When owners, Robert Beer and Tom Lam, opened Nisen Woodbury, they set out to seamlessly combine sushi and traditional fine dining into one stylish package. So for the upscale menu, their chefs craft specialty rolls such as the Scottish goat, filled with ginger salmon, goat cheese, roasted Portobello, and jalapeño salsa, and cook high-quality meats, such as organic chicken and Kobe-style beef, to perfection. And regardless of whether it’s served hot or cold, the food that emerges from the restaurant’s kitchen is artfully presented. This fits with Nisen Woodbury’s interior décor, which features warm mood lighting and tables set beneath lofty, arched ceilings that draw hip crowds of discerning fine diners.
From their command center behind the open sushi bar, Umi Sushi’s skilled chefs champion fresh, authentic Japanese fare by sculpting vibrantly hued rolls and umami-packed entrees. These culinary gurus scuttle about the kitchen decorating sleek white plates with traditional morsels infused with inventive flavors such as honey wasabi sauce and pink soy seaweed. Artistically composed platefuls of fresh fish and bowls of steaming noodles arrive before guests perched on modern wooden benches in the dining room. When warmer weather rolls in, Umi Sushi’s outdoor brick patio beckons eaters to sun on its stone benches as their chopsticks click through the kitchen’s masterpieces.
The sushi chefs at Black Lantern Sushi Den, a registered Green Restaurant, cook up a full roster of Japanese delicacies, tightly enveloping ingredients within more than 35 sushi rolls. Nosh on all-natural options like the stuffed baby mushrooms ($12), plump with breadcrumbs, or sink ravenous teeth into nigiri and sashimi ($4.50+). Eel and cucumber play fine neighbors to seaweed and rice within the Azalia roll ($13). Meanwhile, the Violet Lily Roll ($16) sets up seared ginger salmon and goat cheese on a tasteful double date with roasted portobello and jalapeños before letting them bunk together in one rice sleeping bag.
To characterize Ginza as swanky is a bit of an understatement. In the expansive dining room plush chairs and candlelit tables rest beneath high ceilings, from which thin, golden chains drape beneath studio lighting. Amid Japanese statues and photomurals of pedestrians, the wait staff ferries platefuls of creations made at the sushi bar and the kitchen, including one of 19 specialty rolls or grilled filet mignon. In the lounge, bartenders pour eight signature cocktails, sake flights, or wines from various countries such as California, France, Italy, and Japan.
Wild Ginger’s crew draws upon culinary traditions from Japan, Thailand, and China as the chefs slice burdock root, shiitake mushrooms, and lemongrass. In the bustling kitchen, they decorate colorful eats with tobiko and curlicues of honey-infused wasabi. Steam trickles from bowls of noodles and tempura-battered lobster. Servers whisk the newly minted dishes out to the yellow, orange, and green dining room, delivering them to tables of guests and cartoon silverware seeking a night away from the demands of constant singing.
Shiny golden spheres congregate by a cozy fireplace inside Arata Sushi's dining room. Though they're attached to the wall, they seem to drift across space like tiny suns or undersea bubbles. Perhaps they're an homage to the fish that comprise the restaurant's colorful sushi lineup, which the Courier-Journal has dubbed "highly imaginative." In the kitchen, chefs whorl fresh seafood with rice and veggies to form more than 45 types of maki. Several rolls, such as the Cardinal, showcase fruits such as kiwis and strawberries alongside savory ingredients such as fried shrimp and cream cheese. At the bar, diners can sip wine and sake while watching the chefs slice bright-orange salmon and tuna as red as a comet wearing a clown nose.