Food & Drink

Turning Japanese: Where to Find the Best Sushi in Manila

These Japanese restaurants step it up in the sushi game.
IMAGE MOTTO MOTTO/INSTAGRAM @makatishangrila
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Filipinos have clearly taken a liking to Japanese cuisine with the presence of over a thousand establishments in Metro Manila paying homage to its intricacies and revelations. At the heart of Japan's culinary offerings is sushi, which keeps locals craving for another bite, even more.

We love Japanese restaurants so much that finding the ones that offer the best sushi in Manila was a challenge we're willing to undertake. We didn't rank this list because that's too difficult.

The Best Sushi in Manila

Esquire searched high and low for spots that offer only the best sushi, and by “best” we qualify: It must be made of high quality, prime-cut ingredients to ensure not only freshness but delicious flavor notes; its mold must live up to a proportional rice-to-topping (shari-to-neta) ratio; and it must marry all these elements into a great play of flavor and texture through proper execution and consistency.

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We add plus points for chefs’ extensive experience in the craft of sushi-making, their keen attention to detail, and their ability to engage diners with their works of art.

1| Izakaya Kikufuji

This popular Little Tokyo stop has received numerous accolades for its authentic range of Japanese delightsfrom the well-loved Gyu Kushi (wagyu steak cubes) to its affordable lunch sets, to its wide variety of sashimi. Beyond these, however, lies Izakaya Kikufuji’s stellar sushi menu, which features distinctive finds such as the Kohada (Spotted Sardine) and Hon Maguro Oh Toro (Red and Pink Gradational Bluefin Tuna). For a dining experience reminiscent of one at a typical Tokyo izakaya, grab a chair by Kikufuji’s sushi bar and enjoy freshly made sushi skillfully prepared and handed to you by its team of chefs.

Esquire Recommends:

  1. Jo Maguro (Special Tuna)
  2. Shimesaba (Mackerel)
  3. Spicy Shake Maki (Spicy Salmon Roll)
  4. Aburi Wagyu (Lightly Grilled Wagyu Beef)

Little Tokyo, 2277 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City

2 | Seryna Japanese Restaurant

Obviously, Little Tokyo is a trove for some of Manila's best sushi. A few steps away from Izakaya Kikufuji is Seryna, another Little Tokyo favorite. While its tempura selection takes center stage, it’s the sushi menu that merits a double take. Unassuming at first with a no-frills presentation, its sushi may be as close as it gets to some of the best sushi you will try in Japanfresh, delicate, consistent. For the best of both worldsa mash-up of its specialties of sortsdo give the Ebi Sushi a go. 

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Esquire Recommends:

  1. Batan Ebi (Fresh Jumbo Shrimp)
  2. Chicken Teriyaki Roll
  3. Jo Unagi (Special Eel)

Little Tokyo, 2277 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City

3| Nihonbashi Tei

If you’re after affordable but quality Japanese grub, the long-standing Nihonbashi Tei may be your best bet. What makes Nihonbashi Tei one of the best sushi restaurants in Manila is its reliability. This traditional Japanese stop is known, among other things, for its sushi-miso soup pairings, which give you a plateful of assorted sushi and a bowl of hearty soup for P500 at most. Other things to try on Nihonbashi Tei’s extensive menu are its kushiyaki and tepanyaki offerings, which, much like its sushi assortment, pair well with a bottle of Japanese beer.

Esquire Recommends:

  1. Inari Sushi (Deep Fried Tofu)
  2. Ebi Temaki (Shrimp Sushi Hand Roll)
  3. Spicy Toro Maki (Tuna)
  4. Nigiri Sushi Mori (Sushi Platter) 

1030 and 806 Arnaiz Ave., Pasay Road, Makati City; 83 Pedro Gil Street, Ermita, Manila City

4| Mecha Uma

It only makes sense that one of our beloved degustation menus is also featured on a list of the best sushi places in Manila. Chef Bruce Ricketts takes off from his Sensei Sushi stint with Mecha Uma, a posh hideaway set in Bonifacio Global City. The compact space can comfortably seat about 20 to 25 people at maximum. It features a bar area that doubles as front row seats to an open kitchen, where Ricketts and his staff prepare the night’s feast, a la carte or omakase-style. The Mecha Uma menu changes quite often to align with Ricketts’ new ideas and adapt to available ingredients, but people drop by nonetheless for the promise of mystery and fare. True to the restaurant’s name, practically everything you can find here will succumb to an “absurdly delicious” celebration of flavor.

