The sound of fire. The igniting exhalation before the steady breath of the flame sustains. The heat pulsing steadily outward from the steel grill—you feel it on your glowing face. But the chef looks cool. He’s a master, after all; a flat, metal spatula in one hand and an enormous, sharp knife in the other. Kani House’s teppanyaki tables are no strangers to the action of hibachi, where these chefs entertain their guests before plating seared steak and scallops alongside fresh, sautéed vegetables. The steady sushi masters may not share their compatriots’ outward exuberance, but their work is just as delicious. From behind their long bar, they assemble maki cylinders with tender cuts of fatty tuna and bright salmon, artfully arranging cuts of more than 50 specialty rolls in the shape of gentle caterpillars or fearsome members of the Japanese Diet. Bright bamboo panels and natural stone add to the vibrant ambiance, surrounding diners with dark-wood and nuanced accents that keep the focus on the beauty of excellent cuisine.
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.
True to its name, Maki Fresh crafts all of their dishes?from traditional sushi to their unique maki sliders?the moment guests place their order. Beyond classic sushi rolls, the menu features sashimi-grade fish arranged into unorthodox dishes. For example, a hibachi bowl comes with carrots, cucumbers, and spicy sauce atop filet, and burgers surprise taste buds with the interplay of pickles, maki spicy sauce, and tempura onion rings. Maki's chefs ramp up production for catering services, and host private parties of up to 30 people in the Atlanta location's private dining room.
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.
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.
At Kuroshio Sushi Bar and Grille, sushi creations and other beautifully presented dishes could double as artwork. The "Crazy" roll, for instance, includes unagi and avocado rolled together, then topped with spicy snow crab salad and tobiko?but the bright reds, greens and, carefully presented rolls first serve as something to stare at in admiration. The menu includes a wide range of inventive specialty rolls, plus appetizers such as crispy egg rolls and calamari, edamame, and hot wok shrimp.