Named Hill Country News' 2010 Best International Cuisine, Hayashi concocts innovative sushi and sashimi platters ($18.95–25.95), seafood entrees ($11–$38.95), and tempura ice creams using only fresh ingredients. Owner and executive chef Lin Cheng, the winner of Austin's 2009 Asia Food Fest Iron Chef –style competition, takes pride in crafting a variety of homemade sauces to complement signature appetizers such as the chilean sea bass ($15), with sauteed spinach and a mango-miso sauce. Post-sushification, diners can relax at the full bar while taking in the latest episode of diabolical Japanese game shows such as Blindfold Mountain or Which Box Holds the Fire Ants? on one of the two projection-screen TVs.
Diners watch, transfixed, as a chef deftly chops, flips, and sears their meal in front of them while flames leap from the grill. This is Shogun Grill, where customers are often just a seat away from the culinary action.
The griddle-cooked teppenyaki dishes aren’t just for show, either. Packed with fresh chicken, steak, and vegetables, the entrees sate taste buds whose idea of a Japanese meal is more than just tipping a few soy-sauce packets into your mouth. The chefs also whip up fresh sushi starring salmon, eel, soft-shell crab, and smelt eggs.
Glowing wall sconces bring out the light mint hue of the dining room’s walls––a nod to the restaurant’s name, Midori, which means green in Japanese. While skilled chefs wrap spicy tuna and tobiko in fresh seaweed and rice, decorative boat platters of salmon and yellowtail sashimi sail across the sprawling sushi bar to waiting patrons. Though the Japanese restaurant specializes in seafood and handcrafted rolls, it’s only a part of the kitchen’s wheelhouse, which produces stir-fried yakisoba noodles and chicken drenched in rich teriyaki. Diners may also honor Midori’s name with a few scoops of green-tea ice cream, which gives an extra kick to the evening more easily than a third leg.
Taking traditional culinary techniques and squeezing them through a filter of modern influences, Nagoya Steak and Sushi refines its menu of familiar Japanese cuisine. Manning tabletop hibachi grills, chefs entertain their hungry audiences by juggling utensils and causing the grills' surfaces to spout flames while they sear orders of chicken, steak, and lobster. Back in the kitchen, another team of chefs sets about topping crispy fillets of red snapper with lime-chili sauce and glazing tuna steaks with teriyaki-balsamic blends.
Striving to create more delicate–yet equally enticing–dishes, sushi chefs fill plates with meticulously sliced sashimi and carefully folded rolls. While the maki selection features a number of traditional sushi-house staples, it also includes the restaurant's own custom-designed creations. Featuring such premium ingredients as lobster tempura, filet mignon, and individually steamed rice grains, these signature rolls offer a fancy dining experience akin to picnicking atop a blimp.
Kenobi provides a diverse menu of authentic Japanese cuisine in a beautiful dining environment. Myriad "tasting" portions of succulent dishes such as lobster gyoza dumplings ($8), made with lobster, shrimp, goat cheese, and unagi sauce, deliciously preface the entree chapters. Offerings such as the miso Chilean sea bass ($23) keep the edible pages turning. Artful creations such as the rib eye ($22) topped with grilled yakitori sauce, and served with wasabi mashed potatoes and spicy broccilini increase the anticipatory hunger thrill. Sushi dishes include combinations ($11–$17) or house specialty rolls such as the brandy ($9), made with shrimp tempura, smoked salmon, avocado, cream cheese, tempura crisp, unagi sauce, and toasted sesame. The Kobe beef ($13) is self-seared on a tableside hibachi, harkening back to the days when all food was prepared next to the dinner table and pillows were stuffed and sewn each night at the bedside.
With an eclectic eye developed over years of national competition, Chef Choo of Afin Modern Japanese Tapas weaves a rich tapestry of Japanese fare with contemporary flair. Staples such as the velvety anago, grilled whole with honey, fresh ginger, and an onion salsa ($19), appear on the entrée menu alongside miso gravlax ($20), a Scottish salmon marinated in miso and sake for 24 hours, the exact time it takes to travel from Scotland to Japan by snowshoe. The sushi menu features intricately constructed à la carte nigiri including the zesty pistachio'd salmon belly ($3.50) and dozens of tightly-wound rolls ($5.50–$16) such as the special Kryptonite roll ($15), which snuggles three types of tuna with avocado, shrimp, and wasabi tobiko.