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Esquire Recommends:

  1. Chitoro (Tuna Belly)
  2. Tori Nigiri (Tuna)

Mecha Uma is at RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Center, 25th Street, Taguig City. 

5| Ogawa Traditional Japanese Restaurant

Ogawa is another BGC go-to for high quality Japanese foodthe brainchild of restaurateur George Pua and renowned chef Kiyoshi Ogawa of Senju, EDSA Shangri-La, Manila fame. The dimly lit restaurant sets the tone for a traditional Japanese gastropub, and is home to two open kitchens, where diners can see their orders handcrafted right before their eyes. You might get overwhelmed with its wide-ranging menu, but it’s really the over 30 sushi and 44 robotakayi (charcoal grilled skewers) varieties that make it a heavy favorite for Manila's sushi lovers. 

Esquire Recommends:

  1. Crazy Maki (Prawn Tempura, Crabstick, Omelet, and Cucumber)
  2. Botan Ebi (Japanese Red Prawn)
  3. Salmon Skin Roll

The Fort Strip, Fifth Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City

6| UMU Japanese Restaurant

For a piece of Japan in the heart of busy Makati, check out Dusit Thani’s UMU, which features live cooking stations, an indoor dining area adorned with Japanese aesthetics such as tatami mats and vibrant motifs, and an al fresco dining area with typical Japanese garden overtones. It is UMU’s live cooking stations that take the spotlight; these feature its strong suits, sushi, sashimi, sukiyaki, tempura, and teppanyaki. Its sushi is regarded as one of Manila's best, each one featuring clean, straightforward flavors that still pack a punch.

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Esquire Recommends:

  1. Shime-Saba Okonomi-Sushi (Marinated Mackerel)
  2. Spicy Tempura Temaki (Rolled Prawn)
  3. Gyuniku Cream Cheese Maki (Cooked Beef and Cheese)

Dusit Thani Manila, Ayala Center, Makati City

7| Inagiku

At the helm of Makati Shangri-La’s Inagiku is executive chef Wataru Hikawa, hailed the Best Japanese Chef in Asia outside of Japan. Hikawa’s decades’ worth of experience with Japanese cuisine started by mastering the art of sushi, and he has since expanded his culinary prowess by creating teppanyaki and kaiseki (multi-course Japanese dinner) collections. All these, and the chef’s inclination to inject seasonal surprises in his craft, are enough indication that Inagiku is out to give patrons only the best of what the Japanese food scene can offerincluding the best sushi that melts in your mouth.

Esquire Recommends:

  1. Aburi Santen Sushi (Salmon, Engawa, and Scallop)
  2. Mango Dragon Maki (Salmon and King Prawn Tempura)
  3. Unagi Shangri-La Maki (Eel, Kani, Cucumber, and Flying Fish Roe)
  4. Tokujo Sushi (Assorted Premium Sushi) 

Makati Shangri-La, Manila, Ayala Avenue corner Makati Avenue, Makati City

8 | Tsukiji Restaurant

The best ingredients usually make the best sushi. Decades-old Tsukiji Restaurant prides itself in sourcing ingredients for its sushi and sashimi assortment from no less than Tokyo’s acclaimed Tsukiji Market itself. In fact, its head chef, Toshiro Okajima, jumpstarted his food career at this very same market where he was tasked to buy seafood for a local sushi shop. Chef Oka’s humble beginnings have since led him to Manila where he now runs Tsukiji’s sushi counter. It is here where the skilled chef whips up crowd favorites, each masterpiece a perfect balance of fresh seafood and koshihikari rice from the Nigata Perfecture in Japan. If you’re keen on trying different sushi variants in one go, opt for the crowd pleasers: sushi boat or chirashi sushi (sushi rice topped with sashimi). 

