The 12 Best Japanese Restaurants In Budapest

It’s not so easy to find good Japanese food in Budapest — the Japanese expat community is small, and everyday Japanese dishes like donburi, curry, and karaage are largely unknown to local Hungarians so few places serve them. Sushi and sashimi are more prevalent, but fresh seafood is expensive in a landlocked country. Nonetheless, the restaurants below serve the most true-to-Japan flavors in Budapest.

#1 Komachi Bistro

Komachi is an unfussy Japanese restaurant in Budapest's old Jewish Quarter specializing in everyday dishes. For a Central Europe-based restaurant, there's a refreshingly wide range of Japanese foods here including ramen, tonkatsu, curry, karaage, and donburi. The ramens are available with three types of broths and come with springy noodles and slow-cooked pork shoulder. The karaage, bits of deep-fried chicken thigh, is exactly as it should be — crunchy on the outside, delicate on the inside; just like one would find at a Tokyo street vendor. The only letdown is the unremarkable curry.

#2 Ennmann Japanese Restaurant

Don't be fooled by the puritan below-ground space, Ennmann is one of the top Japanese restaurants in Budapest. The restaurant's strongest suit is seafood: besides chirashi, sashimi, and regular sushi (nigiri and maki), they serve a host of maki variations. I went with the six-piece nigiri plate (€9), packing a pair of tuna, salmon, and sea bass each, and it didn’t disappoint. The shrimp tempura — seafood dressed in a thin layer of batter and quickly deep-fried — has a crispy crust and juicy meat. Also good is the katsudon (€9), a rice bowl topped with eggs, onions, and sliced pork cutlet, and the yakisoba buckwheat noodles.

#3 Okuyama No Sushi

One of Budapest’s top sushi restaurants is buried in the basement of a strip mall, doesn’t have a functional Facebook page, and its website looks as if it hasn’t been updated in a decade. Welcome to Okuyama no Sushi. With a puritan, absurdly bare interior, the place looks nothing like the polished sushi restaurant you might find in New York or London.

#4 Nobu Restaurant

Thanks to a late Hungarian businessman, Andy Vajna, with top Hollywood connections, Budapest is home to a Nobu, the world’s fanciest chain restaurant (Robert De Niro is an owner of the parent company). This upscale Japanese-Peruvian establishment is located inside the dim ground floor of the five-star Kempinski hotel smack in the middle of Budapest's downtown.

#5 Sushi Ocean

Sushi Ocean is a casual but pricey below-ground sushi restaurant on a downtown side street in Budapest. As you enter the premises, don't flinch if the staff, donning traditional outfits, greets you cheerfully in unison (in Japanese). If sushi is what you came for, try to sit at the counter to appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into transforming the raw fish and grains of rice into beautifully shaped nigiri.

#6 Biwako Ramen House

Biwako fashions itself as a ramen house, but I find their non-ramen Japanese dishes to be their strongest suit: the donburi, the okonomiyaki, and the takoyaki. The restaurant is strategically located across the street from The Japan Foundation in Budapest's District 6, inside a plain, modest below-ground space.

#7 Fuji Japanese Restaurant

When it opened in 1991, Fuji was one of the first Japanese restaurants in Budapest. From a Japan-inspired wood-paneled dining room, it served pricey dishes to well-off locals and expats who were looking for exotic tastes in post-communist Budapest. Almost three decades hence — an eternity in restaurant years — Fuji is still around and it's still one of the few upscale Japanese restaurants in Budapest.

#8 Sushi Sei

Sushi Sei is an upscale Japanese restaurant located a bit outside the city center in Óbuda. Delicate raw seafood dominate the menu, including sashimi, maki (cut sushi rolls), nigiri (mounds of rice topped with fish filet), and chirashi (fish scattered over vinegared rice in a bowl). Apart from the typical tuna, salmon, and prawn options, the selections also comprise eel, sea bass, octopus, squid, and salmon roe. The chirashi bowl (€23) is a good way to sample a cross-section of the most interesting cuts.

#9 DON DOKO DON Japan Bistro

Most Japanese restaurants in Budapest specialize in sushi even though local Hungarian tastes and wallets are more compatible with everyday Japanese dishes. Perhaps this is what the Tomokis, a young couple from Tokyo, had in mind when in 2018 they opened DON DOKO DON, Budapest’s first donburi restaurant near the city center. It's a small, counter-service space with a few tables upstairs.

#10 Kicsi Japán

Helmed by seasoned Japanese sushi chef, Yoshihito Hirose, Kicsi Japán is a tiny Japanese counter service restaurant in Corvin negyed, a bit outside the city center in Budapest’s District 9. For this shoe-box sized space, the food offerings are notably wide: There’s everything from donburi (rice bowls) to Japanese snacks like karaage and takoyaki, and also nigiri sushi, chirashi bowls, and sashimi (€10).

#11 Ramenka

Ramenka is a chic ramen shop right on Kazinczy Street within Budapest’s party central, a stone's throw away from the famous Szimpla ruin bar. This tourist-heavy location means that the place is filled to capacity at all times with a foreign crowd, often with a line forming outside the entrance. Guests have to eat at the elongated communal table that anchors the inside (thanks to the backless, uncomfortable tree stumps used as stools, there's little post-meal lingering and tables turn over quickly).

#12 Japan Okonomiyaki Kincsán

Japan Okonomiyaki Kincsán is a teeny-tiny takeout restaurant specializing in, you guessed it, okonomiyaki, the Japanese savory pancakes. Okonomiyaki is a street food made from grilled cabbage, eggs, and a host of other ingredients packed into a wheat flour-based batter. As in Japan, they prepare your order on an electric griddle right before you.

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito and pays for his own meals and drinks.