The 6 Best Appetizers to Start Your Meal at a Japanese Restaurant

The 6 Best Appetizers to Start Your Meal at a Japanese Restaurant

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When you dine at at opnotch Japanese cuisine restaurant, you won’t be disappointed by the selection of appetizers you can choose from. Whether you want to start your meal with a hearty soup, a seafood dish, or something vegetarian, you will find something to satisfy your taste buds and soothe your hunger pangs.

And with the variety of starters to pick from, you won’t have any difficulty finding one or more that will get you in the right mood and make you feel excited about the next dishes to be served.

But which appetizers should you start your meal with when you dine at a Japanese restaurant? Here are the six most popular that won’t fail to satisfy your palate:

1.    Miso soup

One of the most traditional Japanese appetizers, miso soup is a tasty dish made with dashi. This flavorful Japanese soup stock is typically made from anchovy, bonito flakes, and kelp. Miso, a fermented paste typically made from soybeans, is added to complete the basic soup ingredients.

A bowl of typical miso soup comes with some tofu and seaweed. However, many Japanese restaurants make their own versions. As such, some soups come with different types of seafood such as clams, crab, and scallops. There are also restaurants that serve them with meat and other vegetables.

If you’re looking for a light but flavor-packed dish to start your meal, order miso soup.

2.    Kabocha soup

Kabocha is a type of Japanese pumpkin or squash. The vegetable is known for its mildly sweet flavor and highly nutritious flesh.

This soup is made of simmered kabocha. It is then typically seasoned with soy sauce and mirin. Some restaurant chefs add nori (dried seaweed) powder to the soup to enhance its savory flavor.

The kabocha soup is a great alternative to miso soup if you want to begin your lunch or dinner with something warm.

3.    Edamame

A popular Japanese vegetable, edamame are young soybeans that are still in their pods. They are soft and rich in protein, making them one of the healthiest veggies around.

As appetizers, edamame is boiled, steamed, or pan-seared. Many Japanese restaurants serve spicy edamame; with the right level spiciness and additional peppery taste, it is a dish that you will want to order again and again.

4.    Sushi and sashimi

Eating at a Japanese restaurant won’t be complete without sampling their selection of sushi and sashimi.

Some of the most popular and delectable sushi and sashimi you should order are:

  • Salmon
  • Sea bream
  • Tuna
  • Yellowtail
  • Scallop
  • Shrimp
  • Snow crab

If you don’t want to eat anything heavy early in the meal, you will do well to order more sashimi than sushi.

5.    Rolls

Many Japanese restaurants have a variety of hand and cut rolls.

Hand rolls or temakisushi is a type of sushi made in the shape of an ice cream cone. Cut rolls or norimaki, on the other hand, are long, thin rolls of nori-wrapped rice, seafood, and other ingredients which are cut into small, bite-sized pieces.

Scallop, tuna, salmon, eel, and yellowtail are some of the usual seafood used as fillings for hand and cut rolls. Avocado, mango, cucumber, and other fruits and vegetables are also added to give the rolls freshness and texture.

Contemporary Japanese restaurants also have their own signature rolls. When you dine in one, you will find on their menu novel and exciting rolls that may be worth trying. These include baked crab roll and rolls with tiger prawn, cream cheese, avocado, and guacamole.

6.    Tempura

Lastly, if you’re craving something fried and crispy, order a dish or two of tempura.

You won’t go wrong with ordering shrimp, white fish, lobster, or soft-shelled crab tempura. If you’re vegan or simply want to eat something vegetarian, order a plate of carrot, eggplant, shiitake, or zucchini tempura, or a mixed plate.

And just like pairing steak with the right wine, ordering the right beverage with your appetizers will also make the beginning of your meal more satisfying. In general, sake and hot green tea always work well with any Japanese dish. However, you can also research more about this or ask a waitstaff for his or her recommendations.

Although not many people put too much stock on appetizers, this part of the meal is still important. Keep in mind that if you order the right starters, you will enjoy your dining experience at a Japanese restaurant even more.


Jenene Bronwin Batts is the Senior Marketing Coordinator at Tourism Development & Investment Company or TDIC. She oversees website maintenance, PR requests, marketing initiatives and all general guests’ enquiries for the company’s destinations, including KOI Restaurant & Lounge and Boa Steakhouse in Abu Dhabi.

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