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Esquire Recommends:

  1. Sake Sushi (Norwegian and Tasmanian Salmon)
  2. Ama Ebi Sushi (Sweet Squid)
  3. Uni (Fresh US Coast Sea Urchin)
  4. Chirashi Sushi

900 Arnaiz Avenue Corner Paseo De Roxas Street, San Lorenzo Village, Makati City

9| Tsumura Sushi Bar and Restaurant

Tucked in an office building in Makati is Tsumura Sushi Bar and Restaurant, which is frequented by businessmen and residents in the area for their fix of sushi. Chef Tsumura personally prepares the selection that combines familiar undertones with surprising bursts of flavor. Aside from its fresh-from-the-sea lineup of amazing sushi, regulars are most likely to indulge in its impressive sukikayi and sake collection.

Esquire Recommends:

  1. Salmon Aburi (Torched Salmon)
  2. Uni Temaki (Sea Urchin)
  3. Kiri Nigiri Sushi (Nine-Piece Sushi Platter)

88 Corporate Plaza, Sedeno Corner Valero Streets, Salcedo Village, Makati City

10| Motto Motto

Serendra’s newest addition to its dining lineup is Raintree Restaurant’s quirky, modern Japanese stop Motto Motto (translates to “more, more”). Raintree are the same folks behind other celebrated concept chains Saboten, Izakaya Sensu, and Chotto Matte, so you know you’re in good hands. When at Motto Motto, make a beeline for the promising new restaurant’s sushi corner and have a look at its inventive sushi selection. This nook comprises only a fraction of Motto Motto’s comfort food offerings that include shabu-shabu and Japanese-style pastries and breads. What's more, Motto Motto is one of Manila's best sushi haunts while its sister restaurant Friends and Family is one of our top Filipino restaurants.

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Esquire Recommends:

  1. Motto Motto Roll (Two-Kinds of Sushi: Tamago and Prawn Tempura)
  2. Salmon Tempura Aburi (Prawn Tempura, Salmon, Salmon Roe, Asparagus, Spicy Mayonnaise, and Unagi Sauce)
  3. Dynamite Aburi (Torched Bluefin Tuna, Salmon, Spicy Mayonnaise, Cucumber, and Avocado)
  4. Sakura Blossom (Salmon, Bluefin Tuna, White Fish, Cucumber, Yellow Radish, and Denbu)

Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City

11| Sushi Ninja Restaurant and Sushi Bar

Friends from the south are all too familiar with Sushi Ninja, a small sushi stop in Westgate set up by chef Matthew Floro Tanjuakio, a graduate of the California Sushi Academy and Tokyo Sushi Academy. At this humble bar, you can find over 40 varieties of sushi designed with both traditional and contemporary flavors, some utilizing elements borrowed from the Spanish and Korean cuisines (a nod to chef Matthew’s east and west influences). Creativity wins at this great sushi restaurant. Marvel at the unique takes of sushi, which Sushi Ninja has classified into three: kindaiteki (modernized), traditional, and toshi (special creations of the chef).

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Esquire Recommends:

  1. Okinawa Toshi (Torched Salmon, Cream Cheese, Truffle Oil, Ebiko, and a special sauce)
  2. Sakura Maki (Salmon, Tamago, Cream Cheese, Spicy Mayo, and Bonito Flakes)
  3. Odakyu Toshi (Salmon, Uni, Yuzu, Sea Salt, and Negi)
  4. Pucela Maki (Jamon, Ebi, Cheese, Garlic Mayo, and Potato Strings)

Westgate Center, The Serenity Place, Filinvest Avenue, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

12| Sugi

Greenbelt staple Sugi is one of those classic Japanese restaurants that people keep coming back to, not just for familiarity but for the restaurant’s stronghold of consistently top-notch flavor. Every month, however, Sugi introduces new dishes to its existing lineup, enough to pique the interest of regulars and to acknowledge that a little inventiveness is necessary despite commitment to tradition. There are many salmon aburis in Manila, but this spot’s off-the-menu offering is worth a try if only for its capacity to synthesize both delicate and pungent flavors. This off-menu feature guarantees it as a must-try spot for Manila's best sushi.

Esquire Recommends:

  1. Soft Shell Crab Roll
  2. Nishiki Maki (Eel, Salmon, Asparagus, Cream Cheese, Mayonnaise, and Wasabi)
  3. Osaka Box Sushi (Osaka-style or Pressed Sushi; Choice of Unagi, Tai, Saba, and Ebi) 

Greenbelt 2, Esperanza Street, Ayala Center, Makati City

13| Marufuku Japanese Restaurant

Marufuku is Ortigas’ open secret. The restaurant is concealed in one of the area’s side streets that it’s almost impossible to discover if you only happen to pass by. If you are planning a visit to the area though, make a pit stop at this small hideaway to refill on some authentic Japanese grub. Start with some of its maki rolls (good for sharing) and sashimi slices for a good interplay of firm and gentle, before diving into heftier options such as its grilled skewers and tempura.

