I have been search across England for the best Japanese food. To date the best food I have tried was when I took a day trip Oxford to eat at a Michelin-star restaurant called Shoryu. Traveling this far away from home for dinner is not always possible, and so I set out to find the best local Japanese restaurants in Brighton and Hove.
1. Tonkotsu Ramen
The noodles are homemade, and the ramen is the best in Brighton. The meat is cooked to perfection, the food comes out like a picture. The pork Ramen was not the best but I think that is because I prefer ramen with a chicken stock, soy sauce or miso base.
They have unusual puddings like ice cream with miso caramel and Guinness, it was salty ice cream with only a slight sweetness, but it was nice to try and different in my opinion is always better.
Since trying Tonkotsu it has become my new favourite Ramen restaurant and is pretty much better than Wagamama in every way. The restaurant is less busy than Wagamama too which means faster service. Food can be ordered by a waiter or through the app.
They only negative is that they don't serve food with Japanese seven spice (schichimi) but they do have their own homemade chilli oil that has schichimi in the bottom of it. The only negative is the lack of Japanese spice but I can live with that especially when you get a really good chilli oil. Overall the restaurant is clean, family friendly and they cater for most diets. My sister who is a vegan enjoyed a chilli cauliflower wings for starters and a soy ramen for her main.
2. Wagamama – Kensington St, Brighton
Wagamama is more expensive compared to the other Japanese restaurants, however the food is a much better quality and you will not be disappointed in the flavour. The value for money and the cost of the drinks is a bit extortionate this is a great place to come for dinner but it is always very busy see and you may be waiting a little while for your food I ordered a few new menu items and and they were not available. I and and Sadie shared the duck gyozas for our starter.
For my main I ordered grilled chicken ramen which came complete with bamboo shoots, noodles, spring onion, greens, tea stained and chilli oil. The meat was very tasty but was not as impressive as the pork belly ramen that sadie had ordered. The pork was very flavoursome and was cooked to perfection. It literally melts in your mouth. I would come back but because of the price, it would need to be a special occasion.
I was very surprised how nice the food was especially considering that this is a chain restaurant. I had Asahi which is a traditional Japanese dry beer, it is great and compliments the food. Sadie had a lychee cocktail which cost £7.60. It was in a small glass and had no flavour of lychee. It was basically lemonade with lime juice, ice and mint, so if you do come avoid those!
3. Noo-Doo Bar – Western Road, Brighton
This restaurant is a bit more expensive than its competitors in the area but with good reason. The food is really lovely, and the staff are very welcoming. It is very family-friendly too, with high chairs available on request. The portion sizes are large and the food is presented in a nice way.
The ramen noodle soup has a great depth of flavour and there are condiments here that are simply not offered in the other Japanese restaurants nearby. Everything is cooked to perfection, I am confident that any dish that you order here, you will be happy with! The toilets are clean but are not wheelchair accessible. If you are bringing a young baby, due to a lack of space, you will also need to fold your buggy.
4. Pompoko - Church St, Brighton
I came here for dinner and as the price was fairly cheap, I wanted to try a lot of different dishes. We ordered BBQ honey ribs, chicken gyoza, unagi don, tofu yubamaki, miso soup, takoyaki, and yakitori. This is a small place to eat and there is a lack of seating, and the environment lacks culture. That aside the menu was interesting as it had not only what foods you could order but also what they look like which was very helpful when choosing what to eat.
The ribs were small and had only 5 to a portion, but they were delicious and were a great taste at only £2.80. When I was meant to go to Japan, I was so excited to try unagi don (eel), and as the trip was cancelled I ordered It here. I was hesitant to try it, but the flavour and texture were like a cross between chicken and sea bass. It had a fishy flavour and was seasoned well with teriyaki and accompanied by a mountain of rice.
I am not a huge tofu fan, but the Tofu Yubamaki was an interesting thing to eat, it was crispy on the outside, with spongey tofu on the inside with Shiitake mushrooms that flavoured it.
Miso soup was super cheap at £1.50 and this little bowl had beautiful flavour. The fresh salty broth made from soy miso and dashi had little pieces of tofu in it that made it traditional. Finally, the takoyaki (octopus balls) were delicious and the yakitori (chicken skewers) were succulent. Overall Pompoko is a Japanese restaurant that serves tasty traditional food on the cheap, they only accept cash for payment, and they serve the food with beautiful authentic tableware.
5. O'shio Trafalgar St, Brighton
The freshest sushi you can get, but comes at a cost. A sashimi platter costs about £19 but is so tasty. Comes with rare bluefin tuna, I've never tasted such nice raw fish, flavours similar to steak, the egg looks unusual but tastes divinely sweet, and is similar to tofu, the raw salmon is beautiful. The passionate chef owner cooks and prepares the fresh sashimi to order.
The price is a little expensive but you could argue that you get what you pay for, and if you love sushi, you will love the food there.
