When seated at a secluded dinner table, it’s easy to forget the skill it takes to turn disparate ingredients into a delicious meal. Sakura Japanese Restaurant’s chefs aim to remind their guests of just how incredible that feat is, abandoning the seclusion of the kitchen to prepare dishes tableside. They twirl knives, drumming them against the smooth metal surface of their grill as they use cooking oil to summon gouts of flame. From the dexterous show, they create sizzling hibachi meals of chicken, steak, lobster, and other meats for a rapt audience.
Sakura's sushi chefs specialize in a less flashy craft, drizzling eel sauce on combinations of crab, shrimp, and avocado or topping white- and yellowtail-tuna rolls with tobiko and wasabi. They also make up obento boxes, traditional packaged lunches featuring specific slots for sushi, tempura, a main course, and extra masking tape.
East Palace Buffet Restaurant solves diners' common problem of not knowing what to order by allowing them to taste a little bit of everything. During lunch and dinner buffets, diners can fill their plates with small samples or generous servings of freshly prepared shrimp tempura, beef and veggie dishes, and fried rice, with as many return trips as their stomach or competitive-eating coach desires. For those with a singular craving, the restaurant also offers an à la carte menu with a slate of non-buffet options, such as spicy-tuna sushi rolls and chicken tempura, all served tableside.
Knife skills are important to any chef, but at Mr. Fuji Sushi, where the snick-snack of sharp blades fills the air, they’re a form of theater as much as cuisine. Standing at newly installed hibachi grills, chefs swiftly slice morsels of steak and seafood, sending them soaring into the air and onto plates via a sophisticated air-traffic control system. Diners settle into padded leather seats in a sleek, tiled room enlivened by rainbow-colored lanterns, Japanese pottery, and tiny, glowing nooks in the wall as they await hot entrees such as teriyaki or specialty sushi rolls—some deep-fried, some wrapped in different papers such as white seaweed or soybean. Continuing the theme of adhering closely to Japanese culinary traditions, the restaurant frequently uses its Facebook page as a primer on dining etiquette and some of the items guests are likely to find on the menu, from pork tonkatsu cutlets to onigiri, sushi’s answer to the dumpling.
The chefs at Bangkok Bistro not only prepare dishes, such as pad thai and a rainbow of curries, they also plate up roll after roll of inventive sushi creations. The Schenectady roll marries crab, spicy tuna, and baked salmon with fried onion, eel sauce, and spicy mayo, whereas the Facebook roll showcases crab, cream cheese, asparagus, and roe. Bento boxes come neatly packed with appetizers, teriyakis, and salads and platters of fried rice come spiked with ingredients such as pineapple or basil leaves.
Northern Berkshire peaks peek through the windows of Taylor's, where surf and turf unite in a lamp-lit, exposed-brick dining room. An army of appetizers kicks off the menu, including the baked brie, which is infused with grapes and sprinkled with brown sugar, walnuts, and apples ($8). A fresh garden salad sidekicks every entree, serving as a momentary plate mate for hearty dishes such as the filet mignon ($24) and its aquatic, redundant counterpart, grilled mahi-mahi ($21). The ratatouille with tofu forgoes filets for a mix of stewed eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes that are fresher than haircuts of the eighties ($16).
Goten of Japan serves authentic Japanese fare by way of hibachi-cooked entrees and a sleek and stylish sushi bar. The menu’s hibachi eats fill empty stomach boxes with hibachi chicken ($15.95), Japanese-style scallops ($22.50), and a veggie special ($14.50). Sushi bites, meanwhile, boast baked rolls ($7.50 to $12), fresh rolls, and sashimi staples. Kids under 10 can peruse a children’s menu replete with entrees (between $10.45 and $16.95) that perfectly fit miniature mouths.