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.
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.
Armed with fresh seafood, authentic recipes, and a sizzling hibachi grill, the chefs at Tokyo Asian Cuisine construct fresh sushi rolls and flame-broiled meals of meat and seafood. In the hibachi dining area, chefs artfully spin utensils as they prepare sizzling filet mignon and calamari for visitors seated around the oft-flaming grill, using its intense light to improve their base tans. Diners can also situate themselves in conventional restaurant seating to enjoy uncooked cuisine such as the Kamikaze roll with avocado, spicy tuna, and spicy yellowtail, or a Rock ?n? Roll plate that cocoons eel, salmon skin, cucumber, and avocado in rice.
Umi Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar's chefs sling hot meat and veggies across tableside hibachis in showy displays of culinary prowess. As chopsticks busy themselves with vegetables and fried rice, meat such as lobster and filet mignon sizzles on grills just barely out of reach. Chefs also arrange sushi rolls on beds of seaweed in ribbons of eel, red snapper, tuna, and other raw or tempura-battered seafood. Blond wood inlays and sleek glass panels encircle the dining room, whose walls are sprinkled with shadowboxes of traditional Japanese art.
At Ichiro Hibachi & Sushi Bar, presentation is nearly as important as flavor. Sushi rolls leave the sushi bar tightly wrapped and garnished with colorful sauces, fresh flowers, and crunchy masago. Chefs manning the hibachi grill sear and flip meats, seafood, and veggies in an almost choreographed style, all amid a pyrotechnics display of bright orange flames.