The 11 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.

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.

Japanese beers (Sapporo, Kirin Ichiban, Asahi) and a couple of sakes are also served. Prices are reasonable, although portions are on the small side. Komachi is popular among employees of the local Japanese embassy and most nights at least half of the customers are Asian. Note that the kitchen closes at 9 p.m.

Don't be fooled by the puritan below-ground space, Ennmann is one of the top Japanese restaurants in Budapest. The modestly furnished 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, 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, a rice bowl topped with eggs, onions, and sliced pork cutlet, and the yakisoba buckwheat noodles.

Expect longer than average wait times during peak lunch and dinner hours, but Japanese sake and beers are available to help pass the time. Ennmann is located on a beautiful stretch of the Danube's bank, which makes it all the more frustrating that the dining space is subterranean (there's a stunning view of the Hungarian Parliament building as you ascend to the street level). Prices, similar to comparable Japanese restaurants, are on the higher end by local standards.

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 two decades. Welcome to Okuyama no Sushi. With a puritan, absurdly bare interior, the place doesn't resemble the polished sushi restaurant you might find in New York or London.

The owner and sushi chef, Sachi Okuyama, ran a sushi restaurant inside the Hilton Budapest before opening up shop here in 2001. His signature offering is the oversized nigiri sushis, where fresh pieces of salmon, tuna, or prawn sit atop warm and perfectly vinegared mounds of rice. I also like the asari tsukudani, gummy bites of pickled clams seasoned in a rich soy and mirin-based sauce. Whenever I'm here, I usually order a tamagoyaki, a slightly sweet Japanese rolled omelet otherwise rarely available in Budapest.

Perhaps Okuyama no Sushi wouldn't stand out in cities bigger than Budapest or those with better access to saltwater fish, but currently it’s one of the top sushi restaurants in the city. Pricey for Budapest standards!

Thanks to the 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.

If you're familiar with Nobu restaurants elsewhere in the world, rest assured that in Budapest, too, you'll will find all of Mr. Matsuhisa’s signature dishes: miso-marinated black cod, squid “pasta," tiradito, and rock-shrimp tempura. If you can get over their steep price points, they're a real treat. Consistent with Nobu's elite status, the restaurant often serves as a meeting place for high-profile Hungarian politicians and businessmen.

Sushi Ocean is a 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.

The 10-piece sushi plate includes salmon, tuna, octopus, squid, and seaweed. Fattier fish like mackerel and tuna receive a slight sear from a blowtorch to bring out their flavors. Besides sushi, I also enjoyed the hearty ramen, and the katsudon, which consists of breaded slivers of pork over rice. The takoyaki — octopus balls — are some of the best I've had. Plenty of sake and two types of Japanese beers (Asahi and Sapporo) are available for the full experience.

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 modest below-ground space.

If you've come for the ramen, try it with the spicy miso base, which is flavorful and not too spicy at all. Biwako serves some of the best karaage in Budapest: juicy and tender chicken thighs coated in a crispy crust. I also enjoyed the seafood okonomiyaki, a savory pancake strewn with squid and octopus and paper-thin bonito flakes, and the katsudon, a rice bowl topped with breaded pork and a fried egg. The only letdown was the stale and spongy dorayaki, a Japanese dessert made from red-bean paste. Mains are €13-20.

Helmed by professional Japanese sushi chef, Yoshihito Hirose, Kicsi Japán is a tiny Japanese counter service restaurant in an unlikely location: Corvin negyed, a not especially charming part of Budapest, especially given the constant car traffic on Üllői út just outside the premises. But think of this idiosyncrasy as part of the fun of exploring Budapest.

Treasures of the ocean are the specialty at this tiny restaurant, featuring maki and nigiri sushi, chirashi bowls, and sashimi. They’re memorably delicious when Mr. Hirose is present to make them, right in view of customers.

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.

The sushi and sashimi selections are expensive and a bit inconsistent. The non-fish dishes are also hit-or-miss. The karaage (deep-fried chicken thighs) and the yakitori (skewered chicken) felt like afterthoughts, but the katsudon, a rice bowl topped with fried eggs and breaded pork, and the tamagoyaki, slightly sweet Japanese rolled omelet, were both excellent. Fuji is one of the few places in Budapest that serves chawanmushi, a savory, steamed egg custard with morsels of chicken thigh and shrimp. Plenty of sake and Japanese beers are also available.

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 is a good way to sample a cross-section of the most interesting cuts.

Although mainly a seafood restaurant, non-seafood fans can order excellently prepared tonkatsu, karaage, and yakitori. During the summer, cold soba (buckwheat) noodles dipped in a dashi, soy, and mirin-based sauce are wonderfully reviving. Due to the sheer size of the space, Sushi Sei rarely gets more than half full and can feel a little too formal, but it's one of the few elaborate sushi restaurants of Budapest and hence an essential establishment on the city's culinary landscape.

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.

Donburis are rice bowls topped with meat, vegetables, and a soy-based sweet and savory broth. In Japan, they're a popular midday meal for busy office workers and also a common hangover cure. At Don Doko Don, go for the gyudon, which is the classic beef bowl with onions; if you kindly request "tsuyudaku," they'll add some extra broth for you. There's a rotating menu with other options and you can pair your dons with a miso or tonjiro soup. Prices are wallet-friendly and many students lunch here from the neighboring universities.

Japan Okonomiyaki Kincsán is a teeny-tiny 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.

The modern version, which reflects the preparation popular in Hiroshima, layers pieces of pork loin, ramen noodles, soy bean sprouts, and comes blanketed in a tangy brown sauce. Instead of layering, the classic variety (“Kansai“) mixes all ingredients together and also includes yam and a lattice-patterned mayo topping. A vegetarian option with tofu is also available. They’re all crunchy, doughy, and very delicious. Whichever you pick, be sure to order it with bonito flakes (you'll need to opt-in for this extra topping as the default version in fish-averse Hungary comes without it).