If you are new to Japanese cuisine, you may feel overwhelmed on your first visit to a Japanese restaurant. The names of dishes don't mean much to you, and even the ingredients don't sound too familiar. What you need to do is dive in head first and try a few things. Before long, you'll know exactly which dishes are your favorite. Here are four you should definitely try when you start exploring cuisine at a Japanese sushi restaurant.
Sushi is the best-known component of Japanese cuisine, and its so vast and varied that it may as well be a cuisine all on its own. When you are brand new to sushi and Japanese cuisine, however, the type of sushi you should try first is maki. Maki are also known as sushi rolls. They consist of rice, various fish, and vegetable fillings, all rolled into a log and sliced. With maki, you don't get the same "hit" of fresh fish as you do with other types of sushi. Maki has a great balance of flavors and textures. There are so many rolls to choose from, so just order one or two that sound appealing, and go from there.
You may have had ramen out of a packet, prepared in the microwave. That bears very little resemblance to real Japanese ramen. Real ramen has a very rich, savory broth, chewy noodles, and a variety of mix-ins and toppings like thinly sliced beef, green onions, and egg. There are several types of ramen, but tonkatsu ramen, made with pork stock, is the perfect one to get you started. It's flavorful without being overpowering.
Tempura is dish that consists of battered, fried veggies and meats. The batter is very light and fluffy, and since tempura is usually fried in sesame oil, it has a distinct, nutty flavor. Try tempura shrimp as an appetizer, or order a side of tempura vegetables. Broccoli and mushrooms are especially common tempura fare.
The idea of eating eel may sound strange, but once you try unagi, you will never question it again. Unagi is grilled over a charcoal fire and then basted with a delicious, sweet sauce that will remind you of American barbecue sauce. Some restaurants serve unagi dinner specials, which come with fried rice and tempura vegetables. This is a nice, safe choice if you want to get your feet wet in Japanese cuisine and be a bit adventurous.