If you’re craving the rich umami flavor of Japanese cuisine, there are plenty of options around Philadelphia to meet the bill. Whether it’s the precise simplicity of a perfectly balance roll, or the comforting broth of a hot noodle bowl, there’s plenty of delicacies to go around. Check out these top spots for Japanese food in the city.
Must-Try: Black cod miso with a side of wasabi fried rice
Sake Status: Cloudy or sparkling are the two
The Scoop: Arguably, no sushi restaurant in Philly tops Morimoto’s overall excellence. Truly a special occasion destination, the restaurant is almost over-the-top in its extremely modern decor (think curves where every edge should be and color-changing lights) and is certainly over-the-top in sublimely flavorful dishes. Stephen Starr and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto have concocted sushi, hot entrees, and desserts so delectable that visitors can feel confident going omakase—letting the chef choose your meal.
Explore Here: 723 Chestnut Street, (215) 413-9070
Must-Try: Zama’s Chirashi, an assortment of sashimi like sea urchin, eel, and yellowtail, topped with salmon roe and crispy shrimp.
Sake Status: Plenty of choices, like hot, Junmai, Nigori, and Komoto
The Scoop: Top-notch ingredients and inventive dishes have made Zama one of the city’s stalwart sushi destinations. Chef Hiroyuki Tanaka creates stylish, classic sushi as well as more imaginative rolls like collaborations with local guest chefs and a cheesesteak-inspire maki. The price tag makes Zama more of a special occasion spot, or just a restaurant where the exceptional, melt-in-your-mouth quality is worth the price tag.
Explore Here: 128 S. 19th Street, (215) 568-1027
Must-Try: Beef negimaki, Green River Roll (shrimp tempura & spicy tuna with avocado, spicy lobster, green tea sauce, spicy sauce)
Sake Status: Extensive list includes hot, dry, fruity, smooth, and Nigori options
The Scoop: A 5-minute, two-block walk from the Independent Hotel, 1225Raw scores extra points for its hip vibe. Dim lighting, red walls with layers of Japanese ads and comics like Dragon Ball Z, and modern lamps hanging from a bamboo-paneled ceiling make this spot a colorful and laid-back lounge. If the weather is nice, head out to the courtyard for your meal. The menu includes tons of intricate specialty rolls, traditional hot entrees, and fun cocktails (shoutout the the “Spirited Away,” a fresh twist of citrus vodka, elderflower lime, and champagne).
Explore Here: 1225 Sansom Street
Must-Try: Godzilla Roll (shrimp tempura with strawberry, avocado, and almonds) and Oyster Shooters (oyster and uni in broth, topped with marinated quail egg and caviar)
Sake Status: No sake for sale, but you can BYO if you like
The Scoop: This Fairmount spot may be tiny and tucked away, but it serves up some of the best sushi in town—all of which means reservations are highly recommended. Thirteen inventive, “designer” rolls are the highlight of the menu, but traditional selections like chicken teriyaki and sesame crusted tuna are also good choices.
Explore Here: 533 N. 22nd Street, (484) 394-8624
Must-Try: Brisket Ramen (brisket, noodles, sesame red chili broth, kimchi, and matzo ball)
Sake Status: Two options include Shirayuki and Momokawa Pearl Nigori
The Scoop: This is one of our favorite noodle spots in Philly, and it deserves the recognition. A handful of scrumptious noodle bowls offer a variety of spicy and brothy meal options, and add-ons like kimchi, bok choy, and fried chicken provide a solid level of customization. Canned beer, cocktails, and small plates are the perfect complements to rich, well-seasoned noodles. With a relaxed and casual vibe, enjoy a laid back experience.
Explore Here: 255 S. 10th Street, (267) 639-4136