It’s not easy to find decent Japanese food in Budapest. The Japanese expat community is small, and everyday Japanese dishes like donburi, curry, and karaage are largely unknown to local residents, so few places serve them. Sushi and sashimi are more prevalent, but it’s a challenge to prepare fresh seafood in a landlocked country (it also doesn’t help that fish consumption in Hungary is the lowest within the EU).
Having said that, the below restaurants serve the most authentic Japanese food, and these are also the places where Japanese expats dine. A note of caution: Japanese food in Budapest is on the pricier side. (Learn more about Budapest's Japanese community and the food options.)
For most people in Budapest, sushi is synonymous with Japanese food. Komachi, a no-frills Japanese restaurant in the city's old Jewish Quarter, is committed to proving otherwise. For a Central Europe-based restaurant, Komachi serves a refreshingly broad range of everyday Japanese dishes. Think: ramen (miso, shio, and soy-based), tonkatsu, curry, karaage, and donburi.
Ennmann restaurant offers a no-frills, but authentic Japanese dining experience in Budapest. It's actually a Chinese couple who runs the place with the husband managing the kitchen and the wife serving food. Ennmann’s strongest suit is the the seafood selections: besides chirashi, sashimi, and regular sushi (nigiri and maki), they serve a host of maki variations (uramaki, futomaki, hosomaki). I went with the six-piece nigiri plate (€9), consisting of a pair of tuna, salmon, and sea bass each, and it didn’t disappoint..
One of Budapest’s best sushi restaurants is buried in the basement of a strip mall, it doesn’t have a functional Facebook page, let alone an Instagram handle, and its website looks like it hasn’t been updated in a decade. Perhaps Okuyama no Sushi's obscurity is a marketing tool itself? After all, who doesn’t enjoy an unexpected discovery? Know before you go that Okuyama's interior is puritan at best - this isn't a fancy shmancy sushi restaurant, but it's very good..
Thanks to a well-connected Hungarian businessman, Budapest is home to a Nobu, the world’s fanciest chain restaurant. Even more impressively, it's the one and only Nobu in Central Europe (the closest one is in Milan). This upscale restaurant is located inside the five-star Kempinski hotel in Budapest's downtown. .
A Chinese businessman from Shanghai moved to Budapest and set out to open Budapest’s best sushi restaurant. The result is Sushi Ocean, a pricey, subterranean restaurant located on a quiet downtown side street. Sushi Ocean's menu is among the broadest for Japanese food in Budapest. .
Budapest has only a few good Japanese restaurants, and even those serve a limited range of Japanese fare, primarily sushi and ramen. Biwako is a welcome exception. It’s advertised as a ramen house, but I find their other Japanese dishes - donburi, okonomiyaki, and takoyaki - to be their strongest suit. The restaurant is located across the street from The Japan Foundation in a very puritan, subterranean space.
Most of Budapest's Japanese restaurants serve higher-end Japanese fare like sushi, even though local Hungarian tastes and wallets are more compatible with the simpler dishes. Perhaps this is what Mr. Tomoki and his wife, a young couple from Tokyo, thought when in 2018 they opened DON DOKO DON, Budapest’s first donburi restaurant. It's a small, counter-service restaurant with a few tables, and located in the heart of the city near Kálvin Square.
When Fuji opened in 1991, it was Budapest’s first Japanese restaurant. From an elite, residential Buda neighborhood it served pricey Japanese food that included everything from sushi to soba, from tempura to teppanyaki. Fuji quickly found a loyal following among well-heeled locals who were looking for exotic tastes in post-communist Budapest. Almost three decades later, Fuji is still around, which in restaurant years is an eternity..
Sushi Sei is an upscale Japanese restaurant located a bit outside the city center in Buda. Popular types of raw seafood dominate the menu: sashimi, maki (cut sushi rolls), nigiri (mounds of rice topped with fish filet), and chirashi (fish scattered over vinegared rice in a bowl). Besides the usual tuna, salmon, and prawn options, the impressively broad fish selections also include raw eel, sea bass, octopus, squid, and salmon roe. .
If you're craving good sushi but don't feel up for the fuss that comes with a long, sit-down dinner, Sushi VIBES can be a good option. It's a teeny-tiny counter service restaurant in a District 6 side street, within walking distance from Andrássy Avenue. The owner-chef lady hails from Fukuoka in southern Japan, and set up shop in Budapest in 2018, after stints in the Netherlands and Germany. .
Ramenka is a chic, shoe-box-sized ramen shop located on Budapest’s party street (Kazinczy). They serve six types of ramens, of which the classic "ramenka" is the one you should go for (€6). It comes with half a dozen pieces of beautifully tender and flavorful slices of pork belly. The portions are generous and the pork-based broth is flavorful and gleaming with grease.