Thanks to Suzhou’s large Japanese population, Japanese restaurants are a dime and a dozen. Both the Suzhou Industrial Park and New District host multitudes of ramen, sushi, and teppanyaki restaurants for a variety of tastes and prices. Good sushi is naturally expensive, since it requires different kinds of fresh fish to be constantly in stock. As a result, it’s overwhelmingly popular in Suzhou to opt for an all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink deal instead of trying to order a la carte. After all, if 30 RMB only gets a few pieces of salmon sashimi, why not get a few friends together and spend 150 RMB on a whole meal, sake and beer included?
The best place to start is certainly Downtown Street (淮海街), just off Shishan Lu (狮山路) in SND. Downtown Street boasts over 1,000 meters of bars, restaurants, clubs, and anime DVD shops, and has often been called China’s only Little Tokyo (this is a misnomer, however, since no effort has been made to make it actually look like Japan). There are dozens of all-you-can-eat sushi places, ranging from 150-250 RMB, that are worth a try. It’s best not to linger too late in this area, though, since a lot of the bars and clubs are a little sleazy, and can become rowdy with businessmen and their escorts at night.
If skirting the dark underbelly of the Asian expat scene does not sound appealing, however, there are a few old favorites with sterling reputations that are easy enough to find.
1) Xianghe Songgu Teppanyaki Restaurant (翔贺松谷铁板烧)View In Map
The lack of effort in giving this place an English name is evidence of its large Japanese customer base. Perhaps less well known than other Teppanyaki places in Downtown Street or Ligongdi, it’s a little pricey at 200 RMB for two hours of all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink. Some places allow you to stay from the moment you sit down to closing, but often delay serving certain items or “forget” to bring expensive meats in an effort to reduce their costs. Sometimes the conflict between cost-minded waiters and beer-soaked customers can get downright ugly. Xianghe Songgu Teppanyaki Restaurant has excellent service and makes sure you get everything you order within two hours.
Not only do they have USDA choice steak, they offer crab, lobster and even a special treat of steamed egg and caviar. The foie gras wrapped in steak on toast is to die for. Although they are not known for sushi, you can order a nice sashimi platter that includes salmon and yellowfin tuna. Sake can be hot or cold, but they are sure to serve their Asahi cold.
Add: Suzhou Modern Leisure Mall, Building E #101-103, Suzhou (across from Times Square)
Tel: 0512 65090966
Price: 200 RMB (all-you-can-eat)
2) Shou (翔)View In Map
One of the oldest surviving Japanese restaurants in town, owned by a Japanese Chef, and right next to Blue Marlin, Shou is probably the most well-known sushi restaurant among expats. The price of an all-you-can-eat evening reflects this popularity: it’s gone up to 250 RMB per person. Still, they let you order for at least four hours and let you stay until they close if you get a private room.
The sushi selection is excellent and the owner takes pride in never serving frozen fish. The sashimi platter alone (which is 298 RMB a la carte) is worth the trip, and they have most of the common sushi rolls you might have a craving for. They also have steak, chicken, and a stunning array of grilled fish to accompany your Sapporo. Reservations are a must if you want a room.
Shou also has a good udon noodle lunch special.
Add: 168 Xinghai St. SIP, Suzhou
Tel: 0512 62889677
Price: 250 RMB (all-you-can-eat)
3) Inaba (稻叶沾面)
Unquestionably the best place for ramen in town, and probably the best Japanese restaurant on Downtown Street itself, Inaba features the trendy “dipped noodles” (沾面) that are popular in Southern Japan. Dipped noodles have a broth that is so intense it cannot be eaten directly, and the noodles are served separately and dipped in the broth. Their regular ramen is good too, and their homemade gyoza dumplings are a nice side.
It’s a little hard to find this one-table ramen bar, so look for Pandora Club and go to the noodle shop on the left (there is a small black sign that says Inaba). The décor is exactly like the kind of place an Osaka businessman might go for lunch and it’s hard not to feel like you’ve actually left China for a little bit. They also have an English menu.
Add: 60 Huaihai Jie, SND, Suzhou
Tel: 0512 65361087
4) Fast Food
Of course Suzhou is also graced with a host of Japanese chains like Ajisen, Yoshinoya, and ShabuShabu. Any mall or supermarket worth its salt is bound to have at least one. These places are often looked down upon by Japanese diners for being inauthentic, but, truth be told, they offer satisfying meals for less than 50 RMB.
Word of mouth goes a long way in finding a good place, but the recommendations listed above are solid choices if you’re uninitiated to Suzhou’s Japanese restaurants. Finally, remember that you’re more likely to get a nice room and better service if you come with a large group; 200 RMB can buy not just food and drinks, but a really great night out.
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Keywords: Japanese restaurants Suzhou teppanyaki in Suzhou Suzhou all-you-can-eat Downtown Street Suzhou restaurants
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