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The Best Japanese Restaurants in Minneapolis – St. Paul

Strap in folks!

Today, we’re going beyond sushi and exploring the fun and adventurous world of the Twin Cities Japanese food scene.

Whether you’ve got someone in your party who squirms at the idea of fresh fish or you just want to try out something new, these Japanese restaurants stand out for going beyond the usual rolls and offering up unique and one-of-a-kind Japanese dishes.

From food trucks to some of the finest dining in the Twin Cities, here are our picks for the best Japanese restaurants around Minneapolis and St. Paul.

PS – If you’re looking specifically for the best sushi in Minneapolis and St. Paul, we wrote an article about that, too.

Map of the Best Japanese Restaurants in the Twin Cities

Our favorite Japanese food in Minneapolis: PinKU Japanese Street Food

pinku japanese restaurant

You might recognize this spot from when we were raving about it in our article about the best restaurants in Northeast Minneapolis. But after yet more delicious meals at PinKU, we’re ramping up the praise to calling it our favorite overall spot for Japanese food in all of Minneapolis.

PinKU probably has the most unique menu of anywhere on this list. Basically, they’ve taken high quality sushi and authentic Japanese dishes and brought them to an almost fast-casual atmopshere. The dining room has the sort of small, cool vibe you’d expect from a spot in Northeast, Minneapolis, and all the food is crafted quickly from the open kitchen. (Those amazing smells!)

The menu does have sushi, but the far more accurate description lies in their restaurant name – Japanese street food. You’ll find all sort of interesting uses for their fresh fish, like crispy rice dishes, incredible poke bowls, and even an always-rotating menu of seasonal specials which range from fantastic curries to incredible appetizers.

PS – We have to mention this any time we talk about PinKU… Their stuff is so fresh, they don’t even own a freezer! They literally source all their fish and produce locally, every single morning.

PPS – The portions here are small, so don’t be afraid to order all the things.

  • Address: 20 University Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
  • Website: PinKU Japanese

The most popular Japanese restaurant in the Twin Cities: Kyatchi

Kyatchi makes most “best of Minneapolis” lists for their sushi offerings – namely as the only spot in the Twin Cities to get authentic “pressed sushi.” But even if you’re not in the mood for the usual, Kyatchi includes a great menu that goes so far beyond fish and rice.

The most obvious example of this would be their legendary Japanese hot dogs. These wieners have been praised by Star Tribune as the city’s best hot dog and even featured in People Magazine’s piece about the best hot dogs across America. I guess that’s what happens when you dare to top your dog with yuzu mayo, grilled shishito peppers, or even stir fried soba noodles!

They’ve also got some of the best ramen around, tons of kushimomo (aka skewers), and plenty of well-done small plates and rice dishes. Special shout out to the Kara-Age, which is a traditional japanese appetizer made from fried chicken cutlets (or marinated tofu) and served with a lemony mayo.

  • Address 1: 3758 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55409
  • Address 2: 308 E Prince St STE 140, St Paul, MN 55101
  • Website: Kyatchi

Best fancy Japanese food: Kaiseki Furukawa

Note: Kaiseki Furukawa is temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Their website provides the latest updates.

Located in the same building as the hugely popular Kado No Mise sushi restaurant, Kaiseki Furukawa is a seasonal dining experience unlike anything else in the Twin Cities. At well over $100 per person, it’s also one of the priciest options in the Twin Cities, but you get what you pay for. Kaiseki Furukawa is a multi-course tasting experience, all created by chef Shigeyuki Furukawa, who has a lifetime of experience training under master chefs in Japan. The execution is amazing, the presentation is stunning, and the food is unbelievable.

If you’re looking for that extra special Japanese restaurant, this is it.

Best hibachi: Hibachi Daruma

Hibachi Daruma is the classic food truck story. Chef Miguel, inspired by 20 years of hibachi experience, fired up a food truck and started rolling around the Twin Cities. Fueled by delicious in-house sauces and a simple menu of hibachi bowls, the food truck eventually built up such a following that Hibachi Daruma moved into permanent space, right in the heart of downtown.

The menu today stays true to its roots. Whether you go with chicken, steak, tofu, or seafood, all the dishes are roasted over a hibachi grill, then served up in a rice bowl (or lo mein) that’s topped with homemade teriyaki, yum yum, or garlic sauce. It’s simple hibachi done right, and for our money, the best in the Twin Cities.

  • Address: 820 S Marquette Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55402
  • Website: Hibachi Daruma

Our favorite atmosphere: Moti-i Ramen and Sake House

Moto-I has a few awesome things going for it:

  1. An amazing patio that overlooks the Uptown neighborhood.
  2. A full-fledged craft Sake brewery, where you can try all sorts of flavored sakes made in house
  3. A seriously underrated menu, which includes Japanese ramen and small plates. (Although I have to admit, the best thing on the menu is probably the Korean style bibimbap bowl.)

All in all, Moto-I is definitely one of the coolest Japanese restaurants in Minneapolis or St. Paul, and certainly worth a visit.

  • Address: 2940 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55408
  • Website: Moto-i

Best Izakaya: Zen Box Izakaya

In Japan, a traditional Izakaya restaurant is marked by its wide menu and lively atmosphere. Zen Box Izakaya near downtown Minneapolis hits both of those marks!

The menu at Zen Box menu is packed with small snacks that are perfect for sharing in the traditional Izakaya style. This includes everything from fantastic Gyoza to more abitious dishes like Takoyaki (battered octopus) Chicken Karaage (Japanese style fried chicken) and grilled Salmon.

Otherwise, dishe options include some of the best ramen in the Twin Cities, awesome Sando Sandwiches (basically the Japanese version of a chicken sandwich), top notch curry and rice bowls, and even full size bento boxes.

No matter what you’re in the mood for, Zen Box Izakaya is sure to please.

  • Address: 602 S Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55415
  • Website: Zen Box Izakaya

Best Japanese BBQ: Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

Gyu-Kaku is one of the most unique Japanese restaurants around. They’ve essentially taken the Korean BBQ tradition and immigrated it to a fully Japanese menu. That means each table includes a small electric grill, and after you order, you’re brought thinly sliced meats and veggies which you and your crew grill up yourselves, right at the table!

If this sounds intimidating, don’t fret. Everything is sliced nice and thin, so grilling is actually a quick and easy process. And it’s a ton of fun! (You haven’t lived until you’ve tasted your own perfectly grilled Prime Kalbi Short Rib or Yaki-Shabu Beef.)

Compliments to the chef – that’s you! This is a great spot to take adventurous groups.

Best Japanese Buffet: Kyoto Sushi

Let’s be honest. Japanese buffets can be hit or miss, to put it kindly. Thankfully, Kyoto Sushi has several locations around the metro that all provide decent All You Can Eat offerings, if you’re looking to stuff your face on the cheap. This is AYCE sushi first and foremost, but the buffet also includes a lengthy list of teriyaki, teppanyaki, rice bowls, and udon noodle dishes.

  • Address: Multiple locations across the metro
  • Website: Kyoto Sushi MN
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