Masu by Nic Watt. Photo / Babiche Martens

Where To Find Auckland's Best Japanese Restaurants

From ramen to robata, we round-up the best Japanese feeds to suit any mood

FOR A QUICK & EASY LUNCH

&Sushi
For slick sushi in a chic setting, head to one of &Sushi’s four locations for lunch. Grab a cardboard takeaway container and fill with picture-perfect pieces of sushi, or settle in at one of the shared tables for a donburi rice bowl or stir-fried yakisoba noodles. Plus, they do UberEats if your lunch hour is looking too tight for a bite. Newmarket, Ponsonby, City Works Depot and Smales Farm

Haru No Yume
Tucked away in Freemans Bay, Haru No Yume is a popular lunch choice for the city crowd. Try the poke bowl, or if you’re craving a little bit of everything, pick your protein and a bento box will arrive, packed with two-tiers of salad, sashimi, sushi, tempura, pickles (you get the picture). Be sure to pair with a glass of plum wine. 3 Vernon St, Freemans Bay

Sushi Bar Salmon
One of K Rd’s best-kept secrets is located just off the strip in the iconic Mercury Plaza. This low key food court stall is a cult favourite, churning out fat rolls of fresh sushi and generous bento boxes from morning ‘til night. The self-serve Kewpie mayonnaise is a major drawcard, as is their cheerful prices. 23-31 Mercury Ln, City

FOR A WARM BOWL OF RAMEN

Zool Zool
A stylish ramen noodle and izakaya bar — complete with a large wine and cocktail list — from the talented team behind Kazuya in Eden Terrace (more on them later). Time it right for limited daily specials of chanpon ramen (seafood with soy milk broth) and paitan ramen (rich chicken broth). 405 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden

Tanpopo Ramen
Alive with ramen fans on a workday lunchtime, this inner-city spot was one of the first to introduce the Japanese staple to the city almost 15 years ago. Nab a seat to try the signature creamy tanpopo chasu ramen, or a great vegetarian miso ramen. 13 Anzac Ave, Central City

Ramen Takara
Fans of this famed Browns Bay ramen haven were happy when a second branch opened on Ponsonby Rd. Both serve authentic, flavour-packed broths with the option of gluten-free rice noodles alongside traditional egg. A popular choice is the black sesame tan-tan which is rich and slightly sour. Browns Bay and Ponsonby 

Ramen Do
Find this unassuming ramen joint off the end of bustling Symonds Street. Noodles and stock are made from scratch each day for the signature Hokkaido ramen which is served with sesame seeds to grind at the table. Portions are large and you can add extra toppings of bamboo and a perfectly soft boiled egg. 167 Symonds St, Central City

Miso-Ra
Look out for the friendly faces of Noriko and Taku Hida, a Japanese couple serving delicious Tokyo street ramen on Onehunga's Victoria St. Their popular food truck also does frequent pop-ups at New Leaf Kombucha Taproom, Urbanaut Brewery Co and K Rd’s Cross Street Market. 71 Victoria St, Onehunga

FOR A SPECIAL OCCASION

Kazuya
If the white-gloved service at Kazuya doesn’t feel like elevated dining, we don’t know what does. This 25-seater restaurant serves up European-Japanese fare that’s unlike any other fine-dining option in Auckland. Whether you choose a five, seven or 10-course degustation, be sure to sample their ‘Texture' dish, an iconic plate of more than 30 different vegetables with a ribbon of prosciutto. 193 Symonds St, Eden Terrace

Masu
For a meal made to impress, head to Masu by Nic Watt. This central city robata restaurant boasts a swoon-worthy fit out, killer cocktails and sharp service. The menu is divided into dishes from the ‘sushi bar', the ‘kitchen’ and the ‘robata grill’, or get a bit of everything by choosing one of their three set menus (including vegetarian). 90 Federal St, City

FOR THE FRESHEST SASHIMI

Cocoro
This Ponsonby restaurant is always picking up awards, and for good reason. Their signature sashimi platter is a work of art, featuring New Zealand's freshest seafood in its purest form. (Tip: The sashimi plate is so elaborate it requires ordering ahead of time.) Sample the Omotenashi sushi and sashimi degustation for a taste of everything this restaurant has to offer. 56a Brown St, Ponsonby

FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Azabu
Azabu was the first restaurant in Auckland to introduce us to Nikkei, the unique cuisine that combines Peruvian and Japanese flavours. We recommend adding the tuna sashimi tostada to your order list, for a perfect snapshot of what this food is all about. Be sure to toast your dinner date with a Yuzu sake cocktail with gin and elderflower liqueur. 26 Ponsonby Rd, Grey Lynn

FOR VEGANS

Janken
Vegans and vegetarians will find lots to love at this Herne Bay restaurant. Roughly half the homestyle menu features plant-based fare, with the dessert section fully dedicated to vegan-friendly sweet treats. Those without dietary requirements can dine alongside their herbivore friends on warming seafood udon, crockpot chicken and Wakanui tenderloin steak. 158 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay

Ebisu's miso-glazed eggplant. Photo / Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

Ebisu
Britomart’s Ebisu has a whole set menu for vegetarian and vegan diners, offering 11 dishes for just $70. Dig into dishes like avocado and beetroot sushi, tempura vegetables, miso-glazed eggplant and teriyaki tofu with white truffle oil. Make a night of it and give their sake pairing a go. 116-118 Quay St, City

FOR A CASUAL DINNER

Nishiki
Perfectly located between the action of K Rd and Ponsonby, Nishiki has carved out a reputation as the perfect pit stop on a night out. As the sign suggests, BYO grape wine and dig into piping hot takoyaki (octopus balls), made-to-order sushi and seared tuna tataki. Don’t miss the benaisu miso cheese — eggplant stuffed with an addictive mixture of miso and cheese. 100 Wellington St, Freemans Bay

Kushi's beef tataki. Photo / Babiche Martens

Kushi
Viva’s dining out editor Jesse Mulligan was impressed when he visited this central city restaurant, giving the food, the staff and the elaborate wooden fit-out a thumbs up. Check out the izakaya-inspired menu yourself next time you’re craving a cold beer and a table ladened with gyoza, agedashi tofu and soft shell crab tempura. Shop A  22 Durham St West, CBD

Tanuki’s Cave
This iconic eatery is one of Auckland's original spots for a Japanese fix. The menu here is all about yaktiori and kushiage skewers, with standard offerings like chicken thigh and black tiger prawn,plus more intriguing options like whole garlic cloves and beef tongue. Cosy into its underground vibe with a sparkling sake. 319B Queen St, City

FOR A NEIGHBOURHOOD BITE

Taisho
This neighbourhood yakitori bar is beloved by Herne Bay locals. The menu boasts a large selection of skewers, all cooked on a grill that’s proudly powered by Binchotan, an oak-based charcoal that gives food a distinctive smoky taste. If yakitori isn’t quite your thing, there’s plenty of sushi, salads and noodles to keep hungry tummies happy. 190 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay

Ajimi
It’s best you make a booking before visiting Ajimi in Onehunga. This sashimi bar is incredibly popular with both locals and those in-the-know, who rate it as the most authentic Japanese eatery around. Don’t go without ordering the special sashimi platter, spread over an impressive multi-level platform and boasting several kinds of deliciously fresh seafood. Unit 2, 252-258 Onehunga Mall Rd, Onehunga

Miyuki
If you find yourself hungry in Howick, head along to Miyuki, located handily on the main street. Open for lunch and dinner, you’ll find all your bases covered – whether you’re craving a warm bowl of udon, classic teriyaki chicken or fresh pieces of nigiri. 4/21 Picton St, Howick

Izu
Papakura locals will already be familiar with Izu, a relatively new opening from chef Sam Lee, who previously worked at Ebisu and Amano. The menu is a sophisticated combination of Japanese and European flavours to create dishes like teriyaki marinated lamb with black truffle and celeriac puree. 170 Great South Rd, Papakura

Ichi Zen
There’s lots to love about this Flat Bush eatery, including the menu’s dedicated ‘Cheese Yakimono’ section featuring vegetables and seafood grilled with special homemade sauce and cheese. Balance it out with some fresh sashimi and salad and you’re on to a winner. Unit 15, 345 Chapel Rd, Flat Bush

FOR A LATE NIGHT

Acho’s
Open until 2am most nights, Acho’s is the perfect antidote to a desperate dash to the drive-through. Choose one of the buns (pork katsu, prawn or vegetarian) and pair with snacks like lotus root chips, dumplings and karaage chicken. The drinks list is impressive, with a range of Japanese beer, sake, whiskey and plum wine. Sip away and watch the action unfold in St Kevins Arcade. 11/183 Karangahape Rd, Newton

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