From the bustling streets of Times Square to the equally vivacious streets of Hong Kong, people walk around with smiles after enjoying the japanese barbecue cuisine at Gyu-Kaku. The restaurant has more than 700 locations worldwide, each rooted in the belief that some of the strongest bonds between friends are forged at the dinner table. Groups dine on a huge variety of Japanese dishes, from popular meat and veggie dishes such as Harami Skirt Steak, Kalbi Short Rib, and Bacon-wrapped Asparagus - to unique Japanese-American appetizers such as the Spicy Tuna Volcano, Wasabi Crunchy Shrimp, and Ahi Tuna Poke. The real excitement takes place around individual grills, however, where diners can barbecue their own slabs of filet mignon, ahi tuna, or chicken with chili mayo until they are ideally tender or encircled by on-duty firemen.
Diners take the reins and forge their own meals at Ka Shabu, an upscale Asian-style fondue joint in downtown Huntington Beach. Premium meats such as Kobe and Angus beef, chicken, salmon, and shrimp simmer in pots according to Ka Shabu's cooking guide before guests fish out the morsels and dip them in customizable sauces alongside fresh veggies, udon and rice noodles, and steamed white or brown rice. Even though all the meal-preparing power and palm-reading information lies in patrons' hands, Ka Shabu's friendly attendants always wait nearby to assist with any questions. Inside the eatery, wood-accented tables and chairs surround a grand open kitchen and a bar that serves up martinis and flavor-infused sakes.
The seasoned chefs at Tsunami Sushi augment their tableside cooking techniques with dazzling dramatics, including knife twirling and spatula slinging, as they slice, dice, and sizzle morsels of chicken, steak, and fish atop traditional Japanese teppanyaki-style grills. Sushi gurus also prepare fresh sushi and sashimi rolls as an alternative or supplement to cooked offerings. The full bar offers a lengthy list of liquid meal enhancers, including wine, imported beers, and sake. Valet parking grants patrons a reprieve from finding a space or learning the ancient art of sedan levitation.
When it comes to cooking, Daimon chefs have a flair for the dramatic. The chefs, like U.S. Presidents during their State of the Union addresses, have the power to summon theatrical flames on command, sizzling up strips of chicken, kobe beef, and seafood over tableside teppanyaki grills. Meanwhile, behind the sleek bar, skilled sushi chefs slice up fresh fish before adorning rolls with sprigs of carrots and swirls of sauces. The bartenders are equally creative, blending liquors and fruit juices into colorful cocktails with imaginative names like "Pink Dragon" or "Ferrari Margi."
The atmosphere is bright and energetic in the trendy dining rooms, where vibrant neon sea creatures speckle the walls and soft blue lights cast an oceanic hue onto the massive booths. All the while, an animated crowd surrounds the bar, swilling sake bombs as they snack on sushi or fried rice playfully arranged into the shape of a heart.
Geisha House, a modern Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, fuses classic dishes and sushi rolls with a contemporary flair in a chic interpretation of a traditional geisha house. The Cowboy roll ($12) lassos fillet of beef, asparagus, scallion and cream cheese, and the surf 'n' turf roll ($22) combines lobster and filet mignon in a sweet sesame-miso sauce. The chef prepares grilled mongolian lamb chop with creamy sesame and cucumber salad ($21), and gently lulls baby japanese eggplant ($11) to sleep with sweet miso and wasabi cream sauce and a hypnotic battle rap. The 10-ounce grilled Kobe rib eye steak ($46) plunges into Asian barbecue dipping sauce and comes flanked by sautéed asparagus life preservers.
Japanese-European Fusion | Award-Winning Cuisine | Upscale Sushi Bar | Imported Drinks | Tasting Menu
Where to Sit: To get a view of the sushi maestros in action, request a seat at the sushi counter.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Wasa Sushi at the Market Place (13124 Jamboree Road, Irvine) serves fish so fresh that, according to the Orange County Register, "[it] tastes like it was just snatched from the sea."