From the bustling streets of Times Square to the equally vivacious streets of Hong Kong, people walk around with smiles after enjoying the japanese barbecue cuisine at Gyu-Kaku. The restaurant has more than 700 locations worldwide, each rooted in the belief that some of the strongest bonds between friends are forged at the dinner table. Groups dine on a huge variety of Japanese dishes, from popular meat and veggie dishes such as Harami Skirt Steak, Kalbi Short Rib, and Bacon-wrapped Asparagus - to unique Japanese-American appetizers such as the Spicy Tuna Volcano, Wasabi Crunchy Shrimp, and Ahi Tuna Poke. The real excitement takes place around individual grills, however, where diners can barbecue their own slabs of filet mignon, ahi tuna, or chicken with chili mayo until they are ideally tender or encircled by on-duty firemen.
Spago isn't just a Wolfgang Puck restaurant: it's the Wolfgang Puck restaurant, the one that launched the venerated chef's restaurant empire. Up until it opened in 1982, Puck was riding buzz from celebrity clients as chef and part owner of Ma Maison. But at Spago’s original location on Sunset Strip, the chef called all the shots, creating the upscale Californian cuisine that earned him a spot among culinary prodigies who were just born with silver spatulas in their mouths. Over the past three decades, Spago has not only expanded to include four locations, but was awarded the AAA Four Diamond Award, two stars from the Michelin Guide, and the Wine Spectator Grand Award three years running. Its 30th birthday also marked major renovations for Spago, not only in regards to its décor—natural sunlight, streaming through a huge dining room skylight, a wall’s worth of wines stacked behind glass—but also its menu, which presents diners with dishes such as tandoori-marinated quail with Indian lentil salad or grilled veal chop with black garlic and turnip puree. Though James Beard Award winner chef Lee Hefter still focuses on Californian cuisine, his dishes are rooted in farm-to-table ingredients, often from the kitchen’s own garden or local farmer’s markets.
When asked, world-renowned chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa willingly reveals the secret ingredient to every one of his dishes: kokoro, aka "heart." He claims that his unique personality goes into each plate, imbuing it with flavor that can't be replicated, even by someone who has the exact ingredients and instructions. But heart isn't the only key to Nobu's success in cooking: he also cooks smart. His stints at sushi bars on three continents have led to a spicy, experimental streak that combines aspects of Japanese, Peruvian, and Argentinean cuisine and separates his seafood from the pack. That innovation is just one of the reasons why the critically-acclaimed chef has earned no fewer than nine James Beard Award nominations since 1997. A la carte servings of sushi and maki rolls headline the menu at Matsuhisa, but it's the signature hot and cold dishes that draw the eye, from lobster ceviche with limestone lettuce to king crab tempura, spiced with Amazu sauce and jalapenos. Alternatively, Chef Nobu can choose a set of surprising courses for an omakase meal, which encourages diners to sample new, exotic flavors and prepare for a future where the world has run out of cheeseburgers. As for drinks, the Hokusetsu Brewery in Japan crafts sake exclusively for Nobu and his restaurants, and servers pour it by the bottle or glass or mix it into sake martinis with Asian vodka, Japanese pickled ginger, and cucumber.
The chefs of California Roll Factory churn out more than 100 specialty sushi rolls given creative names such as the Picasso and the Some Like It Hot. The sushi-bar creations combine a huge variety of ingredients such as freshwater eel, spicy tuna, baked seafood, and avocado to fill out the broad menu. Diners can also sate their appetites with hot and cold Japanese appetizers and combo meals of tempura- and teriyaki-coated shrimp, salmon, beef, or chicken with sides of rice and miso soup.