With the abundance of Japanese restaurants in the US, you’ll never run out of options in case you’re in the mood for some sushi, teppanyaki, or ramen. There’s definitely a lot of options waiting for you, which can both be good and bad. Good because you always have choices where to go. Bad, because the options can be overwhelming and the fact that not all of them can be good.
To avoid any disappointing dining experiences, the best thing to do would be to make sure that the Japanese restaurant you’ll be visiting is worth it. To do this, you need to know how to find the best ones out there. How are you to do just that? Here are some tips that you can try out.
Go where the Japanese eat.
One of the most telling signs whether an ethnic restaurant is good is when you find a good amount of people from that region dining in. If you can find a Japanese restaurant that’s favored by Japanese tourists and migrants, you know that you’re in for a good time. These folks know how their food should taste, so you can be sure that this is as authentic as you can get without having to travel to Japan.
Of course, authenticity is not the only thing that makes a restaurant good. Some might argue that a lot of other regional diners offer tasty grub even if they don’t serve authentic meals. However, they may not exactly appeal to the natives’ taste buds as these dishes are most likely tweaked to be enjoyed by foreigners already. In any case, it can still be good food, as long as it is enjoyed by diners.
Take Benihana as an example. This chain isn’t exactly an authentic Japanese restaurant, but it is favored by many for its excellent Japanese fare and their Japanese take on American staples. This makes it a great place for everyone – even those who are not so fond of Japanese food.
If you want to go authentic, though, you should go where the locals go. This way, you can be sure that you’re actually experiencing their cuisine and enjoying the food that they do back in their homeland.
Reviews are the best things that will tell you whether a restaurant is good or not. It can give you an idea how nice and fresh the food are or how polite and courteous the service is. They can give you a good picture of what a place is like, so if you’re after some good Japanese fare, they’ll be able to tell you whether a place is good or not.
Just make sure to be careful about some negative reviews, though. As you’re looking for an ethnic restaurant that not everyone will easily find themselves enjoying, some reviews can be ill-informed and completely biased. Try to look for context as well, as some reviews can easily include hints that the reviewer is just being ridiculously hard on the establishment.
Try to learn more about the chefs.
A good Japanese restaurant will most likely have a Japanese chef or someone who has trained in Japan, so you should try to get to know more about the restaurant’s chefs as well. Especially if you’re going to a fine dining Japanese restaurant, it’s just fair to look for details that you think will help you decide whether it’s fine to splurge on a dinner or not.
Do they serve authentic Japanese dishes or American-style Japanese dishes?
As mentioned earlier, this isn’t saying that an authentic Japanese restaurant is always better than American-style Japanese diners because both places can serve great food. You should, however, learn how to differentiate the two as it can make or break your experience. You can’t expect to dine at an authentic Japanese restaurant and expect that it will taste like fast food and you can’t go to an Americanized Japanese place and expect it to taste like the meals you had at Okinawa. These could affect how you enjoy your meal, which can be a shame as a small mistake can easily lead to a wasted dinner.
Try to know where the franchise came from.
If you’re planning to dine at a Japanese restaurant chain, you might also want to check out who founded the place and how they started. Shogun is a good example of this, as it is founded by Japan-born Bruce Kanenobu. Knowing how the restaurant started out can be an excellent way to measure just how Japanese the place is and how likely they’ll stick to the traditional cooking and ingredients for their dishes.
Again, Japanese restaurants aren’t always required to be authentic to be considered good. It’s still a matter of how fresh their ingredients and how great their chefs are. Hopefully, you can find a great one so the next time you crave for quality Japanese food, you’ll know where to go.