The 3 Best Japanese Restaurants Charlotte


The Black Magic pressed sushi with lobster, squid ink rice, masago aioli, and crispy scallions.


These picks are based on our 2018 50 Best Restaurants list. See the entire list here.


2000 South Blvd., Ste. 510, 704-594-1922

FOOD: ★★★★ 
SERVICE: ★★★★    
AMBIANCE: ★★★★   

Sushi is all about the sourcing, and you can taste it’s done well at South End’s O-Ku. Michael Chanthavong is the executive chef at this Charleston import, and his enthusiasm radiates from the people behind the sushi bar to the front-of-house staff, who will help you navigate the sushi and sake selections. Don’t think that this spot is simply raw seafood, however—for the ocean-averse, dishes made with duck, pork belly, and wagyu beef are equally thoughtful.

Futo Buta

222 E. Bland St., 704-376-8400

FOOD: ★★★★ 
SERVICE: ★★★1/2 
AMBIANCE: ★★★1/2   

Chef and owner Michael Shortino’s ramen restaurant caused a buzz when it first opened in 2015, with a constant wait for no-reservations tables. His noodle soups are both traditional and interpreted, while dishes such as the Crispy Rice are memorable and craveable. The ramen rush hasn’t slowed down since Futo Buta’s customers slurped up their first bowls, and neither has Shortino—he recently opened Lincoln’s Haberdashery, a grab-and-go market in South End.


4515 Sharon Rd.,  704-817-7173

FOOD: ★★★★
SERVICE: ★★★1/2   
AMBIANCE: ★★★1/2   

Chef Michael Shortino, now owner of Futo Buta, helped guide Baku to become one of the best Japanese restaurants in town when it opened back in 2013. Birdie Yang, of Yama and Yama Izakaya, purchased the restaurant in 2017. Yang gave the restaurant the refresh it needed to stay relevant in the city’s rapidly growing culinary scene by amping up the sake program and switching up the source of its seafood to the vendors from his existing locations. 

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