Usually, Japanese is the closest and most hotly contested category among the Best Restaurants judges. Single votes separated restaurants. That was, until this year. In 2016, there was clear separation between Japonais Bistro and the rest of the pack.
For the last three years, this Jasper Avenue spot has grown in stature, perfecting a menu that combines Latin, French and other European influences into Japanese cuisine. It may have taken Edmonton some time to catch up to a menu that was clearly different than you’d find in other Japanese restaurants. But going to Japonais feels closer to some of the Japanese spots you’d find in California, where the melting pot and other cultural influences have created a special sort of hybrid cuisine. –Steven Sandor
11806 Jasper Ave., 780-760-1616, japonaisbistro.ca
Some Japanese restaurants focus mainly and sushi and sashimi. Some focus more on grilled meats and bar snacks. But, at Izakaya Tomo, you get the best of both worlds.
Izakaya Tomo introduced Edmonton diners to the izakaya concept – featuring fried and grilled items that go well with after-work drinks of beer or sake – and that’s where it still shines. The beef shoga yaki, deep-fried oyster ponzu and chicken kara age are standouts on the extensive menu, and expert servers can recommend sakes to go with any of them.
But, if you want raw fish, Izakaya Tomo also has a wide selection of sushi and sashimi, expertly crafted in classic combinations. No matter what sort of Japanese food you’re craving, Izakaya Tomo satisfies. –Glenn Cook
3739 99 St., 780-440-9152, izakayatomo.net
Luckily for folks in the downtown core, Edmonton’s newest pub-style Japanese delight is located on Jasper Avenue, and it’s a perfect locale for the after-work rush. When the workday is done, you can’t go wrong in sampling some of Ikki’s ample sake offerings. The apple flavour in particular can be deceptive with its Jolly Rancher-like flavour, but be warned: It’s still a powerful drink.
To combat the sake, it’s best to stuff your gut with all sort of liquor-soaking izakaya favourites like the takoyaki or, in a Canadian twist, the Japanese poutine. Unlike our traditional gravy-soaked poutines, this dish boasts layers of seaweed, green onions and Ikki’s own sweet sauce. –Cory Haller
11931 Jasper Ave., 780-454-4230, ikki.ca