Denver's five best Japanese restaurants

Categories: Best of Denver

agedashi tofu hana.jpg
Cassandra Kotnik
Agedashi tofu at Hana Japanese Bistro, one of the city's best Japanese restaurants.
While Denver is swimming in great options for sushi, we're woefully short on Japanese joints that feature good versions of the broader culinary canon -- and, in fact, we'd be stoked if a few more spots of this sort opened up, whether they're restaurants serving up Japanese noodles like ramen or soba or authentic izakayas, giving the Mile High City a taste of that nation's countryside.

There are a few that sate our cravings, though. Here, in no particular order, are the city's five best Japanese restaurants.

Thumbnail image for amu dish.jpg
Mark Manger
Amu Sake Bar & Grill, 1221 Spruce Street, Boulder
Amu's owner, Nao-san, is best known for Sushi Zanmai, a raucous sushi spot that attracts legions of college students for raw fish and karaoke. With all that commotion, it's easy to miss the sliver of a spot right next door: Amu. That restaurant specializes in Japanese country fare, and for years it's turned out simple, excellent dishes -- including agedashi tofu, fermented soybeans, green mussels and many more beautifully presented delicacies, some of which are made up on the spot -- that show the depth of the cuisine. Last year, Nao-san brought on new chef Mune Taira, who's added more modern and flashy flourishes to the menu.

Thumbnail image for izakayaoutside.jpg
Izakaya Den, 1518 South Pearl Street
Toshi and Yasu Kizaki are responsible for Sushi Den, the decades-old sushi house that was the first restaurant in town to prove not only that sushi could be done here, but that it could be done at a quality that rivals any spot on the coast. And for their second venture, the brothers aimed to do the same with broader Japanese cuisine at Izakaya Den. At this restaurant, traditional Japanese items are definitely on the list, but the menu also bends the limits of exactly what Japanese food is, integrating New American flavors and other influences where the kitchen sees fit: Korean short ribs, duck in udon, buckwheat gnocchi, even crepes made with pork and brie. But rather than viewing this as a diversion from authenticity, these items are better considered as creative variations on a theme -- and an indication of where a skilled chef can take this cuisine.

Thumbnail image for Sachi-029.jpg
Mark Manger
Sachi Sushi, 7980 Niwot Road, Niwot
Nestled in a corner of the Niwot Market, Sachi Sushi is one of the best-hidden spots on the Front Range. Owner Tsukasa Hibino worked as a sushi chef at Sushi Tora for years after relocating to Boulder from Japan, and when he struck out on his own, he employed his skills with tuna, salmon and octopus at his little counter. He also expanded his offerings: His regular menu includes a few other dishes from his home country, and he cooks up specials, too. The most notable of these is the ramen he makes every Sunday: The big, brothy bowls of Kyushu-style noodles are the best you'll find in at least a 100-mile radius.

Location Info

Amu Sake Bar and Restaurant

1221 Spruce St., Boulder, CO

Category: Restaurant

Izakaya Den

1487 S. Pearl St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Sachi Sushi

7980 Niwot Road, Niwot, CO

Category: Restaurant

Hana Japanese Bistro

1148 W. Dillon Road, Louisville, CO

Category: Restaurant

Domo

1365 Osage St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
15 comments
sushi marina del rey
sushi marina del rey

Yoshinoya is the greatest and largest restaurant franchise in Japan. It provides very healthier but inexpensive meals. They are dedicated to Gyudon which is tasty meat on grain. They also offer katsu-don which is chicken and grain.

Guest
Guest

Most of the places listed aren't even real Japanese restaurants but fusion instead. Domo iis pretty mediocre, to say the least.

The lst just shows you how poor the selection is in Denver compared to larger cities like NY, LA, etc.

Rob
Rob

Yoko's in Sakura Square. Downtown Denver.

Guest
Guest

But what about LoHi? Shouldn't Linger be on the list? They have a lot of Japanese small tapas plates.

Come on guys, all I have going for me is that I live in LoHi and a best of Denver list that passes up LoHi for places in Niwot hurts my self esteem.

Solbear11
Solbear11

How did you not include Oshima Ramen? That place is fantastic and more "original" than most of the places on this list.

Jeff
Jeff

Donburi means bowl, so "donburi bowls" means "bowl bowls."

FrenchPressMemo
FrenchPressMemo

The list is best Japanese not sushi. I would not recommend Domo or Amu for sushi, for examples, but those are the top Japanese restaurants in the Denver metro area. Clearly Niwot and Boulder are not Denver but it is reasonable to include them in here- they are too small to stand on their own and too close to be overlooked. 

peanut butter
peanut butter

It's official, the words "Denver" and "Colorado" are completely interchangeable now.

GFTW
GFTW

Really pushing the boundaries of the "city" of Denver!

Dan5280
Dan5280

Great list, but my goodness service can be hit or miss at Domo. 

Jon S
Jon S

If Oshima was included, some mediocre joint in Boulder County would have to get bumped. Since overrated restaurants in Boulder County seem to dominate these lists nowadays, no way Oshima had a chance.

monopod
monopod

No, "Denver" means "Denver Metro Area" in this context.  Obviously Glenwood Springs, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs aren't going to be included in "Denver," but given that a lot of people in Boulder regularly go to Denver (and vice versa) it's certainly fair to include them here.

Uncledave8
Uncledave8

Agreed - Boulder, Louisville, and Niwot aren't Denver.  Need to rename the list if you're going to go that far afield.  If you'd stayed in Denver maybe two obvious choices for this list - Sushi Den and Sushi Sasa - would have made this list as deserved.

Uncledave8
Uncledave8

I think the majority of people in Boulder would be highly offended (particularly politically) to be considered part of the "Denver Metro Area".  As I would be to be considered a resident of the "Peoples' Republic of Boulder".

Mantonat
Mantonat

This is a losing battle. Westword has been doing this for a long time now. The main problem is not with Westword though; we are a commuter society based in a sprawling metropolis of linked suburbs and town. What do we call the area? Maybe Westword should run a contest to name the metropolitan area that covers Denver, Aurora, Boulder, Greenwood Village, Lakewood, Louisville, Westminster, Broomfield, etc. Either that or we can just understand up front that when Westword says "Denver," they mean "the Denver greater metropolitan area."

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...