Pacific Bistro leads diners through a whirlwind tour of Asia with a menu loaded with hibachi, sushi, and traditional Thai, Laotian, Vietnamese, and Chinese dishes. Begin Eastward adventures by pairing a crab rangoon ($7) starter or edamame ($4) with a libation from the full bar and a field trip permission slip signed by the president. Once tummies are prepped, diners can choose their own adventure with a la carte sushi ($4–$8 for two pieces) or hand the reins to a licensed knife wielder for a carefully diced teriyaki chicken hibachi dinner ($18). Or furnish tables with sumptuous entrees such as pad thai noodles ($12 for chicken, pork, or beef; $14 for shrimp), crispy duck ($25), and mango curry ($14 for chicken, pork, or beef; $16 for shrimp). Meanwhile, diapered diners can use highchairs as a launching pad for launching shrimp tempura ($8) grenades and tossing fried rice ($6–$7) confetti at newlywed birds.
• For $20, you get $40 worth of Asian fare and drinks during dinner. • For $10, you get $20 worth of Asian fare and drinks during lunch. The skilled chefs at Meiji Cuisine, which serves Chinese and Japanese dishes, sear entrees over hibachi grills, roll fresh sushi, and craft Chinese specialties. Prepare for midnight Battleship games against an old sea captain with the War Bar dinner combination, a maritime medley of shrimp, scallops, crabmeat, and squid ($17.95). Hibachi entrees serve up Japanese-style grilled eats with a choice of vegetables and meats, including chicken ($16) and swordfish ($21). During lunch, sample maki sushi combos ($9 for two rolls, $11 for three) that include the eel cucumber roll, smoked eel wrapped in a blanket of eel sauce and lounging on a bed of sticky rice. Or feast on a plate of Chinese-style sweet-and-sour shrimp ($12.75), which leaves diners sweet on their lunch and sour on their afternoon return to work.
SakeZake's fusion of ancient and contemporary tastes extends from the robust menu of specialty sushi rolls to the artfully minimalist dining-room decor. Executive Chef Ahn Yung Jin's classic nigiri shares menu space with specialty rolls that combine fresh fish with eye-catching ingredients such as tempura flakes, jalapeño, and diamond chips. Mock shoji screens and lacquered red chairs give the dining room the air of a modish teahouse, while the funky hourglass lamps keep things as fresh as the sushi-bar offerings. The lounge-like atmosphere is no accident, as SakeZake is open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
In one section of KAWA Japanese Restaurant, the area behind the gauzy paper screens, guests slip out of their shoes and onto a floor pillow to sip sake at a low table. In another, the main room, they gather around the circular, glossy-topped bar at the room's center and admire the billowing red curtains that sweep across the ceiling's exposed piping. Either way, they get to savor the maki, noodles, and lobster servers tote to tables. They can also serve themselves by visiting the sushi buffet or by saying, "Is that Dan Aykroyd over there?" and grabbing other people's food when they look.
Asian Bowl's menu is loaded with both iconic and unique dishes from Thailand and Japan. The roasted duck, a boneless slab of poultry slathered in homemade soy sauce and escorted by pineapples and steamed broccoli ($10.95), represents Thailand's cuisine more effectively than Ms. Thailand dressed in a gown of rice noodles. Patrons can taste the Land of the Rising Sun noodle by noodle with the Japanese tempura soba, which arrives at the table submerged in a seasoned fish broth and accompanied by shrimp and veggie tempura ($8.95), or let their uvulas high-five the seafood delight ($10.95), loaded with fresh shrimp, squid, crab, and scallops, then stir-fried to perfection with veggies and garlic sauce.
There are plenty of intimate tabletops and booths inside Murasaki Japanese & Thai Fusion, but the best seats in the house are arguably stationed in front of tableside hibachi grills. There, diners can marvel at expert chefs, who sizzle cuts of steak, salmon, and shrimp amid dancing flames and trees that have retired as chopsticks. As hibachi masters labor over the grills, sushi chefs create colorful pieces at the sushi station, slicing up fresh fish for sashimi and more than 20 types of specialty rolls—including the Sunshine roll, with tuna, scallion, and yellowtail, which was celebrated by the Rockford Register Star. The Asian fusion restaurant also whips up Thai and Japanese specialties, ranging from spicy pad thai noodles to simmering Japanese udon noodle soups.