At the third-generation family-owned Nakato Japanese Restaurant, you can experience Japanese food in an array of Japanese dining experiences. In the hibachi area, guests gather around flat iron grills to watch chefs prepare their steaks, scallops, shrimp, and tofu right in front of them. This style of dining has become popular at Japanese restaurants around the country, due in no small part to the chefs tossing knives and spatulas into the air and doing the Hustle to entertain diners seated around them. Nakato puts its own twist on this experience by serving only housemade sauces with the hibachi entrees.
Guests can also belly up to the sushi bar to enjoy seasonally changing maki and nigiri made with morsels of smoked salmon, tuna, albacore, and quail egg while overlooking the Japanese garden. For ultra traditionalists, guests can opt for omakase, during which Executive Chef Yoshifusa Kinjo will set up and choose a seasonal menu for you and your guests (starting a $80 per person).
The two most traditional ways to dine at Nakato are washoku- and tatami-style. During washoku meals, patrons sit at normal dining tables and enjoy tapas-style Japanese bites, including miso-marinated black cod, or sukiyaki and shabu-shabu hot pots. The shareable hot pot dishes require diners to use a hot pot on the table or a cup of hot lava they've brought to cook thinly sliced meats. During tatami-style feasts, guests relax on floor-level seating for authentic multi-course feasts prepared personally by head chef Yoshifusa Kinjo.
Named after the Japanese word for happy, Genki Noodles & Sushi captures the feel-good delicacies enjoyed by owner Reid Zeising during his childhood in Tokyo. Reid now oversees three locations that dish out a signature menu of traditional and experimental sushi rolls, tuna specialties, and Japanese barbecue bowls packed with grilled meats or tofu mixed with noodles or rice. In many dishes, classic flavors of spicy tuna and fresh water eel mingle with unusual additions such as parmesan cheese or mango.
Though each location sports its own distinct décor, all three locations glow under flat screen TVs and the blue light of fish tanks populated by ocean critters and a merman trapped in the body of a hermit crab. The Virginia Highlands location mingles exposed brick with a covered outdoor patio replete with breezy fans.
Within the cozy confines of Thai & Sushi's scarlet-walled eatery, taste buds can surf the fusion of flavors surging through a menu teeming with traditional Thai dishes and Japanese-style sushi platters. Tuna, salmon, shrimp, crab, and masago snuggle in a blanket of avocado and soy nori bedded down in the pineapple-slathered Hawaiian roll ($11.95). Olympic-medaled vegetable rolls lithely springboard from a platform of cucumber, avocado, asparagus, inari, and shiitake mushrooms into awaiting mouth caverns ($8) and pad thai chicken roosts in a spicy nest of rice noodles ($9.75). The sweet aroma of fresh ginger mingles with the sizzling serenade of chicken, beef, or pork and a garden-torn quartet of onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, and expatriated lawn gnomes ($9.95).
Mali Restaurant offers menus of fresh sushi and traditional Thai fare in a warm, chic setting. Lunchtime diners can sample starters such as the customer favorite basil rolls filled with homemade barbecued pork, shrimp, noodles, and vegetables, served with dip-encouraging tamarind sauce ($5). Make it a seasoning motif with a main course of Chinese eggplant with basil, sautéed with onion and pepper in a spicy basil sauce ($8). Dinner partakers can wake drowsing taste buds with an appetizer of satay marinated in Thai herbs and curry powder ($9) or nosh on sushi selections such as the hole-free bagel roll filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and scallion ($6.50). Entrees include classic noodle dishes as well as mouth-watering meats such as the grilled duck breast with red curry, bedecked with pineapple, peach, and vegetables ($16). Yowling sweet teeth can be silenced with a dessert of fried banana with coconut ice cream ($7), while of-age appetites can be sated with a quaff such as the restaurant's own Thai tea-ni ($8), a blend of tea-infused and vanilla vodkas, sweetened Thai tea, and milk, sure to whet whistles and inspire whistles and soft-shoe routines of admiration.
Zuma's extensive Highland and Toco Hill menus showcase a plethora of traditional and innovative sushi rolls, sashimi, and nigiri, made from the freshest ocean-plucked fish available. Lounge at the Highland spot with an order of lobster tempura ($14.50) for a crunchy accompaniment to the ihi pokki, boasting yellowfin tuna that hangs out with a spicy free-wheelin' crowd of sriracha and scallions ($7.50). Poultry enthusiasts at the Toco Hill eatery can enjoy the deep-fried confines of the chicken katsu ($11.50), and maki lovers can watch the scallop and mayo explosion of the Super Volcano roll ($14) from the safety of their magma-proof chairs. With its cold noodles and delectable dipping sauce, the zaru soba ($5.95) sates Far East pasta pangs.
The new year is a time for introspection and the setting of resolutions, with goals such as eating healthier, joining a gym, or no longer stealing the neighbor's parrot. Celebrate one last night of parrot-snatching with today's Groupon: for $79, you get one ticket to a New Years Eve party at Shout on December 31 at 7 p.m.