I feel like my perspective of what good tuna is has completely changed, the tuna here is incredible. On top of that the soy sauce is the best I've ever had. The restaurant had traditional Japanese decor and tableware. Overall it is quite small and not great for a large family gathering, and is better suited to a sophisticated meal with a friend as a fine dining experience.
I also ordered the pork Tonkotsu ramen with noodles which was £14.90 and the homemade kimchi and pork dumplings that were £8.90. The dumplings had 5 in a portion. Each one is very large, the pastry is the perfect texture and the filling is slightly under seasoned but when served with the soya sauce it is super tasty.
Ramen is huge, possibly the biggest serving of ramen that I’ve had before. It was so big in-fact that neither me or dave could eat it all. It was a milky coloured broth which is standard for pork ramen. The slow cooked pork was unfortunately on the chewy fatty side. The flavour was full, but again it was slightly under seasoned so I asked for some soya sauce and chilli oil to add to my soup.
On another occasion I tried the tempura soft shell crab, I was nervous to try it. The whole crab was in four pieces, it came with a light soy sauce dip. I started with a claw, and the delicious flavour tasted similar to prawns but slightly more meaty, different parts of the crab has a different flavour and texture, the legs were crunchy but softer inside; slightly less meaty tab the claw but had more of a pork crackling kind of texture.
The tempura batter had a subtle sweet taste. The crabs head packed the most flavour, and was similar to fish in texture but in taste, it is nothing like I’ve ever had before. The closest match for my tastebuds would be prawns but it is still far from it. I will be returning for the crab.
Overall expensive tasty food that is great but not the best. I'd recommend coming for the fine dining sushi experience or to try something new, but go elsewhere for anything else.
6. Yo sushi! – Jubilee St, Brighton
I don’t usually like eating at chain restaurants, but this one has an interesting take on dining. They have colour coded bowls that go around the dining area on a conveyor belt. The kitchen is open and everything is made in front of you entirely fresh to order. You can either take something that you like the look of and eat it or alternatively, you can order from the menu. If you are ordering from the menu, depending on how busy the restaurant is. You could be waiting for a while.
The sushi tastes great, and there are lots of choices here such as tuna, fresh salmon, smoked salmon, beef steak, cucumber, avocado and tofu that are either served plain with soya sauce or are topped with a spiced mayo dip with crispy onions or sprinkled with panko breadcrumbs. I would recommend getting one large dish first and get more if you are still hungry just because it can work out quite expensive otherwise. Sometimes they also have special promotions that if you spend at least £10, your child can eat free choosing a starter, main and a drink! Whilst all of the food is tasty, I would recommend the chicken curry broth noodle soup, and strawberry mochi for dessert!
7. Shogun – Prince Albert Street, Brighton
Based in the lanes, in close proximity to the centre of Brighton. I discovered the restaurant one night when I was walking through the lanes looking for a restaurant to conqueror my hunger, I could smell the food from down the street and I had to try it!
The dishes here are authentic. I have tried their slow-cooked ramen that contains meat and it is cooked to perfection, as well as noodle and rice dishes. If you go, I would recommend the chicken teriyaki. It is sweet, aromatic and simply delicious. They are very generous in regards to portion sizes, and I can easily say that this is one of the best eats in Brighton. The place is family-friendly, in fact, I came with my fiancé and two young children. The toilets are clean but could do with some TLC, also there is currently no baby changing facilities.
8. HK Place – Preston Street, Brighton
This is a great place to come for lunch, they offer very tasty but cheap eats. You can buy the likes of traditional pork gyozas that come with a lemongrass style dip. As well as other side dishes for around £3. The ramen is very nice, however, you only get a small amount of meat for your money.
The restaurant has a street food vibe to it which is nice. I would recommend getting lots of little dishes so that you can get an authentic taste of Japan. If there are quite a few of you, its nice to all try each other’s food! This small restaurant does not provide much space for a buggy. Whilst prices are cheap they do not currently have a children’s menu. You could get your child an adult portion but the portions are very large and your child will likely not be able to eat it all. The food here is delicious but since refurbishment, the menu has become confusing with symbols instead of words for some of the dishes and they have taken favourites off the menu replacing them with more random dishes like beef tripe, etc.
9. Bincho - Preston Street, Brighton
We have been trying to come to this easykia restaurant for a few months and finally on a whim we popped in when we was nearby and got a table for one hour. The mood is really nice with low lighting and energetic music.
The menu was rather interesting and as someone who likes to explore new foods there was some things that I had to try. I went ahead and ordered beef tongue, which had an unusual texture. It was like a soft steak, at first it was very weird and I almost couldn't eat it but as I kept eating I started to enjoy the taste, just don't think of a tongue!
I also tried the chicken hearts which were extremely tasty, they have a nice bite, texture and taste. The chicken karage came with a citrusy ponzu sauce. You can tell these are freshly made each day as the flavour in comparison to the ones you get at yo sushi is much better. Overall the food is worth trying but it is not the best, the restaurant is very busy and I won't be visiting again.