It's early in the day when the airplanes land on Virginia soil, bearing fresh seafood from such far-off places as Maine, Hawaii, and Japan. Lumbering trucks transport the cargo to the town of Sterling, where Hooked chefs await to fillet and prepare the catches for the night's dinner. The sushi chefs carve plump morsels of tuna and yellowtail in traditional Japanese style before rolling them into intricate rolls adorned with mango, caviar, and tempura. Meanwhile, the kitchen chefs tend to grills of sizzling teriyaki dishes and simmering pans of lemongrass halibut and hand-cut steak. The Hooked team has been crafting these fresh dishes and innovative specialties for the last seven years, earning accolades from Northern Virginia Magazine and Taste of Reston in the process.
Vibrant photographs of the chef's dishes flash across the flat screen in the sleek dining room, casting a glow across the contemporary dining room. Cushy booths surround vibrant red tables, and glimmering curtains dangle above the dining room. On the outdoor patio, a dancing fountain gushes with streams of water alongside a central fireplace roaring with flames. The staff strives to recreate an apropos oceanic atmosphere at the restaurant, lighting up seating areas in shades of turquoise and sea-green and requiring all servers to master basic seal calls.
The sushi senseis at Nippon Japanese Restaurant tuck innovative tastes into Japanese dishes and a vibrantly stocked sushi menu that includes two dozen varieties of the chef’s signature rolls. Launch sushi adventures with the firecracker roll’s eel, avocado, and cream cheese contents crowned by salmon and spicy crab salad ($10.95). The Hottie Surprise’s shrimp tempura, crab, and cucumber ($11.95) giggle beneath a blanket of spicy tuna and crunchy yam, waiting to jump out and startle the tonsils, who will then chastise the naughty ingredients. Chefs slice the sashimi of the day into 15 thin pieces for the sashimi deluxe entree ($24.95), and pack a selection of bento boxes with choice meats alongside sautéed veggies, fried shumai, a mashed-potato croquette, and savory sides. Adventurous duos can commandeer a Nippon sushi boat for two ($51.95), which sets sail with a motley 18-piece sushi crew captained by a chef's special roll with peg legs made of chopsticks.
When he's not busy passing down the history and art of sushi making to his students, executive chef Hiro-san practices what he preaches behind the bar. He incorporates ingredients such as cured mackerel and bean curd into his hand-formed nigiri, and his traditional and fusion maki include components such as shiitake mushrooms and fried jalapeño rolled in seaweed. Diners also can order sushi alternatives, from vegetable udon to broiled chilean sea bass marinated in sake seasoning. An extensive selection of sake, beer, and wine washes down meals, which unfold in Obi Sushi's spacious lower dining room. Upstairs, three shoji screens shelter private feasts for up to 25 people, creating more privacy than a group of sumo wrestlers guarding the table.
Naru Asian Cuisine's chefs blend the traditions of Japanese and Korean cooking over searing woks in the kitchen and behind the curved coolers along the sushi bar. Beneath racks of samurai-style swords, chefs slice and roll up a wide variety of maki rolls and assemble platters of sushi and sashimi in wooden boats, transforming meals into edible dioramas of The Odyssey. From the kitchen, hot hibachi and teriyaki entrees fill plates, and thick udon noodles simmer in bowls filled with clear, flavorful broth.
As the most populous city in the world, Shanghai has been shaped by travelers and settlers from all over. This is particularly evident in the city's food, which has been influenced by the culinary styles from both the northern and southern regions of China, as well as dishes from throughout the entire continent of Asia. This cultural integration holds true at Shanghai Café, where the chefs use recipes the Hu family has spent the past half-century perfecting. These recipes follow various Shanghai cooking principles—for instance, the original flavors of meats and fish are allowed to shine through rather than being drowned out by heavy marinades or sauces that are too sweet or salty.
Though the recipes are traditional, they respect modern, healthful eating habits by incorporating natural broths and stocks and limiting the use of oil. Some of the restaurant's signature dishes include boiled dumplings, steamed pork buns, and dim sum—a Shanghai staple. In the spirit of Shanghai's pan-Asian tendencies, the menus also include Thai dishes, such as pad kee mao (drunken noodles), nigiri, sashimi, and maki.