Flames spotlight the stage at Tokyo Steak House and Sushi Bar, where skilled chefs twirl their knives and prepare Japanese teppanyaki dishes in front of eaters. Using tabletop grills, they cook succulent morsels of filet mignon, lobster, chicken, and shrimp alongside an assortment of crisp veggies. During the process, they sometimes perform eye-catching tricks, such as drawing designs on the grill with the yolk from a delicately cracked egg, flipping food into eaters' mouths, and magically making incriminating tax documents disappear over an open flame. The kitchen staff sculpts specialty sushi rolls away from the grills, and waiters fill table glasses with wine, sake, and imported beer.
A red horseshoe-shaped bar dominates the dining room at Roll On Sushi Diner, encouraging patrons to grab a stool and watch the chefs as they sculpt maki with inventive ingredients that are reminiscent of an American diner. The menu's Austin-inspired rolls deviate from Japanese traditions, featuring unconventional fillings such as beef brisket, chicken-fried steak, or candied walnuts inside a cylinder of rice and nori instead. As co-owner Chip Reed told Austin Monthly in 2011, "no one has ever told us, ‘you’re not supposed to do that’… so we have no limitations on what we can create." He and his cohort, Chad Reed, helm a staff of servers who place each roll on a color-coded plate that corresponds to its price. This allows diners and servers alike to quickly tally the final bill without hiring a CPA for the afternoon.
It's not uncommon to see diners lingering at The Dojo’s simple wooden tables after they're finished eating. In fact, the staff encourages them to take their time while enjoying their food and company. This casual, low-key ambiance, along with the communal bench-style seating and hanging paper lanterns, draws inspiration from the izakayas—pub-like eateries and sake bars—that line the streets of Japan. Remaining open late into the evening six nights a week, The Dojo keeps spirits high with drinks and a menu of classic Japanese comfort foods. Just shortly after opening, Eater Austin already honored the fledgling eatery by placing it on the September 2013 Heat Map of the city’s most buzz-worthy restaurants.
Executive Chef Moto Seto oversees the majority of the menu, staying true to the izakaya cuisine he remembered from growing up in Nagoya, Japan and working in Oaska eateries. Although Chef Moto eventually immigrated to the United States, he continued to cook in Japanese restaurants. He grew tired of the surplus of sushi and Japanese steak-house fare, however, and began longing for the authentic street foods of his home. At The Dojo, he recreates this classic comfort cuisine, filling the menu with dishes such as tempura-fried shrimp, grilled pork cheeks, and spicy edamame. The Dojo also remains true to its izakaya roots by featuring a broad selection of Japanese beers, sakes, shochus, and even Yamazaki Japanese whiskey.
The chefs at Samurai Sam’s Teriyaki Grill toss wok-seared meats and veggies in its eponymous sweet, tangy sauce. These morsels lie on a bed of steamed brown or white rice, making them a healthier alternative to traditional fast food, which usually lies on a hard-to-digest futon. Rice can be substituted with yakisoba noodles, and proteins include chicken, steak, shrimp, and salmon. All dishes on the menu, including salads and wraps, are made to order.
In 2008, brothers Yuen and Peter Yung opened the first How Do You Roll? restaurant, devoting it to inventive, customizable sushi. Since then, the eatery has expanded to multiple locations across four states?and in February of 2013, after they pitched their concept to the notorious panel on ABC's "Shark Tank," an investor decided to sink his teeth into helping the business grow even further. The shark-worthy idea? Chefs invite customers to build their own sushi rolls or bowls, beginning with white or brown rice, which can then be topped or rolled with ingredients such as raw spicy salmon, grilled chicken, avocado, and strawberries. Sauces such as wasabi mayo and toppings such as chili powder finish off each roll.
Other favorites at How Do You Roll? come in the form of preset combinations such as the Mango Tango, whose krab stick, salmon, vegetables, and mango salsa are assembled by a chef holding a rose in his teeth. The menu also caters to healthy-minded diners with low-carb bowls, gluten-free options, and 13 rolls that contain fewer than 300 calories apiece.
A locally owned and operated chain restaurant, Zen whips up fresh Japanese grub and Southwest-influenced fusion eats. Drop by to kick back amid the welcoming, ultra-modern vibes and percolate palates with tasty and new menu items, which include the likes of customizable rice or noodle bowls, fresh sushi, tuna nachos, and more. Unlike foot-long hot dogs or a bucket of biscuit gravy, sushi or chicken options, such as Redneck Sushi ($7.95) or Chuck Norris Chicken ($3.50), divides tasty culinary concoctions into tidbits so that the palate can better savor the tastetations. With today’s Groupon to Zen Japanese Food Fast, patrons can tickle the taste buds without tasting pterodactyl feathers or licking batteries.