Here's Where to Eat Japanese Food in Westchester
Find sushi, ramen, and yakitori galore at these local eateries.
A selection of sushi from Kumo in Scarsdale.
Photo by Andre Baranowski
— Nine to Know —
Shiki Sushi & Yakitori
A small entrance fittingly leads to a comfortable, very casual interior at Shiki Sushi & Yakitori, but don’t underestimate the modest spot. The no-frills eatery attracts yakitori lovers from around the county with its delicious skewers (e.g., chicken shishito, bacon scallop). Chef-owner Ken Lin, who learned to cook at previous restaurant jobs in Manhattan, says, “We do yakitori and sushi, not other kinds of Asian food.”
The menu also has a small selection of entrées, as well as beer, wine, and sake to choose from.
Chef-owner Yoshimichi Takeda of Sushi Nanase gets the majority of his fish — like this yellowtail — flown in from Japan.
Photo courtesy of Sushi Nanese
Hailing from the Ginza area of Tokyo, chef-owner Yoshimichi Takeda is truly bringing Japan to White Plains. The 15-year-old neighborhood gem is a bit hidden (the entrance is nestled next to a Japanese market), and most of his customers are repeat visitors celebrating special occasions — in fact, most of the 18 seats are filled with people honoring birthdays and anniversaries.
The omakase tasting menu changes every month. It’s certainly working: “People come, sit down, talk, drink, and are surprised by the food. They really enjoy it,” Takeda says.
Octopus, salmon, and tuna are among the fish in this sushi combo platter at Momiji.
Photo courtesy of Momiji
Momiji has been a Harrison staple for more than 20 years and with good reason: Its cozy, narrow dining room provides a backdrop for inventive and well-textured sushi rolls and sashimi that attract both families out for a casual dinner and professionals in search of a quick and tasty lunch.
The current owner, Shinji Sekine, came to the States after a business career in his hometown of Kawasaki, Japan, and subsequently learned about sushi and how to cook from the previous Momiji owner. Udon noodles with tempura and the karaage (Japanese fried chicken) are also worth ordering.
The curved walnut overhang above the sushi bar at Koku in Armonk is part of restaurant’s modern design.
Photo by AM Design Studio
Billing itself as “modern Japanese” cuisine, lively Koku provides sleek décor. Enticing dishes range from signature sushi rolls, like the New Year — king crab, shrimp tempura, avocado, and spicy mayo, topped with seared tuna, olive-wasabi sauce and sweet chili sauce — to Saikyo miso-style Chilean seabass.
And while traditional dishes are certainly available here, the main draw is variations on classics, such as spinach-wonton soup, Kobe meatballs with a yaki-soy-balsamic sauce, blue-crab fajitas, and spicy tuna gyoza. Whichever way you order, high-quality ingredients are of import. “I want to bring New York City-quality sushi to the burbs,” says owner Eric Cheng, and he uses premium Japanese fish suppliers to do so.
When a restaurant remains open after nearly 18 years, you can trust they’re doing something right. At Sushi Mike’s, the secret is the variety of ultra-fresh fish they serve. “We have the very traditional sushi. We have top-notch, very-high-end fish. Everybody around here uses fish from Boston and California, but I have fish coming in from overseas every Thursday,” says owner Michael Suzuki.
The casual and inviting split-level corner spot seats about 52 people, with an additional eight tables available outside during warmer months. If you’re not craving sushi that day, try the spicy seafood fried rice.
Slurp Noodles at Westchester's Best Ramen Restaurants
A small, modest storefront on Main Street houses this neighborhood treasure that prides itself on its creative sushi rolls (the Fuji Mountain roll and the Niji Special roll are must-tries, says owner Jeff Chen). Chen opened Sushi Niji in 2005 with an emphasis on delicious sushi and affordable lunch specials (two rolls for $9.95 or three for $12.95, served with miso soup and salad). If you’re not in the mood for fish, the hibachi dishes from the kitchen — the fried rice in particular — are equally popular.
The tonkotsu ramen at Dai Sushi has a broth made from pork bones.
Photo by Alex Dai
Following a two-year stint at the famed Nobu in Manhattan, Chef Alex Dai opened Dai Sushi four years ago in a cozy, jewel-box space in central Pleasantville. Since then, he’s put an emphasis on customer satisfaction and serving only the freshest fish in the restaurant’s simple dining room. “We care about the quality and the customers. We shorten the order time of the fish we get, so I get fresh fish almost every day,” he explains.
(Dai’s favorite dish, the monkfish liver, is definitely worth an order.) Whatever you plan to order, don’t try going on a weekend night without a reservation, you may be looking at a significant wait for one of only 10 tables or four bar seats.
“The best part of the restaurant is that we’re family run,” Sakura owner Tony Weng says emphatically. “My sister, wife, and dad opened here together. We love this community.” But this isn’t Weng’s first stab at the restaurant industry as a family affair: He and his family learned about sushi and Japanese cuisine at his uncle’s New Jersey restaurant before opening Sakura in 2010.
The sizeable menu includes savory plates from the kitchen’s hibachi grill, comforting donburi (rice bowl dishes), nabemono (hot pot), and decadent sushi rolls made from premium ingredients. “After having Japanese restaurants for 20 years, we know [the menu] by heart!” he says.
