As the most populous city in the world, Shanghai has been shaped by travelers and settlers from all over. This is particularly evident in the city's food, which has been influenced by the culinary styles from both the northern and southern regions of China, as well as dishes from throughout the entire continent of Asia. This cultural integration holds true at Shanghai Café, where the chefs use recipes the Hu family has spent the past half-century perfecting. These recipes follow various Shanghai cooking principles—for instance, the original flavors of meats and fish are allowed to shine through rather than being drowned out by heavy marinades or sauces that are too sweet or salty.
Though the recipes are traditional, they respect modern, healthful eating habits by incorporating natural broths and stocks and limiting the use of oil. Some of the restaurant's signature dishes include boiled dumplings, steamed pork buns, and dim sum—a Shanghai staple. In the spirit of Shanghai's pan-Asian tendencies, the menus also include Thai dishes, such as pad kee mao (drunken noodles), nigiri, sashimi, and maki.
Old Kimura treats visitors to feasts of maki and sashimi made from ocean-fresh tuna, eel, and salmon, as well as umami udon broths and tempura dishes. The restaurant seats visitors in an atmosphere of red lanterns, blossoms, and simple, angular furnishings of solid wood, creating a charming Japanese backdrop for meals of noodle soup and teriyaki chicken. Seafood fans can line up at the bar to dine on specialty rolls and watch the masterful work of the sushi chef⎯who blends the culinary knowledge of a seasoned gourmand with the knife skills of a renaissance-fair employee.
Wasabi Zen's chefs slice, dice, and coil savory morsels of crab, eel, salmon, and fried shrimp into more than 50 sushi rolls splashed with mild and spicy sauces. Pay homage to Mother Nature without building her another recyclable spice rack by sampling the Green Tree roll ($10.95), an epicurean jungle lush with crab, cucumber, eel, and masago. The Hawaiian Sunset roll ($11.95) invokes tropical vistas through its plethora of salmon and pineapple, and the Hot Knight roll ($14.95)—an off-menu item available by request— jousts taste buds with fried shrimp and spiced shrimp and crab. Alternatively, dishes of traditional aged tofu ($5.95) or edamame ($4.95) offer meat-free options that forgo the tossing and turning of salads and soy-tracked rollercoasters.
Otani Japanese Steak & Seafood falls into a familiar rhythm around mealtimes. Chefs man tabletop hibachi grills and sear platefuls of filet mignon, scallops, or chicken right in front of patrons while entertaining them with witty banter, dexterous displays of culinary skill, and their ability to peel shrimp telepathically. Meanwhile, the sushi chefs avoid open flames entirely as they carefully tuck lobster, spring mix, or wasabi aioli into their signature rolls. The entire staff matches the friendly, energetic service of the chefs, striving to greet every guest by name by their second or even first visit.
It's early in the day when the airplanes land on Virginia soil, bearing fresh seafood from such far-off places as Maine, Hawaii, and Japan. Lumbering trucks transport the cargo to the little town of Sterling, where Hooked Seafood & Sushi Bar chefs await to fillet and prepare the catches for the night's dinner. The sushi chefs carve plump morsels of eel, tuna, and scallops in traditional Japanese style before rolling them into intricate rolls adorned with mango, caviar, and tempura. Meanwhile, other chefs tend to grills of sizzling teriyaki dishes and simmering pans of lemongrass halibut and stuffed trout. The Hooked team has been crafting these fresh sushi dishes and innovative specialties for the last six years, earning accolades from Northern Virginia Magazine and Taste of Reston in the process.
Vibrant photographs of the chef's dishes flash across the flat screen in the sleek dining room, casting a glow on the tall stools that line the sushi bar. Cushy booths surround vibrant red tables, and glimmering curtains dangle above the dining room. On the outdoor patio, a dancing fountain gushes with streams of water alongside a central fireplace roaring with flames. The staff strives to recreate an apropos oceanic atmosphere at the restaurant, lighting up seating areas in shades of turquoise and sea-green and requiring all servers to master basic seal calls.
The sushi senseis at Nippon Japanese Restaurant tuck innovative tastes into Japanese dishes and a vibrantly stocked sushi menu that includes two dozen varieties of the chef’s signature rolls. Launch sushi adventures with the firecracker roll’s eel, avocado, and cream cheese contents crowned by salmon and spicy crab salad ($10.95). The Hottie Surprise’s shrimp tempura, crab, and cucumber ($11.95) giggle beneath a blanket of spicy tuna and crunchy yam, waiting to jump out and startle the tonsils, who will then chastise the naughty ingredients. Chefs slice the sashimi of the day into 15 thin pieces for the sashimi deluxe entree ($24.95), and pack a selection of bento boxes with choice meats alongside sautéed veggies, fried shumai, a mashed-potato croquette, and savory sides. Adventurous duos can commandeer a Nippon sushi boat for two ($51.95), which sets sail with a motley 18-piece sushi crew captained by a chef's special roll with peg legs made of chopsticks.
When he's not busy passing down the history and art of sushi making to his students, executive chef Hiro-san practices what he preaches behind the bar. He incorporates ingredients such as cured mackerel and bean curd into his hand-formed nigiri, and his traditional and fusion maki include components such as shiitake mushrooms and fried jalapeño rolled in seaweed. Diners also can order sushi alternatives, from vegetable udon to broiled chilean sea bass marinated in sake seasoning. An extensive selection of sake, beer, and wine washes down meals, which unfold in Obi Sushi's spacious lower dining room. Upstairs, three shoji screens shelter private feasts for up to 25 people, creating more privacy than a group of sumo wrestlers guarding the table.