The best Japanese restaurants in Frankfurt: correspondent’s guide

This article is part of a frankfurt guide by FT Globetrotter

This year I returned to Japan after five years as a Frankfurt correspondent for Nikkei. Compared to Tokyo, where the food is said to be the best in the world, German restaurants might not be the ones people miss the most. However, it is no exaggeration to say that the Japanese restaurants in Frankfurt, the cosmopolitan city where I have lived, are among the best in Europe and have been an oasis for me during my stay in Germany. Here are six of my favorites.

Masa Japanese Cuisine

Hanauer Landstraße 131, 60314 Frankfurt am Main

  • Good for: Authentic yet contemporary Japanese cuisine

  • Not so good for: Location. It’s not very central

  • FOR YOUR INFORMATION: One Michelin star. 9-course menu, €160; 7-course menu, €145

  • Website; directions

Chef Masaru Oae of Masa Japanese Cuisine

A terrine of shimaaji (wooden mackerel from Japan)

A few weeks before my departure from Frankfurt, I received an email from a young Japanese chef: “My restaurant has received a Michelin star. Masaru Oae, who had trained in London and Dusseldorf, opened his first restaurant under his own name in May 2021. I knew he would one day acquire a star, but I was surprised it was so soon.

A five-minute walk from the glass building of the European Central Bank in the east of Frankfurt, the restaurant seats around 20 people and upon entering it feels like stepping into a cocoon. The omakase-style menu is a must. When I visited, the meal started with a starter of shiso tempura and sea bream tartare on a bed of earthy-looking dried black olives. We picked them up and ate them with our hands. Masa uses a wide variety of seasonal and imported Japanese ingredients. The beautiful presentation and varied textures of the dishes are a delight for the senses.

Part of the dining room at Masa
Shortly after opening, Masa received a Michelin star

“Even if it was in Tokyo, the standard of this restaurant would be quite high,” a friend told the savvy palace. I agreed. It may be too late, but I recommend a visit before it becomes impossible to get a reservation.

Muku

Dreieichstraße 7, 60594 Frankfurt am Main

  • Good for: A business dinner or a meeting with friends or family

  • Not so good for: Reservations — the phone isn’t often picked up

  • FOR YOUR INFORMATION: Open for dinner Wednesday-Sunday, and Thursday-Sunday for walk-in lunch too

  • Website; directions

Muku-Restaurant

Muku is located just south of the river Main A table and chairs in a corner in Frankfurt

Tsukemen ramen being prepared in Muku

Tsukemen ramen being prepared in Muku

Perhaps the best restaurant in terms of friendliness is Muku, located in Sachsenhausen, just south of the Main river, opposite the city center. Several years ago, Muku triumphantly opened his second ramen shop at the Ramen Museum in Yokohama, Japan. It is now reputed to be one of the best ramen places in Europe, but the “ramen restaurant” label misrepresents its potential. Muku has a chic, adult izakaya atmosphere with a selection of delicacies such as firefly squid and heshiko (mackerel marinated in rice bran paste). Seasonal sake is also available from time to time.

A bowl of tsukemen ramen and broth at Mukiu

Author’s favorite: tsukemen ramen in Muku. . .

.  .  .  which is recognized as one of the best ramen joints in Europe

. . . which is recognized as one of the best ramen joints in Europe

For the less adventurous, the karaage (Japanese fried chicken), gyoza dumplings, shrimp mayonnaise and other dishes are sure to please. When it comes to Muku ramen, I always order tsukemen (dipping noodles). While dipping the firm noodles into the seafood broth and sipping, I also sometimes squeeze in a little lemon to sharpen the taste. When I’ve finished the noodles, I savor the rest of the soup-wari, or a broth base, which can be supplemented if desired. It’s so satisfying.

Bar J’epoca Saka

Fritschengasse 5, 60594 Frankfurt am Main

  • Good for: Friendly service

  • Not so good for: Hangover

  • FOR YOUR INFORMATION: He has an online sake store

  • Website; directions

Sake served at J'epoca Saka Bar

Sake served at J’epoca Saka Bar

The sake menu at J'epoca Saka Bar

The sake specialist caters to everyone, from connoisseurs to Japanese drink novices

As its name suggests, J’epoca Saka Bar, located at the end of the cobbled streets of Sachsenhausen, specializes in sake. Owner Mayuko Morooka hails from Ishikawa Prefecture, which is famous for its sake, and selects it from there. If you’re not familiar with sake, why not start with a set that lets you try three kinds in small sizes? They also serve a variety of snacks that go well with it, like soy sauce-soaked cream cheese and fried tofu.

I was

Vilbeler Strasse 31, 60313 Frankfurt am Main

  • Good for: A quick lunch

  • Not so good for: debit cards; payment is made in cash or by credit card if the invoice is greater than €30

  • FOR YOUR INFORMATION: Close on Sunday

  • Such : 0049-69 283992 (no website); directions

A man looking at a row of food at Iwase in Frankfurt

Iwase is one of the oldest Japanese restaurants in Frankfurt

A sushi platter at Iwase

The author made for Iwase whenever he craved sushi during his stay in Frankfurt

During my stay in Germany, about once every two or three months, I suddenly had a craving for sushi. I was waiting for Friday noon, when work had calmed down a bit, to slip into this little restaurant in the city center, about a 15-minute walk from the office. Iwase is one of Frankfurt’s oldest Japanese restaurants. It’s been around since the 1990s, when Japanese cuisine wasn’t as popular in Europe as it is today. The place is usually full, but you can often find a seat at the counter for one person. The lunch menu is reasonably priced. For €20 you can get a decent sushi platter with a small salad, miso soup and a fruit plate. As German sushi rice is often large, ordering a smaller portion will give you a more authentic experience.

City of Mangetsu

GROSSE ESCHENHEIMER STRASSE 43, 60313 FRANKFURT ON THE MAIN

  • Good for: Central location

  • Not so good for: Formal business dinners

  • FOR YOUR INFORMATION: There is a sister restaurant near Messe Frankfurt

  • Website; directions

A hand holding udon noodles over a bowl at Frankfurt's Mangetsu restaurant

Mangetsu is renowned for its homemade udon. . .

A dish of udon noodles at Mangetsu

. . . popular with Japanese expats in Frankfurt

This is another reasonably priced lunch spot, which at night is a izakaya crowded with Japanese expats and locals. During the day, you can get a Japanese-style lunch for around €15. What sets this place apart from other Japanese restaurants in Germany is their homemade udon noodles. Two of my Frankfurt acquaintances from Kagawa prefecture, known in Japan as “udon prefecture”, say Mangetsu’s udon is delicious, so you can rest assured you won’t be disappointed.

Tokyo Yatai

Walther-von-Cronberg-Platz, 60594 Frankfurt am Main

  • Good for: sunny days

  • Not so good for: The van is not always in the same place

  • FOR YOUR INFORMATION: In winter, he sells other foods such as sweet potatoes

  • Website

It could be dessert time. There is no doubt that is, or Italian gelato, is one of Germany’s favorite summer dishes. In Frankfurt, however, you can also enjoy khaki-gori (shaved ice dessert) at Tokyo Yatai, a Japanese ice cream van. There are many flavors to choose from, including matcha and mango, but the taste of lightly crushed ice topped with a sweet and sour sauce made from fresh strawberries is perfect for the hot German summer.

Where do you go to eat Japanese in Frankfurt? Tell us in the comments

This article is part of a new collaboration between the FT and Nikkei, in which Nikkei reporters and correspondents write about their favorite Japanese restaurants in cities around the world. Up next: a Japanese food tour of Paris

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