In a small dining room (there are seats for fewer than 30 people between the tables and the cozy sushi bar), Fujinoya magnificently serves traditional sushi, creative rolls, and kitchen dishes in equal measure. When the weather is chilly, the ramen offers a warm respite; light bites from the kitchen make for delicious appetizers, like the Buta Bara (pork belly skewers) and well-executed salmon kama (grilled salmon collar).
From the sushi bar, the fish is fresh and reliable, and house-made rolls like the Fujinoya (avocado, cucumber, and tuna inside, flying-fish roe outside) are interesting without being overdone.
— Seven For Sushi —
With energetic pop music and exposed brick, two-year-old Aria Fusion makes a great destination for a family dinner or group sushi outing. The menu has all the rolls you’d expect, in addition to some dotted with “Pan-Asian fusion” influences. “We do mostly sushi, but with a little bit of a [Pan-]Asian style, like adding mango sauce and our pad Thai,” says co-owner Joanna Lin.
She suggests trying signature rolls like the shrimp-tempura Fusion roll, topped with lobster meat, wrapped in avocado, and garnished with black tobiko.
Hajime has a fiercely loyal clientele and understandably so: For 23 years, chef-owner Sam Takahashi has been turning out the types of classic sushi and sashimi that purists seek. “I cook authentic Japanese,” he says. “Very simple. I try to make lots of simple sushi that the Japanese people make. Our customers are used to going to Manhattan, and they’re looking for that. We don’t make a lot of rolls.”
Snag a seat at the sushi bar for the full Hajime experience, where Takahashi will likely serve you and answer any questions you have as you dine.
Tuna "pizza" at ISO Japanese Cuisine in Yonkers.
Photo courtesy of ISO Japanese Cuisine
ISO Japanese Cuisine
Like its sister restaurant Koku in Armonk, ISO prides itself on combining traditional Japanese flavors and sensibilities with modern, creative culinary twists. According to Nick Lam, owner and head sushi chef, “Our style is not old and traditional; we look to the future.”
Menu favorites like the lobster taco, blue-crab fajita, Kobe meatballs, sushi pizza, and rock shrimp tempura are served in the spacious dining room, located in the Boyce Thompson building. Lunch specials are particularly popular during the week.
Asagao owner Genji Kim is no newcomer to the sushi business: Before coming to Westchester, he owned an empire of more than 100 eateries across Korea that specialized in bringing sushi to the masses. “Before our restaurants in Korea, sushi was only considered a ‘high-class’ food,” he explains. “We spread the idea of rolls that people hadn’t experienced before and made it more accessible for everybody.” And he has certainly earned his success, adds son Peter Kim.
“He’s very serious about his own food. He makes everything with his own hands.” His 35-seat restaurant has earned a name for itself with stellar execution of ramen and sushi specialties (the Crazy Tuna roll is particularly popular).
Kyo's maki roll is one of 22 signature rolls on offer.
Photo courtesy of Kyo
For Derek Wu and his brother Darryl, operating Kyo has been about becoming a part of the community. “We’ve been able to maintain local friendships — that’s what we’re most proud of,” Wu says. After learning the craft of sushi in his father’s Bronx restaurant (both spent time in the kitchen starting at age 7), the Wu brothers have found their own combination of creativity and authenticity.
“We also have traditional Japanese dishes, like teriyaki and such; it’s not fusion, but we do get very creative with our rolls,” he explains. Of these rolls, the Kyo maki, with shrimp and avocado, topped with spicy salmon and served with spicy mayo, eel sauce, tempura flakes and fish eggs, is a sure bet.
Since 1983, Azuma has been known for its high-quality fish and authentic, no-frills sushi and seafood preparations. “We don’t do any poultry or meat. Strictly seafood only,” explains owner Tony Saegusa. “We select our fish very carefully, from sources we can trust.” And once that product arrives at the restaurant, which boasts soothing, earthy tones and a long sushi bar along one wall, it’s in good hands.
“Our sushi chef, Chef Yasu, has been here for more than 20 years,” explains Saegusa, noting that their success would not be possible without him. So it’s no surprise that the chef’s omakase menu is especially popular, marked by supreme attention to detail.
A beautiful Kirari Sushi sashimi/sushi platter.
Photo courtesy of Kirari Sushi
Known for its casual, family-friendly atmosphere, flavorful sashimi, and impressive platters, Kirari Sushi is a Scarsdale staple. While the menu doesn’t focus on innovation, it executes well on traditional offerings, from chicken teriyaki to vegetable tempura and a sashimi platter featuring daily fresh fish. Locals love it for the bento boxes and the notably friendly, helpful staff.
One of the most popular forms of sushi, especially in Japan, is nigiri, a pressed rice ball typically topped with seafood. What follows is a guidebook to the most common nigiri varieties, so you’ll be able to identify what’s on your tray during your next sushi sojourn.
Ngiri photographed at Kumo Sushi and Lounge in Scarsdale.
Photos by Andre Baranowski
Daisy Melamed Sanders is a freelance fashion, food, and lifestyle writer based just over the border in Fairfield County.