When the first Sarku Japan location opened its doors more than 25 years ago, few people were conscious about the benefits of eating foods without trans fat, MSG, or Play-Doh. With strick standards that call for fresh ingredients and eschew potentially harmful unsaturated fats and additives, the chain has since expanded to more than 200 locations throughout the United States and South America.
The trick to the franchise's rapid success may lie in its ability to prepare traditional teppanyaki grilled seafood and meat without sacrificing nutrition and quality. Cooks prep everything made-to-order, using fresh vegetables and vegetable oil, even in their tempura breaded shrimp. Some locations feature a sushi bar, where chefs hand-roll sushi and sashimi.
Kumo's express chefs whip up Japanese delicacies drawn from a diverse menu of sushi, hibachi, and traditional cooked fare. Shrimp tempura and spicy tuna form a tongue-searing crunch in the restaurant's signature Kumo roll ($13), and the spicy mango lobster roll landlocks shellfish salad and black tobiko between a blanket of sliced mango and a plate the color of a freshly bleached T-shirt ($12). Unseen fire wielders broil Alaskan black cod marinated in yuzu miso sauce to flaky perfections ($16) or array regiments of baked scallops atop mini mounds of ink-black rice ($15). Sizzling hibachi entrées and traditional noodle dishes entice tongues to lick chops and nearby mutts to croon Hungry Like the Wolf. A pair of soft drinks adds a sweet finish to evening sushi, which can be enjoyed by the plate at tables or à la carte at the burnished wood bar.
A visit to Kiku Asian Bistro is a quick, leapfrogging voyage across the globe in miniature. From the outside, the restaurant is all old New York, holding down an ornate brownstone building with elegant arches framing full-length windows. The entryway and bar give off the vibe of modern Tokyo, with funky mod sofas and a big, stylized photo of a geisha’s face. The glass-domed sushi bar continues the Japanese theme with rolls of buttery eel and mango-sweetened tuna, but the menu also detours into Southeast Asia for curries and Thai basil stir fries—which often incorporate such unexpected seasonal produce as Fuji apples or pastel cauliflower.
On the exposed-brick stage of the bar, mixologists complement the fresh seafood with lychee-tinis and perfectly balanced cups of salt water. A screen of bamboo-like pillars separates it from the main dining room, a streamlined space that halts at the feet of an enormous white Buddha statue.
The Riviera Grill & Sushi Restaurant kitchen fuses French traditions with Japanese, Russian, and Mediterranean techniques. The result: an establishment where the menu’s foie gras feels just as at home as plates of raw oysters, Kobe mini sliders still hot from the shrink ray, and signature sushi rolls dreamt up by the chef himself. If the restaurant’s one-of-a-kind cultural fusion doesn’t say enough about its gourmet take on global favorites, a quick perusal of its online gallery proves Riviera’s uniqueness with colorful, sculptural arrangements of food.