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Esquire Recommends:

  1. Marufuku Roll (Cucumber, Bamboo Shoots, Tempura, Tamago, Mango, and Grilled Unagi)
  2. Shrimp Tempura Roll
  3. Uni Nigiri (Sea Urchin)

Crescent Building, 29 San Miguel Avenue,, Ortigas Center, Pasig City

14| Soru Izakaya

What started as a Maginhawa Street favorite has now become a popular choice for some of the best sushi you can find in local izakayas sprouting left and right. Soru is a fast favorite among Japanese cuisine aficionados for its inventive takes on sushi and aburi. Each sushi platter in Soru is decked out with Japanese-inspired artwork that double as sauces to heighten the taste profiles of each mouthful. This aligns with the restaurant’s thrust to carry “the taste of New Nippon,” or a more with-the-times take on classic Japanese fare. Pair your sushi with your choice of beverage; it has a range of whisky and cocktails, as well as fresh coolers and warm teas. 

Esquire Recommends:

  1. Chizuni Maki (Cheddar and Cream Cheese, Crabsticks, Tempura Flakes, Teriyaki Sauce)
  2. Oh Umi Maki (Shrimp Tempura, Salmon Cubes, Soru Sauce, Teriyaki Sauce, and Truffle Mayo)
  3. Kuro Dragon Maki (Freshwater Eel, Cream Cheese, Asparagus, Ebiko, Teriyaki Sauce, and Japanese Mayo)
  4. Aburi Moriawase (Shake, Maguro, Saba, Aji, and Tako Aburi)

140 Maginhawa Street, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City; Burgos Circle, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City; Techno Point Building, Julia Vargas Avenue, Pasig City

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15| Haru Sushi Bar & Restaurant

Boy Vazquez of Café Juanita and chef Tsutomu Yamazaki (formerly affiliated with Sugi) have teamed up for one of Kapitolyo’s gems, Haru Sushi Bar & Restaurant, a trusty sushi spot in this side of Kapitolyo. Vazquez takes his cue from Café Juanita, which is known for its homey, over-the-top ambiance. Spread out across Haru are kimonos, Gundam action figures, Japanese dolls, a makeshift zen garden, and ukiyo-e-inspired artworks. Amid the ornaments, however, its sushi platters are worth noting. Each one is a clear display of craftsmanship that brings out fresh and diverse flavors in one go. Haru is definitely of Manila's more fun sushi places.

Esquire Recommends:

  1. Aki Nigiri Moriwase (Sushi Platter)
  2. Dynamite Roll (Spicy Tuna, Salmon, and Cucumber)
  3. Tuna-Avocado/ Mango-Cheese Tuna Roll
  4. Crazy Roll (Kani, Mango, Cucumber, Haikara Flakes, and Mayonnaise) 

21 West Capitol Drive, Pasig City

16| Yurakuen

Diamond Hotel has been around for some time and it's home to one of Manila's top buffet spots, but somehow this stunning Japanese restaurant feels like a secret. To get to Yurakuen, you must walk through hallways of private teppan tables. The main hall is a gorgeous glass-domed restaurant that features lovely "glass" trees, stunning during the day, breathtaking at night. Like Manila's other best sushi restaurants, freshness is the highlight of its sushi menu. 

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Esquire Recommends:

  1. Sushi Moriawase 
  2. Nama Uni
  3. Chirashi

Diamond Hotel, Roxas Boulevard, Manila

17| Minami Saki

No restaurant serves modern Japanese food quite at the level of Minami Saki. The chef is Kimito Katagiri (who formerly worked at Inagiku and Ginza). The kind chef loves traditional Japanese sushi, but he's a master when it comes to creating innovative twists to the usual layers of seafood and vinegared rice. His aburi is probably the best torched sushi in Manila. 

Esquire Recommends:

  1. Manila Maki
  2. Futomaki
  3. Everything under the Aburi section.

Astoria Plaza, 15 J. Escriva Drive, Ortigas, Pasig City

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