The best Japanese restaurants
In Cologne, fans of authentic Japanese food don’t need to board a plane to enjoy this increasingly popular cuisine. Though sushi tends to be what comes to people’s minds first when they think of Japanese food, it’s actually much more than that. Rice and miso soups are the staples of Japanese cuisine and are even considered national symbols. Although Japanese food is similar to other types of Asian food, it differs in that it doesn’t use much seasoning, instead allowing the inherent flavours of the ingredients to take centre stage. Be it soba noodles, ramen, sake, bento or sushi, whatever your preference, you’re bound to find somewhere that serves it in Cologne. In this post, I’d like to introduce you to my five favourites.
Kaizen, on Lindenstraße, is a blend of the traditional and the modern Japan. The food is prepared authentically by traditional Japanese chefs and served in contemporary-style surroundings. Husband and wife team Martyna and Joshi have been running Kaizen since 2016. Joshi is a chef himself and often travels to Japan in search of new ideas for the restaurant. As well as serving high-quality and individual sushi, the meat dishes at this place are highly recommended. Make sure you reserve!
My favourites at Kaizen: Green diamond roll, volcano roll, the grilled salmon and the sous vide duck for starters.
Momotaro is named after a Japanese folklore hero who was born in a peach. He went on to win the friendship of a monkey, a dog and a pheasant by sharing his millet dumplings with them. Together, they fought and conquered the demon that had occupied their town and lived happily ever after. Just like its namesake, this restaurant is making new friends in Cologne. When you’ve been once, it’s only a matter of time until you come back. Although the furnishings are very simple and the restaurant very small, it’s a cosy place and the quality of the ingredients they use is outstanding. All the dishes offer good value for money and the staff are super friendly.
Make sure you try: Lunch at Momotaro!
Benesisstraße 56, 50672 Cologne
Tues-Sat 12 noon-2.15 pm & 6.30-9.15 pm
Tanoshii actually has two branches in Cologne. Each of them serves traditional Japanese sushi plus creative twists on sushi dishes from all over the world, hot meals and Asian-European crossover food. I go there for the sushi more than anything and that’s because of the emphasis they put on high-quality, fresh basic ingredients and meticulous, creative preparation.
My favourites: The avocado salad for starters, Philly inside-out roll and crunchy salmon roll.
Brabanter Str. 3, 50674 Cologne
Mon-Sat 12 noon-2.30 pm & 5.30-11 pm, Sun 12 noon-10 pm
Balthasarstraße 2, 50670 Cologne
Tues-Sat 12 noon-2.30 pm & 5.30-11 pm, Sun 12 noon-2.30 pm & 5.30-10 pm
Kintaro opened its doors back in 1988 and is run by a Japanese husband and local-born wife. Located in Cologne’s Friesenviertel district, this place serves traditional Japanese food in a stripped-back setting. It is also a true sushi pioneer, having been the first restaurant of the genre to set up in Cologne. From the furnishings to the crockery, everything is authentic Japanese. Kintaro is definitely more expensive than the other Japanese restaurants in this post, but it’s worth every cent.
My favourite: The Yakizakana lunch.
Friesenstraße 16, 50670 Cologne
Tues-Sat 12 noon-2 pm & 6.30-11 pm
Most people in Cologne know the Daikan restaurant in the Belgian Quarter but you can now get their delicious ramen soups in the Nippes district too, at a ramen bar on Neusser Straße. With its open kitchen, it’s not just the great-tasting food that impresses guests – the individual, industrial style of the place is immediately striking too.
The Daikan Ramen-Bar offers a range of ramen dishes – from vegetarian to meat-based, spicy to mild, there’s something for everybody here.
My favourite: Classic miso ramen with chicken.
Neusser Str. 339, 50733 Cologne
Mon-Sun 12 noon-10 pm
There’s an impressive selection of Japanese specialities at ZEN too, which I wrote about here.