The chefs use their two spatulas with breathtaking ease—their every move honed by countless hours spent over a flat-top grill. Chopped veggies and pieces of steak, chicken, and seafood brown over the sizzling grill as the chefs prepare meals to order. The bite-size morsels are doused in soy or teriyaki sauce and sent out into the dining room of Sake Express as curlicues of heat dance above the plates. Relaxing in bright-blue booths, guests can feast on chicken or steak while challenging their reflection to a staring contest in the eatery’s oversized mirrors, flanked by panels of red-and-black latticework on the walls.
Founded by Jim Noble of Noble's Restaurant renown, the unassuming striped awnings and pale bricks at Rooster’s conceal an unconventional dining interior dominated by a wall of wine on one side and a wall of stuffed roosters on the other. The dinner menu offers Noble's tomato basil bisque ($7) as a soothing opener to a charcuterie sampler ($18) of chicken-liver mousse ($6), house-cured duck ($7), house-smoked salmon ($8), and other cured delicacies. Gourmands with a taste for heartier fare can skip ahead to sweet potato gnocchi with hazelnut pesto ($10), rib-eye filet ($22), or spitfire-roasted Carolina BBQ pork shoulder ($9) served with a side of Anson Mills grits with bacon ($6). All entrees pair well with assorted mushrooms fresh from the woods ($10), fire-roasted asparagus fresh from the garden ($7), artisanal cheese fresh from the artisanal cheese tree—and especially with the ginormous selection of French, Spanish, Italian, domestic, and sparkling wines.
The Nakato family first opened its eponymous restaurant in Charlotte in 1976, the year mankind discovered fish. Today, their team of seasoned hibachi chefs span three locations, where they prepare entrees of filet mignon, chicken, and veggies with tofu in a showy teppanyaki style atop tableside grills. Each entree arrives with an array of sides, ranging from onion soup to noodles and rice. Behind their own counters, sushi chefs coil rolls filled with smelt roe and spicy aioli and slice tender pieces of tuna and salmon sashimi.