Beyond Sushi: 10 Places To Eat Incredible Japanese Food In New York City

Think about Japanese food in New York City and chances are the first thing that pops in your head is sushi. And we're not hating on that. We even published a guide to 10 excellent city sushi joints, to help New Yorkers and vistors find the best in the city. The fact remains, however, that there's a lot more to Japanese cuisine than raw fish on rice, and NYC is a prime example of just how diverse the food really is. From freshly made soba noodles to unique cuts of grilled beef to matzo ball ramen, there are a ton of quality Japanese restaurants — both traditional and contemporary, authentic and authentically inauthentic — to be found in the Big Apple. Here are 10 of our favorite places for non-sushi Japanese food in New York City.

1. Sobaya

Popular culture has anointed this the Year of Ramen in New York City. That's fine and all but we're high up on the more nutritious, lighter soba. The buckwheat noodle can be ordered in many of the city's Japanese slurp shops and there's no fresher rendition than the one found at East Village mainstay Sobaya. Located on the same block as a few other Japanese-owned places worth a visit (including next-door neighbor Robataya and speakeasy Angel's Share), the cozy establishment dishes out hot and cold preparations of fresh soba noodles with a wide variety of accompaniments. (Pro tip: splurge for the version topped with a generous portion of fresh uni.) If you're lucky, you'll get to see a noodle maestro hard at work, kneading and cutting dough in a see-through cubicle near the front door. 229 East 9th Street, 212-533-6966,

2. Sakagura

Come early and beg (pray?) for a table at this cavernous izakaya in Midtown near Grand Central. The hidden jewel, located in the basement of an office building and accessed via a nondescript stairwell, is a lunchtime favorite for the area's in-the-know businessmen and fortunate clients. An extensive menu simplifies at lunch, highlighting a selection of homemade soba noodles and small-portion tasting sets that include sashimi, tempura and an assortment of grilled fish and meats. An impressive list of imported sakes completes the meal. 211 East 43rd Street, 212-953-7253,

3. Cherry

Ritzy ambiance and quality Japanese grub don't usually go hand-in-hand, but that's what diners can expect at Cherry, located on the bottom floor of Chelsea's stylish Dream Hotel. Red velvet chairs and banquets make up the restaurant's sexy interior, and a menu focused primarily on small, shared plates features contemporary takes on dishes composed with traditional ingredients. Stick to non-sushi offerings and try the two variations of crispy rice, black cod shumai and miso-glazed seabass. A unique cocktail list and diverse portfolio of Japanese sakes sets the tone for a glamorous date night. 355 West 16th Street, 212-929-5800,

4. EN Japanese Brasserie

It's hard to believe that EN has been open since 2004, having just celebrated its 10-year anniversary in September. The elegant West Village staple has spent the past decade dishing out trademark freshly-scooped tofu to its crowd of A-list regulars, and holds the distinction of being one of only eight U.S. restaurants licensed to serve the highly toxic fugu. The seasonally inspired menu can be a little overwhelming, so our advice is to trust chef Abe Hiroki and order from one of the set multi-course kaiseki options. Request the sake and shochu accompaniment to taste from a diverse spectrum of junmai, gingo, honjozo, daiginjo and nigori styles. 435 Hudson Street, 212-647-9196,

5. Yakitori Tori Shin

Did you know that you could grab a last-minute table at a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York at pretty much any time and leave with the contents of your wallet still (mostly) intact? You should. Sit at the counter at the Upper East Side yakitori specialists and order from an array of three-bite-sized skewers that range from different parts of chicken to Kobe beef to vegetables to various meat organs. Tasting plates (either skewers-only or appetizers, sides, skewers and rice dishes) that start from $50 are one of the best bargains and little-known treasures of the city. Don't wear anything too fancy, as a U-shaped seating configuration means that the open kitchen's many aromas tend to stick. 1193 1st Avenue, 212-988-8408,

6. Gyu-Kaku

We're hesitant to include a chain in any of our "best of" lists, but there's too much goodness going on here to omit the Japan-based restaurant (there are three branches in NYC). D.I.Y. Japanese grills aren't exactly rare in the city, but many are known to skimp on quality. That's certainly not the case at Gyu-Kaku, where diners – you're just as likely to see a newlywed couple as an entire family here – order plates of raw beef, chicken, seafood and vegetables to grill tableside with instruction from helpful waitstaffs. Cut out the daunting decision process and go for one of the well-balanced tasting menus. Just make sure you tack on an extra order of Sukiyaki bibimbap and chicken garlic noodles. Multiple locations,

7. Cagen

You'd be forgiven for walking right past Cagen, failing to notice the two East Village basement-level dining rooms it inhabits. Once inside however, diners are transported to a Japanese oasis of sorts; a simple, austere room with a large counter and a few scattered tables. Shuffling behind the counter is chef Toshio Tomita, a former 16-year veteran of Nobu, who uses traditional aspects of the famed restaurant's cuisine to create pioneering results. How else to explain a bite-sized morsel of goat cheese, white chocolate and wasabi that's part of an appetizer course? The proper way to experience Tomita's creations is via the seven-course omakase kappo menu ($120), which combines cooked delicacies, sashimi, ponytail-shaped braids of fresh soba noodles and a few pristine pieces of sushi (we'll give them a pass). 414 East 9th Street, 212-358-8800,

8. Shalom Japan

Our sole non-Manhattan representative takes us to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where the husband and wife team of Aaron Israel and Sawako Okochi have fused – you guessed it – Japanese and Jewish foods. Besides the catchy name, the duo has put together a rotating menu of inventive shared plates that show just how well the two cuisines can mesh. Sake challah, toro toast with scallion cream cheese, matzo ball ramen and a lox bowl with rice, daikon, avocado and ikura are among the must-order items when listed on the chalkboard menu. Ask for an outdoor table – weather-permitting – and hit up the bar early to try from a creative list of cocktails and surprisingly large collection of wine and craft beer. Be sure to make a trip to the bathroom. It'll have you searching online for a Japanese-style toilet in no time. 310 South Fourth Street, Brooklyn; 718-388-4012,

9. Donguri

Look for exposed brick at this quaint gem, located on a quiet side street on the Upper East Side. Closed over the summer as a result of its longtime chef moving back to Japan, Donguri recently re-opened under the direction of Yorinobu Yamasaki, whose new menu offers the choice of ordering à la carte or springing for a superbly seasonal $150 omakase. The tranquil, no-frills neighborhood favorite made sure to retain a few of its most popular dishes, including housemade soybean tofu, crispy sweet corn tempura and green tea buckwheat soba noodles. 309 East 83rd Street, 212-737-5656,

10. Takashi

Chef Takashi Inoue is the man behind this eponymous West Village spot specializing in grilled offal meats and cuts of beef that are popular in Japan but not commonly found in the U.S. He also dabbles with horse sashimi and bacon-wrapped foie gras. Sit at one of the wooden tables opposite the open kitchen and sample from selections that include brain, heart, aorta, cheek, stomach, tongue and testicargot (that's cow balls, served escargot-style). Go as crazy as you can possibly stomach – pun intended – while grilling tableside, as long as you save space for an order of the signature niku-uni, chuck flap topped with sea urchin and fresh wasabi. 456 Hudson Street, 212-414-2929,

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