Sculptures of simple wooden sailboats glide across the wall behind Sake House's sushi bar, where chefs bend intently over long filets of fresh fish. In front of them in the dining room, tables draped with tidy white tablecloths stand out against the dark, wooden walls, and platters littered with colorful sushi travel on the arms of servers. Behind the bar, bottles of chilled sake wear poetic labels such as "Bamboo Dew", "Soaring Cloud", and "Black River", and at hibachi tables, chefs deftly manipulate their knives across steaks and lobsters or carve their initials into broccoli trees.
Chiyo Sushi's talented chefs prepare more than 100 familiar Japanese eats such as teriyaki and salmon nigiri as well as dishes that make use of more inventive ingredients such as monkfish liver, sea urchin, and live scallops. The bill of fare contains multitudes, from delicate sashimi to crispy tempura to savory udon soup. Diners populate tables at lunch and dinner, sandwiched between prints of kimono-clad nobles that adorn the walls and broad, tree-framed windows that allow fresh air in and soy sauce-dwelling demons out.
Shiso Tavern takes the concept of Asian fusion beyond the table to behind the bar. There, signature cocktails have half-familiar names: the green tea palmer, for example, which mixes green tea-infused vodka with lemonade and honey. There are lychee martinis, bottled beers, and sake samplers, all influenced by, if not imported from the east.
These libations pair well with a menu of sushi and wok-fired dishes. There are enough staples here to delight fans of classic Thai, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine, but the chefs shine when permitted to invent. The Baltimore Sun praises their soft-shell crab roll, calling it a visual "stunner" with an "exciting" medley of textures, from the tender crab to the crisp veggies and tempura. Specialty entrees range from grilled octopus salad to the sushi nacho, a wonton wrapper layered with sliced tuna tataki, spicy salmon, and avocado. You can also trust the chef's judgment by ordering a plate of sashimi or nigiri, cuts of fish picked based on their freshness and the likelihood that they'll match your dinner jacket.
At Tatu Restaurant--voted “Best New Restaurant” in 2011 by the readers of Baltimore Magazine--the culinary team unites Chinese and Japanese cuisines into a single smorgasbord. Diners can feast on traditional Chinese dishes, such as sesame chicken, short ribs braised in five spices, or Shanghai beef, a New York strip steak grilled in hot oil, cilantro and soy-mirin sauce. Fresh sushi interpretations include the salmon tartar roll with Chinese mustard and wonton chips, or a chilled shrimp roll with wasabi cocktail sauce. Diners are encouraged to share their plates, and complement their meals with house cocktails such as sake sangria, a mix of sake and plum wine muddled with lychee fruit and tangerines.
The chefs at Koto Sake Japanese Steak House dazzle diners with their fast chopping and knife-wielding skills as they prepare Japanese seafood and steak meals directly at the table. “For those who are not familiar with the experience,” a reporter for The Baltimore Times wrote after a visit, “hibachi is a style of Japanese cooking in which the food is prepared in front of the patrons on a large iron stove. In addition to seeing your food cooked before your eyes, restaurant-goers are treated to a theatrical show that blends impressive utensil juggling, culinary acrobatics, and sarcastic comedy.”
Along with hibachi dinners, the cooks also fry rice and cook large pots of noodles. Like a spy movie set in a hotel for twins, the deep-fried and traditional maki rolls are full of surprises, from shrimp tempura to asparagus.
Husband and wife Tom and Sandy Nash might as well have mustard flowing through their veins. They both boast rich pasts in food service, as they explain in an article in the Baltimore Sun. Tom spent 18 years as co-owner of a deli in Silver Spring before launching Charter Deli with Sandy, who has plenty of expertise to lend to the venture thanks to growing up in a family of grocers.
Their New York–style deli stacks thin-sliced meats such as corned beef, pastrami, kosher bologna, and genoa salami to create sandwiches whose surrounding bread nearly quakes from the weight. All sandwiches, from basic BLTs to those piled high with shrimp salad, can be made on the customer’s choice of bread and with the customer’s choice of condiments. Morning meals include bagels with lox and scrambled-egg sandwiches.