Best Authentic Japanese Restaurants in North Jersey

by Alex Kenney
best japanese restaurants in NJ

With the increasing popularity of Japanese food these past few years, it seems like trendy new ramen or sushi spots are popping up every week. But let’s get serious for a second. The inauthentic places usually charge just as much, or sometimes, more than the authentic ones. At that point, you might as well pay for the real thing.

What makes a Japanese restaurant authentic, beyond the shallow elements like the staff’s Japanese proficiency or the uniqueness of the menu items, is the story that fuels it and the waza, or ways (in this case, of the chef). Japanese culture highly values pride in one’s work. If you are a sushi chef, you often spend decades perfecting your craft in search of the highest quality product and the most proper methods. Every dish must be crafted with expertise and care. So, if you find a good story on a restaurant’s website, thoroughly detailing the founder’s journey, you may be onto something.

My Japanese mother is the biggest critic I know when it comes to authentic Japanese food, so she taught me how to pick out the best spots. And having grown up in North Jersey, I think we can fairly lay claim to having the state’s biggest Japanese pocket. So without further ado, here are the best authentic Japanese restaurants in North Jersey.


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Soba Azuma – Fort Lee, NJ

Located in the heart of Fort Lee’s downtown area, Soba Azuma has been the frontrunner of NJ’s soba noodle game since it opened in 2015. Their menu is stacked with a variety of hot and cold soba, udon, and fried meats—and they never skimp. One chicken katsu (cutlet) set will fill you up and still have you bringing home leftovers that are just as crispy the next day. For a limited time, they also serve hiyashi chuka soba, a unique offering with pork, vegetables, and an egg over cold noodles.


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Ramen Azuma – Englewood, NJ

Soba Azuma’s ramen-making cousin, Ramen Azuma, opened its doors in Englewood back in 2018, and dare I say, it might be an upgrade. Upon entry, you are met with a ramen bar that looks like it could be straight out of Kyoto. In the rest of the dining area, each table comes with a convenient device that notifies servers with the push of a button when you require their services, making for a relaxing meal without interruptions. In the colder months, you also have the option to sit outdoors in private, heated houses decorated with fairy lights.

As previously reported by New Jersey Digest, the food options here elevate the experience. Ramen Azuma’s menu features a variety of customizable ramen and curry dishes. They also have vegan versions of their shoyu ramen, spicy sesame miso ramen, and tonkotsu ramen. Unlike their soba-serving counterpart, they also serve specialty drinks and desserts. Their lavender lemonade is a stunning color-changing butterfly pea tea featuring floral and tart flavors. This blue-hued tea has gone viral for turning purplish pink when it interacts with an acid, such as lemon juice. For dessert, you can wrap up with melt-in-your-mouth vegan nama chocolate squares from Peko’s Country Kitchen. Ramen Azuma now has locations in Wood-Ridge and Hackensack.


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Masa Sushi and Grill – Allendale, NJ

A veteran in North Jersey’s Japanese food scene, Masa has been serving premier raw and fried seafood selections for 20 years, first opening in 2004. Everything about Masa is traditional and simple. The cozy spot features a warmly-lit dining room and sushi bar. The menu includes a variety of sushi, sashimi, and Japanese comfort foods like tempura and tatsuta age—a type of Japanese fried chicken. I usually get their hamachi kama, or yellowtail collar. The cut of the fish is loaded with fluffy salted meat in a soy-flavored crunchy outer shell. Masa is the go-to for those in search of a comforting, warm meal in a quiet town.


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Wasabi Japanese Restaurant – Ridgewood, NJ

Like Masa, Wasabi is another long-standing Bergen County staple, opening in 2000. Wasabi was founded with the intention of being “more like a restaurant you would find in Japan,” according to owner and head chef Kazuhiko Takahashi. And that it is, with its old auburn tables, leather booth seating, and bar seats that wrap around the sushi chef’s station. Wasabi shows off a diverse selection of sushi, teriyaki, katsu, noodle, tempura, and donburi (rice) dishes. Its more experimental options include wild yellowtail jalapeño with yuzu sauce and seafood ceviche. A chalkboard above the sushi station is regularly updated with seasonal offerings, like asari clams in the early spring. Wasabi is steps away from downtown Ridgewood, but it is well worth the venture.


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Tsujita NJ Artisan Noodle – Fort Lee, NJ

With 18 locations in Japan, Tsujita opened its first U.S. store in Los Angeles in 2011. Late last year, Tsujita opened a new location on Fort Lee’s Lemoine Ave. Their specialty is tsukemen, or ramen noodles that are served separately from the soup. Tsukemen is eaten by dipping the noodles into the broth, as opposed to traditional ramen, where the noodles are served in the soup. Tsujita still serves regular ramen as well.

What stands out about Tsujita is their chashu, or pork belly, which appears to be cooked in individual pieces. Traditionally, the pork belly is cooked in its entirety then cut into slices to serve, making it soft, melty, and fatty with an ever so slight crisp from its cooked edge. At Tsujita, however, the whole piece is crispy and savory, and biting into it releases the soft, melty sensation for which chashu is well-known. If you still have room for dessert, Tsujita additionally offers a specialty hojicha pudding. Hojicha is a roasted tea that is sometimes used to flavor ice cream, but not nearly as often as matcha. Tsujita also serves matcha pudding as well as an Instagram-worthy raspberry shaved ice.


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Nakahara Japanese Restaurant – Leonia, NJ

With its small, unintimidating storefront in Leonia, Nakahara has been pleasantly surprising patrons with its high-quality sushi and sashimi since 2016. The restaurant offers omakase—or chef’s choice—sushi and sashimi platters that are commonly the subject of rave reviews. Though the restaurant specializes in sushi, the rest of the menu stays strong, including fried squid, kurobuta (black pig) sausage, and chanpon—a pork, seafood, and vegetable ramen noodle soup. Don’t miss out on this one when you drive down Leonia’s Broad Ave.


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Daikichi – Montclair, NJ

Representing Essex County on this list is Daikichi, a relic that has been around since 1988 on Upper Montclair’s Valley Road. Since its founding, Daikichi has grown and evolved its menu to stay relevant and up-to-date with culinary trends, but this does not take away from its authenticity. Daikichi’s strengths lie more in their heavier meals like their chicken and salmon teriyaki, but they do offer sushi, sashimi, and rice paper rolls as well. What makes Daikichi special is not only their age, but also their commitment to sustainability. They compost all leftover food to prevent waste and offer a “no chopsticks” choice for online orders for those who prefer to use their own reusable chopsticks.

About the Author/s

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Alex Kenney is a third-year Journalism and Media Studies student at Rutgers University - New Brunswick. Having lived in Bergen, Essex, and briefly Hudson County, she calls anything north of Newark home. She is a big fan of NJ Transit and knows most major highways in her area like the back of her hand, even though she doesn’t drive.

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1 comment

Carlo August 16, 2023 - 1:54 am

Might be an oversight but you missed Yakitori 39 in Bogota and Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater.


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