Carved straight-backed chairs and hanging crimson lanterns cultivate a traditional Chinese vibe inside Golden Shanghai's spacious dining room. Nearby, a wall with strings of firecrackers and golden Buddha statues creates an exotic backdrop for family dinners or faked vacation photos. In keeping with the traditional décor theme, chefs plate MSG-free Chinese classics such as crispy duck and spicy Hunan beef as well as more adventurous specialties from a separate authentic-Chinese menu.
Elsewhere, however, the kitchen defies standard categories, bringing together the disparate cuisines of Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam for eclectic feasts. Tender morsels of Thai satay chicken share table space with Japanese sushi and udon, and chefs also stir up bowls of Vietnamese noodle soup. As they chomp their way through the tastes of the East, visitors can toast another year of not renewing their passport with glasses of tropical cocktails or frosty, thirst-quenching beers.
Banzai Sushi's chefs award imaginative nicknames to the 100 distinct sushi rolls that earned the restaurant a top-five spot on ABC 7's A-List in 2011. The Nitros roll, baked in a blanket of spicy sauce, awakens taste buds with salty smelt roe and crunchy flecks of tempura, while Drum rolls keeps things fresh with tuna, lemon, and asparagus. For a hot meal, diners can tear into a hibachi-grilled meat or classic teriyaki entree, each available with a choice of salmon, chicken, or New York–style steak.
In order to consistently impress guests, the chefs at Hana Matsuri work closely with fish markets to procure the freshest seafood for their sashimi, nigiri, and maki creations. Once their grocery baskets are filled, they head to the kitchen to start rolling rice around interesting ingredient combinations such as the Hamachi Orange roll's mix of spicy shredded yellowtail, orange wedges, masago, jalapeño, and mango sauce. Beyond the sushi bar, the chefs create an array of hotter Japanese dishes—including steaming udon soups and teriyaki meats—for lunch and dinner.
A "tuk tuk" (pronounced "took took") is a type of three-wheeled taxi service commonly found in Thailand. It's used by tourists as well as locals, who appreciate the speed and convenience. Westminster's Tuk Tuk Thai Bistro tries to capture the above qualities in a restaurant, and it largely succeeds. But there's a certain elegance to Tuk Tuk that you might not expect to find on the streets of Bangkok. The kitchen takes typical street foods and classes them up, resulting in a menu that seems both familiar and adventurous.
• For $10, you get $20 worth of Asian cuisine during lunch from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. • For $20, you get $40 worth of Asian cuisine during dinner from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. Diners who redeem their Groupon Thursday, Friday, or Saturday after 8:30 p.m. receive complimentary edamame and sake.