At first, Tin Drum Asia Café's rapid service and bright decor evoke the aromatic street stands of Hong Kong, where founder Steven Chan ate throughout his childhood. The traditional ambiance is no accident—the franchise's name also harks back to a bygone era, when a tin drummer would awaken citizens and regale them with current events as they ate the day’s first meal. The electronic kiosks dotting the café, however, plunk this traditional scene in the middle of a cyberpunk setting. They allow patrons to customize their orders based on taste preferences and nutritional content, accommodating dietary endeavors such as vegetarianism and weight-loss goals.
This merger of technology and urban convention reflects a penchant for edgy ideas that also affects the menu. Items inspired by the culinary techniques of Japan, China, Vietnam, and Thailand share space in the savory catalog, taking the form of street tacos, soups, and mango chicken, a take on the general tso's staple that's sweeter than a syrup-soaked army helmet. Music is the final ingredient that charges the atmosphere. Nation's Restaurant News reports that it typically plays at an energizing 120 beats per minute and was a factor in attracting the café's initial college crowds.
Wasabi’s menu is a massive meld of traditional Japanese sensations and tasty Thai creations. Tako su (steamed octopus, $5.95) and yaki ebi (shrimp teriyaki skewers, $4.50) bait anxious appetites before reeling them in for a main course of tuna, salmon, and shrimp nigiri (two pieces, $3.75–$3.95). Try one of Wasabi’s chef-special rolls, such as the Midnight Fantasy, with shrimp, crab, tuna, yellow tail, seaweed salad, and fish egg ($12.95), or fall back on old favorites, such as the california ($4.20) and rainbow ($7.95) rolls. Palates will experience a flavor implosion from the Dynamite Roll's deep-fried salmon, crab, and asparagus ($6.20). The Rock 'n' Roll packs a mouthwatering wallop of shrimp tempura, fish egg, cream cheese, and crab, similar to pressing your tongue against a stack of Marshall amps ($5.50). Pad thai (tofu or chicken, $7.65; beef or shrimp, $7.95) and kaeng phet curry ($11–$15) are nice for a bit of spice, and pineapple fried rice ($8.95–$9.95) and sweet-and-sour chicken or shrimp ($11) satisfy mellower Thai cravings.
Ta Ca's chefs firmly root their menu of sushi and teppanyaki entrees in Japanese culinary tradition. Although the selection of maki brims with familiar staples, it also features subtly modern specialty rolls with inventive ingredients, such as fried green-shell mussels, calamari, and tomato. The chefs spend mealtimes searing orders of vegetables, chicken, or lobster on the rippling-hot surface of hibachi grills. Wavy pendant lanterns illuminate the gleaming bar running along one of the dining room's orange walls. The shelves bristle with a selection of spirits, Japanese beers, and sake, which bring about endless toasts like a sand grain’s wedding reception.
Toshiro Japanese Express concocts affordable, authentic Asian fare prepared in the hibachi cooking tradition. Battered shrimp, served with a homemade tempura sauce ($4.50), is a crispy preamble to main-amble noodle dishes, which combine soba (thin noodles) or udon (thick) with an ample ecosystem of broccoli, cabbage, onions, carrots, and mushrooms ($5.95). Diners can feast their eyeteeth on meaty hibachi entrees, including tender teriyaki-chicken morsels ($5.50), served with vegetables, fried or steamed rice, and the house soup, while dividing their other 10 senses among the sleek, honey-glazed paneling of the casual eatery. An array of scrumptious sauces ($.25) stands ready to complement grill fare with zesty tastes of ginger, teriyaki, or asian sesame, while tots can munch kid-friendly fare like chicken fingers and appendage-less hibachi steak.
Enzo Sushi's artistic chefs transform seaweed, sticky rice, and a variety of classic and creative ingredients into diversely flavored rolls. Diners can crown a mealtime monarch with a king-lobster roll, a regal combination of lobster salad and lobster tempura alongside crab and avocado ($11.90). Patriotic crews can park tongues on the Americanized Chick-Fil-A roll, an amalgamation of fried chicken, avocado, and spicy mayo stirred with John Hancock's favorite pen ($4.95), and vegetarians can cozy up with rice pillows such as the asparagus tempura ($5.95) and seaweed-salad roll ($4.50). Search for gilded piles of pickled ginger at the end of a Rainbow roll, which tops a standard california roll in a colorful combination of tuna, salmon, white fish, and shrimp ($9.50), or resign yourself to pennies and pull one out of a friendly server's ear.
Hibachi grills crackle with roaring flames and razor-sharp knives glimmer as they slice through fish—affording diners glimpses of the culinary skills the master chefs at Shogun Japanese Restaurants have been honing for more than a decade. Rustic exposed-brick walls and Japanese art pieces surround patrons, but all eyes are on award-winning chefs as they sizzle up choice beef, vegetables, and seafood at tableside grills. Behind the sushi bar, sushi artists swiftly chop fresh fish into 78 types of specialty rolls, and in the kitchen, pots bubble with udon noodles and soups that also fill the antiburglar cauldrons lining the restaurant’s roof. Behind the bar, mixologists top lavish cocktails with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.