its funny, you ask my girls where they want to go for birthday dinner and japans always comes up high. so i am always on the look out for japanese restaurants; i asked my japanese girlfriend for her tips, she came up with a few that i didnt know about. yuki has brilliant taste, hates to waste money, so i would take her recommendations really seriously.
there is the famous noodle place in Frith Street called KOYA – great noodles and casual but a nice environment and unfortunately very popular, so you have to queue, or go early as they dont take any bookings.
another casual restaurant is SAKURA, they moved to Conduit Street from Hanover Square – always busy and full of japanese clients as well as the fashion journalists, as it used to be next to vogue house. i have been there lots, and its great for tempura, noodles, sushi – and well priced.
a very good but upmarket one is called DINING. the chef used to work at NOBU and food is modern clean Japanese, bit of fusion, but i think its very expensive and only for special occasions.
another nice one that is typical japanese is Cocoro which is pleasant and moderately priced.
from my own experience, kulu kulu is a real japanese version of yo sushi – authentic, great tasting sushi that goes round on a conveyor belt, and inexpensive. its a lunchtime or quick eating place, rather than a sit down entertaining meal. i love it though – you can be in and out in half an hour. shimogano is a decent traditional japanese restaurant in camden – look out for the special lunch each day which offers good value. jin kichi in hampstead is also a restaurant that is consistently good. yuki introduced me to another Japanese restaurant recently– okan in brixton village – with its unusal speciality of Japanese pancake – think tortilla/frittata it was a pleasant change to the usual Japanese food. The crispy tofu salad was delicious.
my all time favourite for taste and value is asakusa, which happens to be round the corner from where i live – its not modern, or posh, nor atmospheric, just typical japanese cafe with outdated interior, but the food is just spectacular. try and ask for a table upstairs if you reserve – the sushi can take a while as they are always busy, but it is worth waiting for. it is also very inexpensive and you will always see japanese families there.