- Where is Japan Town in Saigon and How to Get There
- In and Around Tokyo Town
- Best Restaurants in Japan Town – Tried and Tested
- Special Mentions
Saigon may be well known for its delicious Vietnamese food, but there’s another facet to the city’s culinary scene that is often overlooked by visitors – Japanese food. Japan Town Saigon (or “Little Tokyo” as it is also commonly referred to) is a small enclave in District 1 packed full of authentic Japanese restaurants and bars. This place seems to have been transported through space time, and offers the most Authentic Japanese Food in Saigon. Whether you’re a fan of sushi, tempura, or Ramen, there’s something sure to satisfy your tastebuds in Little Tokyo! So if you’re looking for an alternative to Pho and Banh Mi, or burgers and pizza, why not give some of Saigon’s best Japanese spots a try? In this article we’ll provide a short food guide to some of the places we’ve personally tried and tested in Japan Town, so read on for all the details!
(We’ll be using the terms Japan Town, Little Tokyo, Little Japan, and Tokyo Town quite interchangeably…)
Want to eat something other than Korean food in District 7? Check out our guide to international restaurants in Phu My HungA Short Guide to Non-Korean Restaurants in District 7 Saigon
Where is Japan Town in Saigon and How to Get There
Little Tokyo is located in the fist few blocks of Le Thanh Ton, with a good chunk of it also navigable via Thai Van Lung. It’s pretty close to many of the key tourist spots in District 1 such as the Opera House, City Hall, and Nguyen Hue Walking Street. It’s just off Nguyen Huu Canh, and the new Thu Thiem Bridge, so is quite accessible even from D2.
If you’re only passing through, it would most probably also be very walkable from your hotel or hostel in the central areas of District 1. You can also use local transpo apps like Grab, which shouldn’t be more than 20K VND (under 1USD) if you’re just moving around within D1. Or if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, try one of the blue bikes!
In and Around Tokyo Town
I suppose that, for full disclosure, I should mention that Little Tokyo has a more seedy side. When you tell people that you’re “going to Le Thanh Ton”, there will be some that automatically assume you are going to a red-light district. Which, depending on what you’re looking for, may or may not be true! The section of Le Thanh Ton that makes up Japan Town have some of the best, and most authentic Japanese food in the country – but they also have a fair few bars, karaoke joints, and massage parlors aimed at… businessmen.
Regardless, it’s a great dining spot and feels much more chilled out and relaxed than the rest of D1, especially when you’re inside the area, and all the traffic is blocked out. Aside from the restaurants that we’ll mention below, there are plenty of other non-Japanese places to eat and drink around Little Tokyo, including:
- L’usine – A stylish cafe that’s very popular with young, trendy Saigoneers, this is a great place to come for coffee or brunch. They also have an upstairs dining area which is perfect for catching up with friends over drinks. There are a few unique items on sale like candles, locally made chocolate, and essential oils, so check out their knickknacks section.
- Shamballa Vegetarian – As the name suggests, Shamballa is a vegetarian restaurant that serves up some delicious Vegetarian (and Vegan) versions of traditional home-style Vietnamese food and other regional dishes. But elevated a notch or two (try the truffle green curry!) The perfect spot for a classy, hearty, but healthy meal!
- Heart of Darkness – One of Saigon’s most popular craft beer spots. They have a great range on tap and do some pretty tasty pub grub. It can get pretty packed on weekends so make sure to get there early (or book in advance) if you want to snag a spot outside. They have a rotating menu of seasonal beers, so it’s almost sure to be an interesting visit. Great for pre-drinks before sushi!
- Quan Bui – A local chain with quite a loyal following, and for good reason! Quan Bui is all about Vietnamese dishes, and they do it very well. They have a very wide range dishes, which is normally a red flag, but they’ve somehow managed to hit a homerun on everything I’ve tried. Good selection of adult beverages. Perfect for group dining.
Best Restaurants in Japan Town – Tried and Tested
Now to the main event! Here are some of the best places to eat in Little Japan, Ho Chi Minh City. All of these have been personally tried and tested by our team here at Urban Sesame, and we can confidently say that they’re some of the best Japanese restaurants in Vietnam.
Chikara is one of our favourite places for solo dining, but it’s also great for dates, or small groups. They do great gyoza (dumplings) – the variety is what sets them apart. The standard pork dumplings are already very tasty, but they also have some other great unique flavors. Italian style dumplings? Sounds weird, tastes amazing! The rest of their menu is pretty solid too. Even the salads were very good. The karaage (Japanese fried chicken) is some of the best we’ve had in Vietnam.
