Chefs at Kampai Japanese Steak House man their hibachis with skill, flipping and twirling their gleaming utensils as they carefully cook meats such as filet mignon, lobster tail, and shrimp. As customers' meals sizzle before their eyes, chefs keep them entertained by telling jokes and anecdotes about their first job as a baton twirler. The floating sushi bar is no less inventive. Wooden boats stocked with fresh pieces of sushi and tiny shuffleboard teams float in an open tank from which diners can pluck their choice of morsels (the sushi menu also offers made-to-order options). Although the food preparation is entertaining, it does not upstage the taste. Kampai's head chef, Suki, has traveled extensively to search out quality ingredients for his sauces, in which he strives to blend Eastern cuisine with worldwide flavors.
Chefs imbue Zakuro Thai Sushi Cuisine's intimate dining room with the aromas of traditional Thai noodle dishes, fried rice, and seven types of curry. For dinner, they craft specialties such as deep-fried soft-shell crab with basil sauce, served with vegetables and a choice of white, brown, or fried rice. At the sushi counter, chefs hand-roll maki including the Hollywood, layering spicy tuna and shrimp tempura inside kelp or soybean paper and topping the bundle with fried onions and seared Cajun albacore. The softly lit restaurant boasts wood floors, Asian figurines, and tall, twig-like accents that are lit from beneath, casting spindly shapes on the walls like two saplings making shadow puppets.
Orchid’s 7,000 square feet of sleek feasting space invites diners to sample a smorgasbord of contemporary pan-Asian cuisine featuring fresh sushi, hearty Korean barbecue, sweet Thai curries, and more. Entrees such as the braised Korean short ribs ($22) and the Thai green curry with shrimp ($16) detonate saucy taste explosions along thin red lip lines. Chlorophyll-friendly options include the vegetarian dinner plate ($15), a meatless medley of tofu steak, seaweed salad, kabocha mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables glazed in a miso-teriyaki sauce. For professional chopstick twirlers, Orchid offers an expansive selection of specialty sushi, including Crunch Melt, with shrimp tempura, cream cheese, and melted mozzarella, drizzled with unagi sauce ($14), and Salmon Obsession, a savory mix of fried and fresh salmon ($16) named in honor of Calvin Klein's best-selling portable grill.
Maki Sushi & Noodle Shop earned city-worthy praise in both the Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune for the elegant simplicity that characterizes both its menu and décor. Japanese letters run down the floor-to-ceiling murals that color the bright eatery’s mint-green walls, flanking a sushi bar centerpiece where more than 20 seats rest courtside as master chefs prepare soft shell crab, homemade dumplings, and crispy rangoons. They also churn out fresh sashimi and dozens of signature maki rolls including Crazy Crunch filled with tuna, salmon, yellowtail and tempura crunch topped with wasabi mayo and unagi sauce. The clean lines of the eatery’s exposed brick pillars and polished wood-grain floors spill over into lunchtime bento boxes, which compartmentalize protein such as crabmeat fried rice or chicken katsu. Delicate flutes of martini glasses filled with fruit-infused takes on the classic cocktail. Equipped with a glass-enclosed wine cellar, Maki Sushi’s lower level lounge plays host to private get-togethers, corporate happy hours, and very short games of hide-and-seek.
At Hokkaido Sushi Hibachi Steak House and Lounge—named after Japan's second-largest and northernmost main island, Hokkaido—highly trained chefs entertain both family gatherings and intimate dates at the hibachi table and prepare fresh sushi with salmon, tuna, squid, scallop, sea bass, and other cuts of seafood. The in-ground fish tank that circles the entire bar illuminates platefuls of teppanyaki filet mignon and crispy shrimp tempura. Nearby in the LED-laden Vegas-inspired eatery, a team of sushi chefs rolls slices of tuna, yellowtail, salmon, and asparagus inside a sheet of seaweed in the signature Crazy maki roll. Additional maki ingredients include unagi, cream cheese, jalapenos, and tempura soft shell crab.