Basic Japanese: Ordering at a Restaurant

Young couple looking at menu in cafe.
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If you're visiting Japan for the first time (or second, or 50th), you'll undoubtedly want to check out the local restaurant scene, especially if you're in one of the larger metro areas. For those who aren't native Japanese speakers, it can be a little daunting to figure out what to order and how to order it.

Here are some words and phrases you may need to know when you're ordering a meal at a restaurant in Japan, and a sample dialogue.

How to Ask for Something

The verb "aru" can be used to ask for something you need. In this case, it means "to have." The particle "ga," following the object you ask for, may be omitted. Here are some restaurant-specific examples as well as others to provide context.

Menyuu (ga) arimasu ka.
メニュー(が)ありますか。    Do you have a menu?
Suteeki (ga ) arimasu ka.
ステーキ(が)ありますか。    Do you have a steak?

"Donna" means "what kind of."

Donna wain ga arimasu ka.
どんなワインがありますか。    What kind of wines do you have?
Donna dezaato ga arimasu ka.
どんなデザートがありますか。    What kind of desserts do you have?

The verb "aru" can also express existence. 

Tsukue no ue ni hon ga arimasu.
机の上に本があります。    There is a book on the desk.
Kinko no naka ni kagi ga arimasu.
金庫の中にかぎがあります。    There is a key in the safe box.

How to Ask for a Recommendation

If you don't know what to order, you can ask for the house specialty with these expressions.

Osusume no mono ga arimasu ka.
お勧めのものがありますか。    Do you have anything to recommend?
Dore ga osusume desu ka.
どれがお勧めですか。    Which do you recommend?
Osusume wa nan desu ka.
お勧めは何ですか。    What do you recommend?
Nani ga oishii desu ka.
何がおいしいですか。    What is good?

If you see something that looks good on another diner's plate and you want to order the same thing, try these phrases.

Are wa nan desu ka.
あれは何ですか。    What is that? 
Oishishou desu ne.
おいしそうですね。    It looks good, doesn't it?
Are to onaji mono o kudasai.
あれと同じものをください。    Can I have the same dish as that?

When you are asked for your order, but haven't decided yet, these expressions may be useful.

Mou sukoshi matte kudasai.
もう少し待ってください。    Can you give me a little more time?

Sumimasen, mada kimete imasen.
すみません、まだ決めていません。    I am sorry, I haven't decided yet.

When your order hasn't come for a long time, you can ask a waiter or a waitress for an update with these phrases (in this example the customer ordered coffee that hasn't arrived).

Sumimasen, koohii mada deshou ka.
コーヒーまだでしょうか。    Excuse me, what happened to my coffee?

Koohii mada desu ka. 
コーヒーまだですか。    What happened to my coffee?
Ato dono gurai kakarimasu ka.
あとどのぐらいかかりますか。    How long will it take?

Vocabulary and Expressions for the Restaurant

ueitoresu                                 waitress

Irasshaimase.                          Welcome to our store. 

nanmesama                           how many people?

futari                                         two people

kochira                                     this way

Sumimasen.                              Excuse me. 

menyuu                                      menu

Onegaishimasu.                        Please do me a favor. 

Shou shou omachi kudasai.    Please wait a moment.

Douzo.                                        Here you are.

Doumo.                                       Thanks.

go-chuumon                               order

sushi no moriawase                   assorted sushi


 hitotsu                                         one


o-nomimono                                beverage 

Ikaga desu ka.                              Would you like ~?

biiru                                               beer

morau                                            to receive

Kashikomarimashita.                   I understand

nanika                                            anything 


Iie, kekkou desu.                           No, thank you.

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Abe, Namiko. "Basic Japanese: Ordering at a Restaurant." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Abe, Namiko. (2023, April 5). Basic Japanese: Ordering at a Restaurant. Retrieved from Abe, Namiko. "Basic Japanese: Ordering at a Restaurant." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).