Traditional Japanese culture dictates that the hearth of the house is the heart of the house—a common space where family and friends broke bread together. The robata restaurant takes that concept further, typically by making a fiery grill the centerpiece of the dining room. Mr. and Mrs. Shindo, the owners of Robata of Tokyo, aim to capture a familial, welcoming atmosphere, where you can sample a wide range of Japanese cuisine spanning sushi, tempura, and hibachi grilling.
Cooking is theatre at Robata: take a seat at the sushi bar to watch the chef prepare both traditional and unique sushi rolls. The Halloween roll features salmon, avocado, and masago. You can also watch as chefs at the hibachi grill slice and dice meat and veggies and serve it directly to patrons. A full bar is on hand, too, serving sake and beer.
If cooking were a language, the chefs at Makoto Japanese Restaurant would be multilingual. They follow Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, and Thai cooking traditions to craft dishes ranging from Thai-style duck with curry sauce to broiled eel with seaweed salad and Japanese pickles. At any given time, they might be slicing fresh sashimi in the kitchen or dazzling hungry guests at tableside hibachi grills. They approach grilling as a performance, thrilling audiences by flipping juicy steaks, sizzling tender scallops, and chopping vegetables fast enough to ignite the flames that light the grill. Wooden walls border the hibachi tables, creating an air of exclusivity as diners delight in the semi-private show.
The ingredients used in Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisine are vastly different, as are the methods of preparation. At Zhuang's Garden, they come together in surprising ways. Eight crackling hibachi-grill tables and a sushi bar represent Japan, and Chinese décor and the aromas of lo mein hint at the traditions of that nation. Glasses of wine clink together above plates of Thai food at the BYOB eatery, where the dishes include curry that is the brilliant yellow of turmeric or a banana salesman’s business card.
Sushiwa Japanese Restaurant's sushi rolls set tongues wagging with eclectic ingredients and expert craftsmanship. Signature dishes such as the california, spicy tuna, and cucumber rolls leave a scrawl of notarized flavor across patrons' tongues, whereas specialty rolls such as the hawaiian—spicy tuna topped with avocado, roe, almond, and wasabi sauce—delight taste buds. Non-sushi fare, such as chicken and steak, arrives doused in savory teriyaki sauce.
More than 40 house and specialty maki rolls star at Sima Sushi Cafe. They contain ingredients ranging from pickled radish to spicy salmon. The BYOB restaurant draws diners with fresh salads and pan-fried appetizers such as shrimp shumai. These soon make way for a parade of raw and tempura-battered rolls. Traditional nigiri selections are topped with seafood staples such as octopus, surf clam, and bottled messages.
The penchant for modernity at o-toro recently caught the eye and taste buds of County Lines magazine’s staff, which named it one of Philly’s Best New Ventures of 2013. The restaurant’s track lighting illuminates a contemporary scene marked by wooden fixtures, vibrant splotches of red and orange, and plates of Japanese cuisine with Mexican, Korean, and American influences. Sushi, sashimi, and specialty rolls—such as the signature o-toro roll with fatty tuna tartar, spicy mayo, and jalapeño—are served alongside tapas-style plates of filet mignon dumplings, duck tacos, and skewers of Korean-style fried chicken. At the polished wooden bar, bartenders pour wine, sake, and craft beer.