Ramen Kulture, Oxford
Blink and you’ll miss this tiny restaurant on St Giles but head inside, close your eyes, and you could almost believe you’ve been transported to Japan, with gentle J-pop and anime beats playing on repeat and the wafting smell of delicious, authentic tonkotsu broth, boiled for 12 hours to pack in the flavour.
Sticks & Sushi, Westgate Oxford
Sushi with a view? Yes please! You’ll find this sleek restaurant – think moody lighting, atmospheric curtain partitions and minimal Scandi design (the chain was founded in Copenhagen) – at the top of Westgate Oxford shopping centre with amazing views of the dreaming spires. One of only two UK outposts outside London (the other is in Cambridge), the concept is simple: the finest fresh sushi, served alongside yakitori sticks from the grill, like chicken, duck and beef. Even the person who cries “I don’t like fish” will like it here, plus you’ll both love the cocktails!
Tucked away on Hollywell Street, this tiny Japanese eatery is a veritable hidden treasure. Both casual and super-authentic, the food is down-to-earth delicious, and mostly hovering just under a tenner — stretching to £14 for the teriyaki salmon. If you go on a Thursday night it’s sushi night, priced generally at about £3 for two pieces, and all at an exceptional standard.
Blossom Room, Milton Keynes
Buzzy, glamorous and decked out with a show-stopper ceiling of pink cherry blossom, sleek VIP booths, flatteringly low light, and a clutch of cool art, this Japanese-inspired bar is Insta-perfection. On the menu there’s heaps to choose from including sharing plates (Hirata steamed bao buns, chicken teriyaki, gyoza, tempura vegetables – the list goes on) as well as noodles, bento boxes, a selection of sushi rolls and burgers (it’s the crispy Japanese-style chicken burger with Asian slaw for me), not forgetting 2-4-1 cocktails.
MIYA Japanese Bar & Grill, Aylesbury
A stylish Japanese bar and grill in the middle of Aylesbury in the beautiful, listed old Police HQ building, MIYA boasts not one but FOUR (count ’em) kitchens: the main kitchen, the Sushi counter, the Robata grill and Teppanyaki. The interiors are just as varied, with an opulent bar area for cocktails, ultra-glam wallpaper and a traditional dining table area where you’re seated on the floor.
Opened last year on Sycamore Street, this understated Japanese ‘tapasu’ bar gives off a cool vibes with its minimalistic, wooden interiors and sushi sharing dishes. The restaurant also serves katsu, teriyaki and slurping noodles, along with Japanese beers and whiskies, a cracking wine list, healthy smoothies and Little Moons mochi ice cream (ask your TikTok-obsessed teen).
Cowley Road, East Oxford
Stroll down Cowley Road (where the cool barometer rises as the air quality count decreases) and you’ll find a string of brilliant, tiny Japanese restaurants that are independently owned and very reasonably priced. Try Sushi Corner for a huge variety of rolls starting from under £9 for 10 pieces of sushi in a set (under £1 a roll!), Taberu for tasty bento boxes (the pumpkin korroke katsu is delish), or right at the very end you’ll find Red Star – a lively restaurant with communal sharing tables – for Pan-Asian dishes.
Family-run for over 10 years, expect a huge selection of sushi rolls and sashimi – over 60 options – alongside traditional Japanese side dishes (edamame, gyoza, tempura), main dishes (katsu, yaki udon noodles) and the impressive teppanyaki bar where dishes are cooked live on a hot plate.
Other notable Japanese restaurants include bijoux chain Shoryu Ramen on the ground floor of Westgate Oxford which serves a traditional 12-hour pork broth as well as offering an excellent kids menu; Kazan in Headington (minutes from the legendary Headington shark house) for locally-sourced sushi and slurp-worthy ramen bowls; Akasana in Milton Keynes for Japanese and Korean fusion dishes; and Koto in Jericho, perfectly positioned for a light sushi dinner before a night hitting the bars on Walton Street.
Don’t fancy Japanese? These should whet your appetite instead:
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