• For $17, you get $35 worth of Japanese fare and sushi during dinner. • For $8, you get $16 worth of Japanese fare and sushi during lunch. Irashiai's chefs parade an extensive menu of handmade sashimi, nigiri, and maki before diners in the restaurant's new location. Black-caviar sashimi ($3.50 for lunch, $3.75 for dinner) admits diners into elegance like a butler's secret handshake, and nigiri aficionados can sample sticky rice topped with such offerings as fried oyster ($2.00) or shrimp ($1.50). The island roll with panko fried tuna, citrus tobiko, and ponzu sauce ($6.95) tickles taste buds with tropical flavors without committing the faux pas of eating a lei. Yakisoba sautéed with thin egg noodles ($8.50) brims with chicken and veggies captured before they could set out on their morning swim, and a wide variety of bento boxes and lunch combos frolics beneath the restaurant's wasabi-green walls.
At Sogo Fusion, monkey rolls come arranged in tidy rows across a square plate, piled high with mounds of tempura seafood that lend the rolls the appearance of squat, tiny huts. The monkey roll is just one of dozens of artfully arranged platters. Chefs strive to match their creative presentations with equally inspired ingredients: tempura-battered seafood stars in many of the rolls, a crisp and savory batter complementing the bright flavors of mango and kiwi. In addition to sushi, they grill up Japanese hibachi entrees and simmer spicy Thai curries, which ensure that chopsticks stay too busy to assist with diners’ walrus impressions.
The culinary authors at Utage Athens Sushi Bar compose compelling nonfiction masterpieces about tasty Japanese cuisine. The 10-piece lobster-roll dish, a maki plate, weaves avocado, cucumber, lettuce, and masago into a flavorful fabric of deep-fried lobster ($12.50). Utage stultifies hunger with 26 varieties of authentic raw nigiri, one for each human sense.
Sushi fans will find plenty of familiar favorites at Inoko Sushi Express, including standards like spicy tuna rolls, tempura crab-stuffed spider rolls, and fresh avocado rolls. But the chefs here also put their own creative spin on sushi, whipping up bagel rolls stuffed with salmon and cream cheese, and reconstructing an old staple, the California roll, by breading and deep-frying the entire thing. Beyond sushi, they also craft traditional Japanese entrees like chicken katsu, or hibachi specialties like chicken and mango teriyaki. And they don't just cater to the lunch- and dinner-time crowds: three nights a week, Inoko Sushi Expres stays open until 1 a.m., tempting night owls and jet-lagged early birds with a special late-night menu.
Ganbei is a Japanese word often said before downing a drink, the same way Americans would say "cheers!" Like its namesake phrase, Ganbei the restaurant conjures an open, congenial atmosphere. The dining room’s modern design lends itself to vibrant nightlife: behind a sleek black bar, liquor bottles glow against a backdrop of neon-green lights; neon-blue chandeliers, like the night’s most dedicated partygoers, dangle from the ceiling.
But the most impressive decor arrives on the stark white plates of the restaurant's menu. Sauces drizzle at angles across specialty rolls such as the Godzilla, a bundle of tempura shrimp, cucumber, cream cheese, and avocado sprinkled with tempura flakes. Sweet shrimp erupt out of the center of a plate, positioned at an angle, and wooden boats creak with the weight of expertly cut sashimi.
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.