Shanghai's best high-end Japanese

Shanghai's best high-end Japanese

When all-you-can-eat won’t cut it, Shanghai turns to the Japanese establishment to redefine the concept of fine dining in the city

Recommended: Uo Kura (Yu Zang)

CNNGo Best Eats Shanghai -- High-end Japanese -- Yu ZhangWhen you can't go wrong with anything on the menu, you might as well try everything.

With everyone talking about Oyama, but reservations being in such short supply, local foodies are migrating to a Japanese cuisine locale with slightly more seating: Uo Kura.

According to our experts, Uo Kura shares a fish supplier with high-end Japanese category winner Oyama.

Hard to believe that another place could live up to the legendary Oyama, but it's true. If you don't believe the experts, believe the numbers: Uo Kura maintains a godly 28 out of 30 for flavor on

Although you can't go wrong with just about anything on the menu, favorites are the toro sushi and the raw, sweet ebi shrimp. The sea urchin is also essential, and you'll be sure to devour the salmon roe chirashi bowl. The ingredients could not be fresher and the rice is slightly chewy and just vinegary enough.

Also, try the sea urchin with noodles of slippery grated yam and the charcoal-roasted snow crab legs.

We'd eat here every day if we could. Now that they are opening a new branch in Sinan Mansions, we might have to go every week.

Uo Kura No. 30, Lane 3717 Hongmei Lu, near Yan'an Xi Lu 红梅路3717弄30号, 近延安西路, +86 21 6446 0252, hours: 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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CNNGo Best Eats Shanghai -- High-end Japanese -- MisatoMr. Misato makes sure that everyone eats like a Japanese minister.

Recommended: Misato

Misato's been open for 10 years, so if you fondly reminiscence about “that amazing Japanese restaurant on Changle Lu and Huashan Lu” but don't remember the name, it's probably Misato, which moved to its new residence in the City Hotel about two years ago.

Misato is elderly gentleman-chef Mr. Misato, a man who used to cook for Japanese prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone. Incidentally, Nakasone is the longest living prime minister in Japanese history (we're just saying).

Mr. Misato now spends his time preparing his specialty seasonal kaiseki, as well as a la carte sashimi, sushi, tempura and shabu shabu. The sashimi is thick-cut and exquisite. The charbroiled unagi over rice is one of the best this side of Yan'an Highway.

Final word on the subject: if you like Japanese food, try Misato.

Misato, City Hotel, 5-7 Shaanxi Nan Lu, near Julu Lu 陕西南路5-7号, 近巨鹿路, +86 21 6215 7375, hours: 5 p.m. to midnight

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Recommended: Karaku

CNNGo Best Eats Shanghai -- High-end Japanese -- KarakuKaraku frees tempura from its mediocre reputation, making it a star all on its own.

We freely admit that most tempura is mediocre, and we've mostly resented it as filler in our all-you-can-eat sushi buffets. But at Karaku, tempura is treated with devotion.

Only the freshest ingredients get battered with the Seki family's secret tempura fry recipe. Then, every order is fried in a fresh batch of pure safflower oil. Sometimes the one doing the frying is Toyoichiro Seki, the fifth generation scion of the Seki family, a dynasty of die-hard tempura specialists with 150 years of frying history behind them.

Karaku was voted best restaurant of the year in 2008 by users (its flavor rating still hovers at an admirable 26 out of 30).

If you're not sure whether you’re fond of tempura, try it out by just going for lunch. For RMB 120, you can get heavenly tempura (10 pieces), an appetizer, rice, soup and a dessert.

Karaku, 2421 Xietu Lu, Bldg 4, close to Kongjia Garden, near Wanpingnan Lu 斜土路2421号4号楼孔家花园旁边, 近宛平南路 +86 21 6438-3822,, hours: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (last order), 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (last order)

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Winner: Oyama

CNNGo Best Eats Shanghai -- High-end Japanese -- OyamaLeaving your dinner menu in someone else hands never tasted so good.

“For top-notch sushi, I’d recommend Oyama,” says food critic Shen Hongfei. “The quality of the fish is very, very good.”

Shen and just about everyone else who knows about the famously good Japanese restaurant above El Willy's calls it their favorite.

Oyama was one of the first restaurants to bring top-tier, Japan-quality sushi and sashimi to downtown Shanghai. We're earnestly hoping that their success inspires other delicious Hongqiao Japanese establishments to set up shop here too.

Oyama specializes in expertly executed seasonal omakase -- that's chef's choice sushi, sashimi and Japanese small plates.

The chef behind the counter is Oyama San (Da Shan in Chinese). He flies in his fish from Tokyo and Nagasaki and then uses a sharp filleting knife (he's used the same blade for more than a decade) to slice it up into delicious sushi and sashimi, treating every piece with meticulous care.

For RMB 800 a head, diners are urged to sit back, converse with the chef, and watch him serve up the best from the sea and land on the hand-molded plateware in front of them. It’s a high price to pay by Shanghai standards, but that premium buys the opportunity to watch a sushi master absorbed in his art -- and all the delicious food that goes with it.

Dining at Oyama's makes us appreciate the natural beauty of food, but a packed house can kill the Zen.

Thankfully, Oyama recently expanded its dining area to 30 seats in its main room from the original 14. The restaurant has also taken over the second floor of the Diage building to create six private rooms. Here's vainly hoping that reservations will be easier to make.

Oyama, 2/F, 20 Donghu Lu, near Huaihai Lu 东湖路20号2楼, 近淮海路 +86 21 5404 7705, 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Sundays off

Meet the experts who helped us choose Shanghai's Best Eats.

Full Best Eats list and winners
Joanne Yao is a writer and editor based in Shanghai.
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