Chef Sam Ho has earned every word of praise his food has garnered. After working his way through the ranks of a fast-food sushi franchise, Ho decided to pursue a formal culinary education. He became an intern at the renowned Morimoto restaurant—the creation of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto—where he learned to fuse French-style cooking with Japanese cuisine, and advanced from line cook to sous chef in only a year. The combination of his lightning-quick knife skills, time-management abilities, and administrative experience allowed Chef Ho to finally realize his dream and open his own restaurant—Zento Contemporary Japanese Cuisine.
Ho's signature square sushi or peking-duck hand roll pairs well with selections from the sake bar, and his whimsically flavorful preparations have earned nominations for Best Sushi from CityVoter. The restaurant has also garnered a Zagat rating of 26/30 for its breadth of flavors, which diners can explore as they rest in a space rife with colorful history: the warm walnut accents and handmade leather banquettes are reminiscent of its time as a turn-of-the-century wholesale teahouse, and towering brick walls and love notes written on kites remain from the building’s origin as the house of Benjamin Franklin’s mistress. As eyes ascend toward the ceiling 40 feet overhead, they alight upon a custom-designed, three-tiered chandelier and a two-story feature wall boasting panels whose tooled leather recalls vintage wallpaper designs.
At 5 N 2 Tokyo, sushi chefs design avant-garde fish dishes, assemble maki, and craft upscale Japanese cuisine. Classic appetizers, such as seaweed salad and tempura, whet appetites before diners dig into red-snapper sashimi, a crispy tuna roll, or an uni shot made with sriracha. 5 N 2 Tokyo’s chefs arrange each dish carefully, creating edible art unparalleled since the brief period when Renaissance court painters decided to etch their portraits onto french toast.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Raw: Sushi & Sake Lounge owner and Philadelphia restaurateur Tony Rim picked up his work ethic from his father, who has owned a deli for more than 30 years, remaining doggedly dedicated to overseeing operations himself. Rim follows suit at each of his own eateries, and Raw is no exception. Inside a mood-lit dining area, dark-hued benches and sleek, circular tables host guests who chat near a 15-foot glass bar. Outside, an expansive patio enclosed by brick walls offers plentiful tables for planting glasses of exotic sake, digging into house-designed sushi rolls, or arm-wrestling fresh lobster.
With roots firmly planted in the tradition of the izakaya—Japanese pubs designed for unwinding and socializing with friends over a modest sake and street-food selection—Yakitori Boy focuses its culinary philosophy on interaction above all else. In this spirit, the menu brims with modestly priced tapas-style dishes meant for sharing—sushi comes in miniature four-piece rolls, tempura plates bear only a half-dozen or so of the crispy morsels, and diners order the eatery's signature creation, yakitori, by the single skewer. Of course, guests can still splurge on a full entrée, as head sushi chef Tasaka Yasuhiko calls on his 40 years of experience to craft full 12-piece helpings of specialty caviar- and tempura-topped maki, while chefs in the bustling kitchen whip up traditional don, or creative meat preparations served over a bowl of rice. A floor above the dining room's geometric lines and romantic lighting, a karaoke lounge urges diners to keep the celebration rolling with a public stage and eight private rooms ideal for parties of up to 20 or solo performances of "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" on repeat.
Named Philadelphia's Best Sushi 2010 by CityVoters, Misora Express simultaneously quells desires for delicate flavors and elegant eye candy. Chaperone taste buds on a tour across the expansive menu of Japanese cuisine while exploring the elusive umami receptors. Break in your appetite with an starter of shumai, steamed shrimp dumplings ($3.95), or dive straight into a deep bento box of broiled salmon teriyaki, served with a flavorful miso soup, salad, and rice ($7.95). Novitiate sushi enthusiasts can prep their palates with a beginner sushi entree, featuring one smoked-salmon roll, one california roll, two pieces of shrimp sushi, and two pieces of tamago ($10.95), while those with a black belt in chopstick command can roundhouse kick through Misora Express' specialty-roll selection ($4.50–$10.50), face the scar-faced evil master, and make it safely home.