Traditional Japanese culture dictates that the hearth of the house is the heart of the house—a common space where family and friends broke bread together. The robata restaurant takes that concept further, typically by making a fiery grill the centerpiece of the dining room. Mr. and Mrs. Shindo, the owners of Robata of Tokyo, aim to capture a familial, welcoming atmosphere, where you can sample a wide range of Japanese cuisine spanning sushi, tempura, and hibachi grilling.
Cooking is theatre at Robata: take a seat at the sushi bar to watch the chef prepare both traditional and unique sushi rolls. The Halloween roll features salmon, avocado, and masago. You can also watch as chefs at the hibachi grill slice and dice meat and veggies and serve it directly to patrons. A full bar is on hand, too, serving sake and beer.
The ingredients used in Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisine are vastly different, as are the methods of preparation. At Zhuang's Garden, they come together in surprising ways. Eight crackling hibachi-grill tables and a sushi bar represent Japan, and Chinese décor and the aromas of lo mein hint at the traditions of that nation. Glasses of wine clink together above plates of Thai food at the BYOB eatery, where the dishes include curry that is the brilliant yellow of turmeric or a banana salesman’s business card.
In the evening, Kugo Steakhouse & Sushi Bar's chefs fire up their hibachi grills and begin to slice chicken and juggle seafood with panache, as nearby sushi chefs wrap fresh ingredients into tasty rolls. Noontime diners can opt for teriyaki lunchboxes or specials that include two or three sushi rolls.
Sakura Japanese Cuisine traffics in time-tested Japanese dishes. Sushi dinners highlight chef-selected sampler platters and old-fashioned hand rolls, some of which are crafted with ingredients that are rarely seen stateside, such as plum paste and a fermented-soybean delicacy known as natto. Chefs also whip up traditional entrees, including lightly fried vegetable tempura, shrimp teriyaki with miso soup, and hibachi-grilled steak. They even make authentic sukiyaki hot pots, which come accompanied by morsels of beef or chicken that you cook right at the table—just like anything served at that restaurant on sun.
The penchant for modernity at o-toro recently caught the eye and taste buds of County Lines magazine’s staff, which named it one of Philly’s Best New Ventures of 2013. The restaurant’s track lighting illuminates a contemporary scene marked by wooden fixtures, vibrant splotches of red and orange, and plates of Japanese cuisine with Mexican, Korean, and American influences. Sushi, sashimi, and specialty rolls—such as the signature o-toro roll with fatty tuna tartar, spicy mayo, and jalapeño—are served alongside tapas-style plates of filet mignon dumplings, duck tacos, and skewers of Korean-style fried chicken. At the polished wooden bar, bartenders pour wine, sake, and craft beer.
While scanning the pages of Nooddi Thai Chef's eclectic and lengthy menu amid the eatery's oceanic murals, eyes are forced to stop at words that stand out against the traditional "dumpling," "curry," and "satay." The kitchen staff's specialties cause these double takes on a daily basis, as they introduce eccentric proteins such as wild boar in a garlic red curry sauce or sautéed alligator in an aromatic herb sauce. In addition to their Thai classics, the cooks assemble flavors from across Asia, including those in Vietnamese pho, Japanese yakisoba, and Indonesian mee goreng.