The basic ingredients tend to be pretty simple: rice, vinegar, vegetables, raw or grilled fish. But when they meet at the crossroads of Japanese culture, creativity and culinary skill, the result often is art. Delicious edible art. And sushi doesn’t have to be expensive to be great, which is why some of the best can be found in upscale, authentic Japanese restaurants as well as unassuming hole-in-the-wall joints in some neighborhood strip mall. These are our South Bay Best Sushi winners for 2023, selected by our editors — look for our readers’ choice winner, selected by our audience.
Feature Photo: Cha Cha
South Bay Sushi Map
This unpretentious sushi restaurant isn’t all that impressive at first glance, but when you see the sheer size of the menu, you’ll get why it’s so popular. The family-owned and -operated Cha Cha, opened by chef/owner Hanson Cha in 2008, offers high-quality maki, nigiri and sashimi at reasonable prices, as well as dishes from all the other greatest hits of Japanese cuisine — from tempura, udon and yakitori to donburi, teriyaki and stir-fried noodles. The online menu lists 47 different rolls, including a few that reflect Chef Hanson’s love of local sports: Sharks roll, Red and Gold roll, Splash Brothers roll and MVP, a salmon, cream cheese and jalapeno roll, deep fried in panko crumbs. Open Monday through Saturday 11am to 9pm. chachasushi.com
Founded in 1978, family-owned Fuki Sushi takes pride in its heritage as the first Japanese restaurant in Palo Alto, and it’s stood the test of time for good reason. The extensive menu includes sushi and sashimi, ramen, udon, sukiyaki, teriyaki, tempura and many more traditional Japanese favorites, including plenty of vegetarian options, all of which are expertly prepared with the freshest ingredients available. Take your pick of dining experiences in the restaurant’s beautifully appointed spaces: at the sushi bar, in the aptly named “sun room,” in a shoji-framed window booth in the main dining room, or in one of the private tatami rooms for groups from four to 20. Lunch hours are Monday through Friday 11:30am to 1:30pm. Dinner hours are Monday through Thursday 5:15pm to 8:30pm and Friday and Saturday 5:15pm to 9:00pm. fukisushi.com
Down-to-earth family-owned Japanese restaurant with an authentic vibe and a solid menu of fresh fish, quality rolls and plenty of combo options to help mix and match. Along with the usual sashimi and nigiri assortments and the 10-piece omakase (chef’s choice) options, there are the two-person Sushi Boat A or B, the latter with 16 pieces of nigiri, 11 pieces of sashimi, a California roll and a tuna roll. There’s a good selection of appetizers and fried and grilled plates as well. Open Tuesday through Sunday 5:30pm to 11:30pm. Closed Monday. izakaya-sj.com
There are plenty of options to choose from on the bountiful sushi menu at this family-owned, homey and welcoming spot that draws a local crowd. Regulars enjoy the Japanese classics here as well though, including teriyaki, steaming hot udon noodle bowls and tempura. Lunch hours are Monday through Friday 11:30am to 1:30pm. Dinner hours are Monday through Saturday 5pm to 8:30pm. kanpaipaloalto.com
Minato is the oldest operating Japanese restaurant in San Jose and is a staple to hungry Bay Area locals. Since its opening in 1961, Minato has been serving up traditional Japanese dishes like chicken katsu, donburi, bento boxes, and udon, to name a few. A noteworthy addition to this beloved spot is that it was once featured in Anthony Bourdain’s show, Parts Unknown, where the chef/television personality enjoyed lunch with Minato’s owner Curt Fukuda. After a meal at Minato, it is an absolute must to check out Japantown’s mom-and-pop shops, historical museum, and temple. minatojapaneserestaurant.com
Mizu Sushi Bar & Grill
Large modern restaurant with a menu that emphasizes a delicious lineup of inventive specialty rolls, some of which, it should be said, are also creatively named. Among the favorites here are: the Yami Yami, deep-fried seasoned white fish topped with chopped tuna, salmon and spicy yellowtail; the Titanic Fire, with shrimp tempura, spicy tuna and cucumber topped with albacore and avocado; and the popular Crazy Dragon, with spicy crab, cucumber and avocado topped with eel, avocado and tempura flakes. The menu includes a few Korean dishes, including beef, spicy pork and chicken bulgogi. Open Sunday through Thursday 11:30am to 2:30pm and 5pm to 9pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30am to 2:30pm and 5pm to 10pm. mizusbg.com/sanjose
Never mind that Sanraku is a chain and that this one is in the Oakridge Westfield Mall. Once inside, the decor and service are authentic Japanese, the fish is fresh and well prepared, and the beer and sake selection is excellent. There are a number of good “chef’s choice” options for ordering nigiri and sashimi, including the Sushi Tokujo platter, the chef’s best selection of 7 pieces of nigiri and a 6-piece bluefin tuna roll. If you’re looking for small plates, the appetizer menu is lengthy and eclectic, including items such as garlic octopus, sake- and soy-braised duck breast, and deep-fried breaded oysters. Open Sunday through Thursday 11am to 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday 11am to 8:30pm. sanraku.com
Modest, cozy downtown sushi joint with a great reputation for fresh seafood and other staples of Japanese cuisine. The menu emphasizes the long list of specialty rolls, including many with new twists, and more than a few that bring the heat. Highlights include: The Inferno, with spicy salmon, tuna, avocado, topped with hot chili, bluefin tuna and tobiko; the Iceland Volcano, with bluefin tuna and avocado, topped with super white tuna and jalapeño; and the Vegi Mango, with mango, cucumber and avocado. Open Monday through Thursday 11am to 2:30pm and 5pm to 9:30pm, Friday and Saturday 11am to 2:30pm and 5pm to 10pm. Closed Sunday. sevenseassushi.com
If you’re looking for a Japanese restaurant that takes a fun approach to how they do business and has an extensive creative food menu, Sushi Confidential is for you. This place is perfect for your next after-work meetup or meal before a night out because it’s right smack in downtown San Jose’s San Pedro Square. You can find almost anything and everything on the menu at this local spot. From vegan rolls to refreshing cocktails to nigiri made from local wild-caught fish, you’ll never have to worry about going hungry here. So, bring the whole party and enjoy what Sushi Confidential has to offer. sushiconfidential.com
Casual, cozy restaurant in San Jose’s Japantown that’s family friendly and affordable. While the menu of high-quality sushi is pretty straightforward, there’s a wide range of Japanese cuisine with plenty of teriyaki and tempura options, as well as a good selection of hot and cold noodle bowls with udon, soba or ramen. Open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 11:30am to 1:45pm and 5pm to 7:45pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30am to 1:45pm and 5:30pm to 8:15pm, and Sunday 11:30am to 1:45pm and 5:30pm to 8pm. Closed Tuesday. sushimarusj.com
More Local Favorites in the South Bay
Who’s writing these?
Meet our always-hungry team of foodies who compiled this list.
Please let us know if we’ve missed your favorite email@example.com.