Both Oishi Japanese Restaurant's locations showcase Asian-inspired décor, from the ceiling covered in bamboo accents to the marble-topped sushi bar framed by a glass case of seafood. Chefs entertain lunch and dinner diners with "fire shows" at hibachi grills where they sear vegetables, seafood, meat, and wrinkled shirts. Diners also cozy up to unfinished wood tables and booths as servers deliver spreads of Japanese steakhouse cuisine, fresh sushi rolls, and desserts.
Deciding to call a restaurant and bar “Cheap” seems like a bold move, but it might not mean what you think it means. The owners, who had gained insight into guests’ needs through their other spots—Hyde Park Café, Whiskey Park, and the Kennedy—wanted to name this new eatery something that would serve as a daily reminder of their mission: to always exceed customers’ expectations. And, aside from the prices, cheap is one thing they plan to never be called. Housed inside a brick building, Cheap blends fun, eclectic decor throughout, including low-hanging birdcage lamps over tabletops surrounded by hot-pink chairs. Likewise, the menus—four of them, specifically, along with drink and dessert lists—create unexpected culinary fusions by combining a range of international flavors. The signature Cheap menu mingles classic sushi rolls with tuna tacos and fresh ceviche, a tapas-inspired menu fuses empanadas and meat skewers with hearty rib-eye steaks, and menus of sliders and pizzas bring the flavor smorgasbord home again.
A samurai uniform stands proudly behind glass, welcoming patrons into Joto Japanese Restaurant. The suit's gleaming black mask reflects a sushi bar with a cerulean awning and seats the deep red of raw bluefin tuna. There, the hands of chefs flutter over such eclectic ingredients as pineapple, baked crab, and smelt, twisting them into rolls with names such as Fly to Hawaii, What Saapp, and Screaming Tuna. The wind tousles the leaves of potted plants on a small outdoor patio, where toasting glasses unleash the soft clinks of a xylophonist’s ghost.
Sushi Tsu's talented hibachi chefs create savory masterpieces in a jaw-dropping tornado of blades on the restaurant's grill tables, while skilled sushi rollers craft novel seafood bites. The hibachi menu bursts with Eastern appetizers, including gyoza fried dumplings ($6) and tempura-battered strips of alligator tail ($8). Showboating chefs, each of whom have apprenticed for at least two years under the owner's masterful eye, forge beef teriyaki ($17) and succulent Teppanyaki scallops ($20.50), exciting adrenaline and salivary glands like a ruptured nacho-cheese pipeline. Sushi Tsu’s avant-garde rice rollers eschew humdrum rolls in favor of the eclectic mexican roll ($6) and the lightning roll, an electrifying amalgam of baked salmon skin, wasabi, and fresh veggies ($7). Diners can also grease their fast-working mouthparts with a bubbly selection of Japanese beers ($4+).
The diners can feel the heat of the charcoal grill, its sweltering vapor wafting sweet and smoky aromas from the marinated short-ribs sizzling at the center of the table. Surrounding the grill like spectators at a sports match, more than a dozen small bowls display a colorful assemblage of sautéed, blanched, and pickled veggies, each awaiting their fate to crown a slice of seared meat or mingle with a pillow of white rice. This is Korean-style barbecue, Rice Restaurant & Market’s specialty. Alongside the DIY feasts, chefs work in the kitchen to impart a Korean edge on stir-fry, stews, and noodle dishes, forging each morsel from scratch and often with ingredients grown in the owner's garden, according to the Tampa Bay Times. As tableside grills crackle in the rear of the restaurant, suffusive lighting finds its way beneath the awnings of private booths. A libation expert pours cocktails, sake, and traditional soju from behind a full bar, and on special nights, a late-night menu replenishes energy levels in between spins on the dance floor, where dancers fuel moves both with the beats of a live DJ and by convincing feet that the dance floor is a Korean grill.
Dale Del Bello remembers everything about his first hibachi experience. While stationed in Korea as a part of the Air Force National Guard, Dale and a group of friends visited Tokyo on leave. They followed a traditional route among his fellow service people, which took him to a hibachi restaurant. Immediately he sensed that he’d stumbled upon more than just dinner. The chefs’ showmanship fascinated him as they seared meats and vegetables on their tabletop grills, allowing guests to sample forkfuls directly off the 600-degree surface. After returning to Buffalo, New York, in 1971, Dale opened his first Arigato location, attempting to recreate what made that dining experience so remarkable. Since then, he has distilled the authentic experience into something that families can enjoy without traveling abroad, establishing Arigato restaurants throughout New York and Florida and staffing them with more than 60 chefs from Japan.
Surrounded by 8–10 diners, these chefs act not only as the restaurant’s culinary creators, but also as showmen and magicians of sorts, dexterously slicing ingredients, flipping shrimp tails into their hats, and conjuring soy sauce out of thin air. Away from the flaming tabletops, meanwhile, bartenders make use of their own skill sets as they mix specialty cocktails, which occasionally use splashes of plum wine or sake to imbue familiar-sounding drinks with new dimension.
Shogun Sushi's Manhattan-trained chef rolls a bounty of eye-catching sushi rolls alongside the menu's eclectic selection of classic Japanese entrees. Appetizers include beef negimaki ($6.25), thin slices of teriyaki-broiled beef that wrap themselves around zesty scallions to disguise themselves as sushi rolls in an attempt to fool steak-knife search parties. Fried asparagus, bacon, and tuna entwine within the Longly Angel roll ($13.95), crowned with three kinds of fresh fish and a rainbow of colorful tobiko, and the Russian Roulette roll ($11.95) protects its tender interior of spicy tuna, masago, and cucumber with a vivid shield of tuna and spicy mayo. The kitchen also whips up a range of grilled and golden-fried delights, including teriyaki, tempura, and curry dishes ($10.95–$18.95), which complement uncooked edibles like a midnight french-fry soirée in the grocery store produce aisle.