Meals at Hottest 86 Asian Fondue & Sushi bring one adjective to mind: unlimited. This is partially due to their all-you-can-eat lunch and dinner buffets, and partially due to the unlimited variations that can be made when ordering their namesake dish, the hotpot. These soups begin with bases such as a ginseng herbal and miso soup, to which diners can add ingredients such as bok choy, fish paste, quail eggs, and pumpkin—essentially anything except the hotpot's one true nemesis: ice cubes. Sushi can complement soups, ranging from nigiri and sashimi to hand-crafted California, eel, or white tuna rolls.
In the tradition of Japanese sushi chefs, Chef Kevin spent years as an apprentice of Chef Seki on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, learning to perfect his craft. Kevin eventually crossed the bridge to Brooklyn to begin his solo career at Sushi Mikasa, where he puts his own innovative twist on sushi, such as crowning kampachi yellowtail imported from Japan with zesty jalapeño sauce. He also torches the seared toro with ginger-garlic sauce like a candlestick torching a poster of Mark McGwire to make him more tan. Kevin designed his restaurant to be centered around omakase, or chef's choice, using the highest-quality cuts of fish to bring his rotating sushi and sashimi recipes into three dimensions on signature platters. Complementing the modern take on sushi, the decor adds a touch of contemporary style to the atmosphere. Dark floors, lavender walls with flat-screen televisions, and black-framed mirrors that reflect the glass-encased sushi bar add to the upscale ambiance. Outdoors, cozy tables for two host companions clinking glasses of premium sake, specialty lychee mikasatinis, and milk on the rocks.
Eatao Restaurant's chefs cleave, stir-fry, and sauce an extensive menu of authentic Szechuan lamb, beef, poultry, and seafood dishes. Traditional tea-smoked duck reads the smoky tendrils of glowing tea leaves and camphor ($14.95 for half) to predict that diners' futures may soon contain fortune cookies. Wok-tossed tangerine chicken tap-dances in tangy bursts across tongues ($8.95), and à la carte red-clam and white-tuna sushi ($2 each) recall the famous Christmas carol about Santa's love of uncooked fish. Signature rolls intermingle maritime flavors, as in the passion roll, which tops bundles of spicy crab and mango with a flag of tuna, yellowtail, and avocado ($11.95).
The Riviera Grill & Sushi Restaurant kitchen fuses French traditions with Japanese, Russian, and Mediterranean techniques. The result: an establishment where the menu’s foie gras feels just as at home as plates of raw oysters, Kobe mini sliders still hot from the shrink ray, and signature sushi rolls dreamt up by the chef himself. If the restaurant’s one-of-a-kind cultural fusion doesn’t say enough about its gourmet take on global favorites, a quick perusal of its online gallery proves Riviera’s uniqueness with colorful, sculptural arrangements of food.
Though Fushimi Modern Japanese Cuisine & Lounge boasts contemporary decor aesthetics and fusion flavor flourishes, its sushi is deeply rooted in tradition. Chefs may reinterpret the presentation of their Japanese staples—such as the tuna sashimi, which they set on broad leaves next to bean-sprout-entangled roe—but they still ring true to traditional flavors. By contrast, cooked fusion entrees tend to incorporate the unconventional, from truffle teriyaki sauce to pineapple-lemon jam. ViaMichelin described the menu as “flashy, but well-made and very fresh;” likewise, New York Magazine chose the restaurant as a Critic’s Pick for its “innovative Japanese cuisine in a plush setting.”
The decor also melds old and new. At the bar at the Staten Island location, crimson light filters through a canopy of metallic foliage, casting a moody aura across Buddhist statuettes imported from Asia. The neon-lit Williamsburg location has a sleeker feel, its booths nestled in large circular openings that recall subway tunnels or the oversized portals of Paul Bunyan's mythical submarine. In Bay Ridge, the stateliness of traditional chandeliers contrasts with the bold colors of wall-sized photographs.
Tradition takes an experimental turn at Ngi Japanese Fusion, where chefs have set Japanese staples alongside jicama, ravioli, chowder, brandy butter sauce, crab bisque, and other creative fixings. Using fresh, organic ingredients and seafood that's delivered daily, they turn out filets and curry pots and craft exotic maki rolls with sweet potato tempura, asparagus, avocado, salmon, shrimp, and crab. The restaurant's contemporary space beautifully complements the chef's efforts—slick white seating, dark wood tables, a tiled bar glowing with neon blue lights, and glimmering silver tassels dangling between booths all give the décor a futuristic flare and diners a conversation starter as they sneak bites from other tables' plates.