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10 Great Japanese Restaurants In Orange County

habuya-okinawan-dining-jc-vera-5.6052974.131.jpg
JC Vera

For this list of Japanese restaurants, we intentionally left out the sushi bars because, well, we already did that list. We also shut out the ramen joints, teppanyakis, and yakinikus because, well, we still want to do those lists. But you can certainly have ramen and sushi, even a California Roll, at some of the restaurants we feature in our list of 10--a lineup thrown together in no particular order. 

In the following pages are a mix are izayakas, kappos and even an Okinawan restaurant at which you will encounter all-encompassing menus and passionate chefs. Even still, there were a few worthy eateries that we simply couldn't fit. And there are certainly more than just these 10 great Japanese restaurants in our county (if I could, I would've had 20), but that's what the comments are for. Share yours, folks!

10. Kappo Hana
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Jonathan Ho

If you think most Japanese chefs are dead serious about their craft, you haven't met the chef at Kappo Hana, who is doubly so. Why? He's the only chef in OC we know who has the balls and the mad skills to serve kaiseki, the highest form of cooking in a cuisine already steeped in tradition. The meal features a laundry list of methods and ingredients, all in a multicourse, seasonal-menu popular centuries before seasonal menus became popular. Order the kaiseki dinner three days in advance, or for more immediate gratification, get the kamameshi dinner, a meal set in six courses, culminating in an iron pot presented tableside, full of rice and meat.

25260 La Paz Rd., Mission Viejo, (949) 770-7746.

9. Bistro Anju
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JC Vera

Though the sign outside simply says, "Sushi," Bistro Anju should not be counted among the sushi slapdash that dots our suburban mini-malls and shopping complexes with increasing frequency, even if its sparse dining looks like it belongs. It should be compared to its rightful peers: South Coast Plaza's Hamamori and Newport Coast's Bluefin By Abe. Yes, owner/chef Hideki Saito can produce California rolls and decent nigiri, but he'd rather dazzle you with foie gras and gazpacho, things cooked on a blazing stovetop and employing more than just wasabi.

23964 Aliso Creek Rd., Laguna Beach, (949) 716-8882.

8. Habuya Okinawan Dining
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JC Vera

First, let's put it on the record: Habuya is an Okinawan eatery, not a Japanese one. It is true that Okinawa is a prefecture of Japan, so it's technically still Japanese food, but that's like saying a pizza from New York is the same as pizza everywhere else. Okinawa has a distinct culinary culture. Unparalleled in their love of pork and bitter melon, Okinawans have a kindred spirit in Habuya's Mayumi Vargas. She revels in satisfying homesick tastebuds unserved by OC's generic Japanese joints. She sources a specialty ice-cream maker to supply a refreshing pineapple sorbet. Other indigenous dishes include chanpuru, an egg-lashed stir-fry of bitter melon that features tiny bits of Spam thanks to an omnipresent U.S. military, and ra fu te, the Okinawan variant of Japanese kakuni, which simmers with awamori, the prefecture's own rice wine. You know better than to ask for California rolls here (which, of course, aren't Japanese either).

14215 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, (714) 832-3323.


Location Info

Kappo Hana

25260 La Paz Road, Mission Viejo, CA

Category: Restaurant

Kappo Sui Restaurant

20070 Santa Ana Ave., Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

Cafe Hiro

10509 Valley View St., Cypress, CA

Category: Restaurant

Izakaya Meijiya

1113 Baker St., Costa Mesa, CA

Category: Restaurant

Honda Ya Japanese Restaurant

556 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA

Category: Restaurant

Fukada Restaurant

8683 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine, CA

Category: Restaurant

Bistro Anju

22912 Pacific Park, Aliso Viejo, CA

Category: Restaurant

Habuya Okinawan Dining

14215 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, CA

Category: Restaurant

Nana San

3601 Jamboree Rd., Newport Beach, CA

Category: Restaurant

Bluefin

6198 Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Coast, CA

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
27 comments
Curt Cook
Curt Cook

#6 and #1 are my goto but this list is missing some gems

Jenny Nguy
Jenny Nguy

Glad Honda Ya made to #1. Love that place!

René Bruce
René Bruce

Nah, I don't want any nuke in my food I will pass !

David Yeh
David Yeh

Spot on with your top 2, and that's all that really matters.

marina del rey sushi
marina del rey sushi

Rice is the main choice of Japoneses delicacies. It is also used to produce Benefit. This is the conventional drink of Asia. A conventional Japoneses mean includes rice and sides. The Japoneses believed that beating the rice made it more pure. They lb the rice to make rice desserts. Rice desserts are a part of every Japoneses food. Sushi is very finely cut up raw fish and hand combined therapy rice. 

Joey
Joey

How does Koi fly under the radar on this one? Best omakase in the county. You would have to shell out for Urusawa if Beverly Hills if you wanted to surpass this place.

Foodiest
Foodiest

The list is the what's what of OC Japanese food. Hm Honda Ya for its yakitori though I'm not 100% sold. Always was a bit bland to me. Doesn't have the smokiness of Shin Sen or its sister Kappo Honda. And with Shin Sens new items it's cutting a bit above the rest these days.

Kenlaysnotdead
Kenlaysnotdead

FUCK. I was working my down the list thinking WTF? Where is Honda Ya.

Well right where it belongs. Watch the schedule, when the Japanese come to Angels Stadium, the place goes BAT SHIT with Japanese baseball fans. Good times for sure.

SugeAveryLemonade
SugeAveryLemonade

I need to hit up every single one of these. Between this blog and Anthony Bourdain's show, I'm going to be eating good for a long time! 

BuggleB
BuggleB

I approve this list. :)

digkv
digkv

Edqin you still must try Tsuruhashi in Fountain Valley, Japanese yakiniku at its best.  It is truly an amazing Japanese restaurant with Korean touches. Of course, now I have nearly 8 new restaurants to try that I have never heard of before.  Thanks for the list Edwin.

I got nothin'
I got nothin'

Solid List.  I'd also add Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori

JB
JB

However, I will admit the inclusion of Cafe Hiro is something to ponder, "light Japanese touch" and "green-tea" blancmange notwithstanding.  

The more I think about it, I think it does deserve to be on the list, but it is, truly, a fusion restaurant.  Am worried it might have knocked out another deserving traditional place and sent it to the NIT Tournament like Iona knocking out Oral Roberts and Drexel University. 

JB
JB

Finally!! Stick a Fork in It gets it right!!  Now this is what I'm talkin' about!!..My bags were packed and I was ready to move to Fast Food Maven!!! I even thought about reading Marla Jo Fisher's OC Deals!!!

wallbangr
wallbangr

Excellent piece, as usual, Edwin.  Thanks for demystifying a bit of what can be an intimidating cuisine for a gaijin like me.

Jay L.
Jay L.

Bistro Anju is in Laguna Niguel, ot Laguna Beach. Other than that, all looks good, real good

kottskerrynore
kottskerrynore

Do you mean Koi-San on Katella? Read the first sentence of the article above.

What--do people only look at the pictures any more?

I got nothin'
I got nothin'

 The first paragraph says they were not including yakinikus in this list of Japanese restaurants, as they want to do a future list about them.  I'm pretty sure Tsuruhashi will top the Yakiniku list.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

I like Cheesy PoofsYou like Cheesy PoofsEven if we all liked Cheese PoofsThis comment would still be lame.

:-P

amyjo1
amyjo1

Edwin did the same thing to Bistro K months ago, he keeps putting our best restaurants in other towns, lol.  Your killing me Smalls!

Joey
Joey

No, I meant Koi in Seal Beach.

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