including chu-toro, sea bream and cured mackerel.

Hinotez

Find classic Japanese dishes like yakitori, ramen, yakisoba, udon, and rice bowls as well as comforting Japanese breakfast at this well-loved low-key joint. Contactless ordering via tablet leaves room to peruse the extensive menu.

Musashiya

Find Japanese comfort food inside Mitsuwa Marketplace. Hot and cold noodle dishes are popular choices including rice bowls filled with tempura, tonkatsu and egg, or beef and onion. If you’re craving a little bit of everything, order one of the combination sets like teriyaki chicken or mabo tofu. All sets come with cabbage salad, potato salad, egg, pickled veggies, miso soup and rice.

Yokohama Yakitori Koubou

With 10 outposts throughout Yokohama, San Diego is host to the only U.S. location. Like the Japanese locations, the restaurant offers traditional kushiyaki skewers grilled over binchō-tan charcoal. Menu standouts are hatsu (chicken heart), gyu kalbi (prime beef short rib), and nasu (Japanese eggplant).

Wa Dining OKAN

Nestled next door to Nijiya Market is this intimate spot for Japanese comfort food. Okan dishes are presented on lacquered trays, like the salmon sashimi, which comes with rice, miso soup, and assorted tapas, like seaweed salad. Other favorites here include the pork cheeks, salted mackerel, and grilled duck.

Sushi Ota

Reservations are highly recommended for chef/owner Yukito Ota’s award-winning strip-mall eatery. If time and budget constraints allow, grab a seat at the sushi bar and go omakase. It includes courses of sashimi, sushi, a cup of chawanmushi (savory egg custard), plus a cooked seasonal dish.

Kokoro Restaurant

Omakase at this Serra Mesa spot run by chef/owner Akio Ishito requires three days notice for the chef to prepare. Head in on Saturdays for Shiraki Gozen lunch.

SOICHI

The 12-seat bar at Soichi Kadoya’s Adams Avenue spot has been a hot reservation since the restaurant opened and even more so since it won a Michelin star. The headliners are the two omakase menus. There’s a nigiri version for $95 and a two-hour experience for $135 that covers seasonal appetizers, grilled fish, sashimi and nigiri using pristine seafood like sweet shrimp, fatty tuna and sea urchin.

Related Maps

Izakaya Masa

Reservations are a must at this tiny restaurant in Mission Hills. Popular for its ramen and sushi, also try a selection of appetizers and a beer. Dishes include gyoza and agedashi tofu, or more exotic offerings include chuka karage (spicy jellyfish), takowasa (wasabi marinated octopus), and ankimo (monkfish liver with ponzu sauce).

Sushi Tadokoro

This Old Town restaurant serves Edomae-style (Tokyo) sushi. Don’t miss out on its uni. Much its seafood, including baby barracuda from the island of Kyushu, gets flown in from Japan. With just ten seats at the sushi bar and seven tables reservations are advised, especially since it’s now a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Related Maps