The way we treat food has changed a lot over the last decade. It’s not just about sustenance and nutrition. It’s not even just about the flavor. Food is an experience — an adventure. It serves as a lens into new cultures and opens the world through our taste buds.
There are plenty of reasons for our shifting approach to food, but the most important is undoubtedly the late Anthony Bourdain, who let us all in on the endless possibilities of food. Bourdain traveled the world and interacted with cultures through food. In all his travels, he was quick to say his favorite destination: Japan.
“Japan is endlessly, endlessly interesting to me,” Bourdain told Business Insider. “I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface and I don’t think I ever will.”
That should excite anyone looking for a Japanese restaurant in Kansas City. The foremost modern savant of global cuisine found Japanese food so interesting, diverse and complex that he could barely scratch the surface. You probably don’t have the means to travel Japan like Bourdain did, but you can explore Japanese food in Kansas City. Even here in the Midwest, we have several great restaurants serving variations of traditional and modern Japanese fare. Approach it like an exploration and an opportunity, and you’ll get the most of what Kansas City’s Japanese restaurants have to offer.
The Diversity of Japanese Food in Kansas City
There are layers upon layers of complexity in Japanese cuisine. Thousands of years of culture, technology, trade and tradition have formed a poignant and unique culinary sensibility. It’s hard to capture it all at once, or to put Japanese food in a box.
There are, at its base, several foundational elements that unite Japanese food in Kansas City and around the world.
- Rice: Japan’s rice fields are a historic site and building block of the country’s culture, both economically and agriculturally. Rice is the base of many Japanese dishes.
- Soup and Noodles: There are three primary classes of Japanese noodles: udon, soba and ramen. The historical roots of these noodles have a lot in common with Chinese cuisine, although each region has found different ways to prepare them.
- Seafood: Look at Japan on a map and this one seems obvious. It is a very thin island nation, and fish is the primary source of protein in most diets. Fishing also creates many jobs in Japan.
There is great diversity even within these basic ingredients. You can make rice 100 different ways, and there are thousands of rice varieties grown in Japan. The spices and consistency of soup will change with each chef. The type of meat you add to the dish, along with the way it is seasoned and cooked, can completely alter the personality of the meal. When you look at the menu of a Japanese restaurant in Kansas City, the options are nearly endless.
Japanese Steakhouse in Kansas City
The steakhouse is a renowned genre of Japanese restaurant, especially in America. Now, you may be thinking, “Wait a minute. Steak is not on that list of foundational Japanese ingredients.” You are correct.
One aspect of Japanese cuisine that makes it so fascinating is the influence of foreign ingredients over time. As Japan opened, closed, and re-opened to relationships with western nations, different foods made their way into Japan and were absorbed by the already vibrant culinary techniques and traditions. Steak is one of the western meats that was taken in and given a Japanese treatment.
You can experience this for yourself at a Kansas City Japanese steakhouse like Gojo Japanese Steak House. Hibachi-style cooking sets Japanese steakhouses apart from other restaurants. This culinary technique involves cooking the meats, vegetables and rice on a flattop grill, typically directly in front of the customers who are about to eat the food. This is why Japanese steakhouses are sometimes referred to as Hibachi grills. Kansas City has plenty of them.
A dinner at a Japanese steakhouse in Kansas City is a full experience, like enjoying a live cooking show before eating your food. There are several Kansas City Japanese steakhouses you can try:
Japanese Restaurants in Kansas City
A meal at a steakhouse is always good, but there are plenty of other Japanese restaurants in Kansas City where you can dive into the many unique dishes offered by this culinary tradition. These restaurants are scattered throughout Kansas City. You can find something great nearby wherever you are in the metro area.
Some of your options for Japanese in Kansas City are:
- KC Sushi
- Kokoro Maki House
- Toro Hibachi
- Sawa Sushi
- Sushi Haru
- Kabuki Sushi
- Sama Zama
- Komatsu Ramen
Famous Japanese Dishes
“If I had to eat only in one city for the rest of my life,” Bourdain told Business Insider, “Tokyo would be it.”
He thought the culinary creations of Japan were mysterious and delicious. There are so many things to try. When you go to a Kansas City Japanese restaurant, you may feel overwhelmed by the options on the menu. Here are a few classic dishes to start with, including some of Bourdain’s favorites:
- Yakitori: This is a classic meal. Yakitori is made by skewering, seasoning and grilling chicken. It’s delicious.
- Uni: How adventurous are you feeling? Uni is a type of sushi made from sea urchin. It has a light, sweet flavor and creamy texture. Reactions to uni tend to be polarizing: you either love it or hate it, but either way you have to try it.
- Soba: These are thin noodles made from buckwheat flower. Soba constitutes the base of many dishes at Japanese restaurants in Kansas City.
- Duck dipping sauce: Duck sauce is a Japanese staple. It is sweet, tangy and thick. A good duck sauce is the perfect complement to any meal.
Whether you try a traditional Japanese restaurant or hibachi in Kansas City, we hope you enjoy your night out and have an experience unlike anything before.