Sushi Tiger is the new kid on the block, and they’re already making quite a splash. The sushi here is very fresh, and very reasonably priced (and you know we like our cheap sushi). The ingredient quality is amazing, and it really shows in the final product. The service is quick, and the restaurant itself is pretty trendy. But perhaps that might also be a downside, as it’s standing room only, and gets very busy. There have been a few occasions where we’ve had to wait for a table, but it’s worth it. Corner location, and big windows – great for people watching.
Danbo is a bit of an institution in Saigon, and for good reason. They’re one of the only places that do Japanese ramen noodles justice, and they’re open pretty late too. Perfect for a midnight snack, or a late dinner. The service is always quick and friendly, and the noodles are cooked according to your liking. Though, “firm” is the only correct answer. There are a few sides available (gyoza, and chicken karaage), but the real star of the show is the ramen soup base. Definitely one of the best places in town. They also have at least one other branch, located in little Venice, aka, Thao Dien.
Mangetsu Shochu Bar and Restaurant
A great place to catch up with friends over drinks, or to have a romantic dinner. It’s got a really cozy and intimate atmosphere, and the staff are always very attentive – or at least they try to be. This place can get really busy, with lots of young, trendy, well-to-do Vietnamese starting out their night right. The menu is not that extensive compared to some other places (it is marketed as a shochu bar, after all), but they focus on quality over quantity. They have a great range of yakitori (grilled skewers) which go well with the shochu. Best to call ahead and book, otherwise you might get jammed into the smoking section.
Fujiro Tonkatsu and Curry
A great place for a casual lunch with friends, or a quick dinner before heading out for the night. Fujiro is all about Tonkatsu set meals, and they do it very well. It’s not necessarily a hidden gem (as it’s located on the “main” walking part of Little Tokyo), but it somehow doesn’t always come up when people are looking for places to eat. Which is a shame because the quality of the food is good, serving sizes are quite generous, and the set meals are incredible value. This won’t be the most vegetarian friendly restaurant, but if you’re looking for a good, filling lunch, or just a dependable place for Japanese style curry, this is it. They also have another branch in D7 (Phu My Hung).
We’ve written about them before, and we’re writing about them now. Let’s just say, we’re big fans. The first time we went, we were absolutely blown away by the quality of the food, and it’s become a mainstay. This is one of those places that’s great for big groups, as the menu is very diverse. There’s something for everyone. Just think of this place as a Japanese style tapas bar, and order whatever catches your eye. The yakitori sets are excellent, and go down well with their wide variety of sides. They have 2 branches (has to be noted that the other branch in Binh Thanh has better tasting food – not sure why…). Best try both locations and make up your own mind.
Tora San Japanese Restaurant
Was quite hesitant to go here initially. I have a rule that I’m not going to eat anywhere that’s empty. It doesn’t fill me with confidence to see a restaurant not have patrons. But hunger got the better of me, and I’m quite thankful for it. The ground floor had zero people, but the next floor up was busy! The food here is excellent value, with good sized portions, and reasonably quick service (even during the lunch rush). It seems to be more of a “general purpose” restaurant, with most of the same food as other izakaya type locations, but in a more business-y environment. If you’re looking for good Japanese food, this place will not disappoint.
The Sake Bar
This place is a bit hidden, so I don’t know exactly what the name is of this bar, but it’s got at least 100 different types of sake, so, I automatically like it. It’s a great place to come and try something new, as the staff are always more than happy to help you make a selection. They have a small range of rather interesting Japanese snacks as well. Fermented eel anyone? The bar is quite small, but that just adds to the atmosphere. It’s standing room only, but it’s always had a few Japanese patrons when we go there, so it would be fair to assume that this place is the real deal.
Not necessarily located in Japan Town, but it’s such a good option for Japanese dining that I just need to include it in this list. This place is a great option if you’re looking for something with a diverse menu, not just “hot” dishes, but also sushi and sashimi. Even when it doesn’t specialise on sushi, the quality of the fish is excellent. I’ve never seen this place empty, so it would be best to book ahead. The service is good, and they don’t try to rush you out the door, which is always appreciated. Get the ice cream. There’s always room for ice cream.
So, those are our picks for the best places to eat in Japan Town. It would be impossible to write down all places there, but we’ll be expanding this list as we keep exploring. Little Tokyo will have it’s seedy side, but it’s worth the visit if you can avoid getting grabbed by a massage girl on the way to your favourite resto. For male readers, try to visit with a female friend. Best way to ward off unwanted attention. The turns have tabled!
In the meantime, if you have any other suggestions, please let us know in the comments below!