The chefs at Haiku Sushi & Steakhouse don't mind having an audience while they're cooking. In fact, they prefer it. Without one, the seasoned hibachi masters would have no one to wow with their high-flown, acrobatic stunts carried out with steak knives. The chefs perform all their cooking out in the dining room, sizzling plump morsels of filet mignon, chicken, and seafood amid roaring flames.
Meanwhile, behind the sushi bar, sushi chefs put on a more subtle show of their own. They fold spicy tuna, soft shell crab, and salmon into a sweeping variety of specialty rolls, garnishing them with tobiko, jalapenos, and mango puree. Request the chef's choice Omasake Platter, and the nimble chefs will design a tasting platter from their finest fish, best ingredients, and top-secret stash of mermaid-farmed veggies.
As chefs busy themselves grilling scallops and slicing up sashimi, diners watch from sleek black chairs, sipping sake, wine, and Japanese beers. Servers bustle about the sleek dining room, where bright murals of crashing ocean waves and leafy saplings decorate the walls.
Daniel Chong was the chef at a Japanese restaurant by the time he finished his senior year of high school. Chong entered the restaurant world at 15 and never left, graduating to chef at 18 and eventually moving to New York to develop innovative flavor combinations that highlight what he calls "the art of taste."
Art is right. At Kickshaw in Atlanta, Chong continues his mission of introducing diners to fresh ingredients, memorable flavors, and artistic presentations at his Japanese-style tavern. His menu of modern Asian cuisine and sushi includes small plates of seafood ceviche, ahi tuna tataki, and filo-wrapped jumbo prawn tempura. All of the above pair nicely with specialty rolls that feature eel, salmon, crab, and other terrifying monsters of the deep.
Drawing upon his 16 years of experience cooking Asian and Mediterranean cuisines, Chef Zhe fills Tokyo Boat 2's menu with an eclectic array of dishes that draws inspiration from Korea, Thailand, and Japan. The Japanese influences are the most readily apparent, as evidenced the extensive selection of sushi rolls and the broiled meats in housemade teriyaki sauce. Even the hibachi chefs combine traditional cooking techniques with a bit of modern showmanship as they sear orders of red snapper, steak, or vegetables on tabletop grills while a small audience of diners watches the impressive displays of dexterity.
Although the occasional burst of flame erupts from the hibachi stations' grill surfaces, the areas are mostly lit by a modern collection of blue pendant lamps that dangle above the diners. The sleek metal surfaces and exhaust hoods stand in contrast to the simple wooden shelving of the sushi bar, which lies just behind a jet-black counter where guests can sit and watch as the chefs slice nigiri, roll maki, and mold rice into snowmen during the warmer seasons.
Humanitarian and spiritual leader Supreme Master Ching Hai is the mastermind responsible for Loving Hut, a vegan restaurant chain awarded VegNews' Favorite Restaurant Worldwide in 2010. Each Loving Hut location's menu and philosophy is rooted in the idea that a plant-based diet is healthier and more sustainable for the planet. The restaurants span 13 countries including Taiwan and New Zealand, and each offers a 100% plant-based menu of gourmet vegan cuisine. Traditional meat dishes are replicated with tofu, soy proteins, and fresh vegetables. The menus are customized to reflect local cuisine and include chef’s specials that recreate regional dishes, which diners eat as the staff plays the country’s anthem enthusiastically on the tambourine.
The sound of fire. The igniting exhalation before the steady breath of the flame sustains. The heat pulsing steadily outward from the steel grill—you feel it on your glowing face. But the chef looks cool. He’s a master, after all; a flat, metal spatula in one hand and an enormous, sharp knife in the other. Kani House’s teppanyaki tables are no strangers to the action of hibachi, where these chefs entertain their guests before plating seared steak and scallops alongside fresh, sautéed vegetables. The steady sushi masters may not share their compatriots’ outward exuberance, but their work is just as delicious. From behind their long bar, they assemble maki cylinders with tender cuts of fatty tuna and bright salmon, artfully arranging cuts of more than 50 specialty rolls in the shape of gentle caterpillars or fearsome members of the Japanese Diet. Bright bamboo panels and natural stone add to the vibrant ambiance, surrounding diners with dark-wood and nuanced accents that keep the focus on the beauty of excellent cuisine.
At first, Tin Drum Asia Café's rapid service and bright decor evoke the aromatic street stands of Hong Kong, where founder Steven Chan ate throughout his childhood. The traditional ambiance is no accident—the franchise's name also harks back to a bygone era, when a tin drummer would awaken citizens and regale them with current events as they ate the day’s first meal. The electronic kiosks dotting the café, however, plunk this traditional scene in the middle of a cyberpunk setting. They allow patrons to customize their orders based on taste preferences and nutritional content, accommodating dietary endeavors such as vegetarianism and weight-loss goals.
This merger of technology and urban convention reflects a penchant for edgy ideas that also affects the menu. Items inspired by the culinary techniques of Japan, China, Vietnam, and Thailand share space in the savory catalog, taking the form of street tacos, soups, and mango chicken, a take on the general tso's staple that's sweeter than a syrup-soaked army helmet. Music is the final ingredient that charges the atmosphere. Nation's Restaurant News reports that it typically plays at an energizing 120 beats per minute and was a factor in attracting the café's initial college crowds.