When he made the trek from his native Korea in 1999, sushi chef Charlie Choi brought with him an energetic demeanor and culinary inventiveness. He relies on more than 20 years of sushi-making experience to craft traditional and modern Asian comestibles for his loyal clientele. Meals top bamboo serving trays inside vibrantly colored, themed rooms: natural light spills in through the skylights of a sunroom capped in overhanging tapestries, and a traditional dining room sports glass mosaics and swirling wood-grain chairs. In the warmer months, diners chill out with scoops of mochi ice cream as winds whispering faint chopstick tutorials flit through the cool, cobalt-blue décor of the patio.
The chefs at Blue Elephant Restaurant craft Thai curries, Japanese sushi, and Italian pasta dishes, tying them all together with the common thread of fresh ingredients and careful preparation. They specially order ingredients that are not available locally to ensure that each dish contains the freshest possible items. Basil leaves flavor the Thai-style basil chicken, and cashews add salt and crunch to mango chicken. Within sushi rolls, thinly sliced fish such as tuna and salmon complement the silky texture of cream cheese and avocado.
Prior to establishing the restaurant, the owners committed themselves to observing environmentally responsible building practices. As a result, the entire building is constructed from sustainable and recyclable materials. Energy-efficient light bulbs illuminate the dining room, and a geo-thermal heating and cooling system regulates the temperature. On stormy days, an onsite pond directs raindrops into the soil, preventing them from falling into a gutter or discarded chip bag.
The performing arts and the culinary arts combine into a single mouth-watering discipline at Fuji Steak House, a Japanese eatery where chefs concoct hibachi meals and sushi tableside. They draw on training from the US and Asia to man teppanyaki grills sizzling with gourmet proteins ranging from scallops and lobster tail to chicken and filet mignon; chefs can prepare tender meats in simple hibachi style or coat them with teriyaki sauce or light tempura breading. Alternatively, they wrap sushi rolls in seaweed and construct bite-size sashimi morsels, serving their handiwork on planks or in a wooden “Love Boat” complete with masts, rigging, and sassy talking parrots.
Pearls are often prized for their exquisite appearance and oystery aroma, but Boba Cha values a different sort of pearl—bubble tea's chewy spheres of tapioca. This cozy shop in downtown Cincinnati specializes in creamy concoctions that combine sweet flavors with the tapioca pearls' satisfying chewiness. Aside from the signature bubble teas—which can be prepared hot or cold and with or without milk—the shop whips up frozen snow treats flavored with fruit and yogurt.
Sushi Bears rolls fully cooked seafood and traditional sushi rolls under the direction of Chef Dan, whose passion for healthful eats led him to hold weekly sushi-making classes at Findlay Market. Sushi Bears’ menu includes smoked-salmon philly rolls and tempura-fried sushi. Chef Dan also hosts sushi-rolling parties in private homes.
Next Chapter channels a lively predecessor—Chapter 13, a popular neighborhood bar from the '70s and early '80s—in both name and emphasis on entertainment, according to Campbell's Scoop, a blog penned by Cincinnati Enquirer restaurant critic Polly Campbell. Though it serves a small menu of upscale bar fare, including signature sandwiches and fried appetizers, the space centers on a predominant bar with a focus on special events and live entertainment. Diners can sample the pub’s wares and happy-hour specials inside the recently renovated, 130-year-old building or throw drink coasters at passing cars from a large, outdoor patio.