As if in competition with Sakura’s playful lemongrass-green hues, the sushi artists twist colorful maki rolls and concoct house-made soy sauce and eel sauce. Whenever possible, they fly in fish in fresh-packed ice and avoid freezing ingredients including seafood, chicken, and beef dipped in golden tempura batter or thick teriyaki. After slathering a california roll with ginger and wasabi, patrons take on the server's challenge of using chopsticks to eat green-tea ice cream or pick up a tear-stained letter from a fork.
After arriving in the United States from his native China, head chef Leon Liang honed his cookery skills at restaurants in Montgomery, Alabama, and Charleston, South Carolina, eventually opening an establishment of his own with Kasai Japanese Restaurant. Taking its name from the Japanese word for joyous celebration, Kasai welcomes diners with a parade of udon noodles, hibachi-style steaks, and a dizzying array of sushi makis and nigiri treats. Like butter sculptures or edible finger paints, each meal blends artistry and gastronomy, enrapturing taste buds and eyeballs with sushi rolls draped in vibrant green avocado and meticulously arranged sashimi platters. Visitors share laughs over tuna and sake at the marble-topped sushi bar, or ensconce themselves in the sheltered back room with traditional cushioned floor seating and a simple, elegant decor of dark hardwood.
The staple of Sushi Rock’s menu is its selection of roughly 50 sushi, sashimi, and maki rolls, which collect multiple Japanese flavors into one neat package. The Sushi Rock roll alone packs a punch of shrimp tempura, crabstick, salmon, tuna, asparagus, and masago. A slate of USDA Prime steaks and fresh seafood entrees such as sesame-seared tuna complement the sushi-bar creations. Each meticulously plated dish arrives in Sushi Rock's ultra-modern dining space, where backlit bottles glisten against a cityscape mural in the bar area, and color blocks of red and black pop in the dimly lit dining areas. Together, Sushi Rock’s choice food and hip vibe earned it a No. 1 ranking on CityVoter's Best Sushi list in 2010.
For more than 25 years, dinners at Hibachi Japanese Steakhouse have come with an impressive fire show. The table-side grills shoot up towers of flame as they sear meats such as filet mignon, scallops, and chicken. To complement the gourmet proteins?served with veggies, fried rice, and steaming bowls of Japanese onion soup?the chefs hand-roll sushi, too. Their creations range from a simple shrimp tempura roll to a california roll topped with five types of fish, from salmon to yellowtail to fillet of Loch Ness Monster.
A few years ago, Clement Liu came to a realization: the quality and authenticity of local Chinese food wasn’t meeting his expectations. So, along with his partner, Yu-Hong Li—who was part of the first generation to open postwar dine-in restaurants in China—Clement took matters into his own hands and opened Li Asian Cuisine.
Both Clement and Yu-Hong boast decades of experience in the Asian-restaurant industry. At Li Asian Cuisine, they augmented their own skills by hiring chefs from numerous Asian backgrounds. That diversity in cooking styles is reflected on the menu, which features regional Chinese cuisine as well as other popular Japanese, Thai, and Mongolian dishes, including sushi and pad thai. Equally pleasing to the eye and palate, those creations are served in a modern but not over-decorated dining room, complete with a full bar and a hibachi-style cooking station.
Mizu’s sushi bar is supplemented by a full kitchen, and together create a menu with more than 80 pan-Asian items. From the sushi bar, patrons can begin with appetizers of tuna tartar before ordering one of 22 specialty rolls, such as the Stop Light with tuna, avocado, mango, and a small camera on the side that records anyone who speeds through eating it too fast. The Mexican roll is a spicy blend of tempura shrimp, tuna, jalapenos, chili sauce, and eel sauce in a green soybean wrap. At lunch and dinner, guests can create their own combination meals with nigiri, maki, or sashimi.
In the kitchen, chefs prepare plates of dumplings and veggie tempura to whet appetites for Japanese-style entrees such as teriyaki and udon noodle dishes. Donburi rice bowls are filled with deep-fried chicken or pork, and the traditional nabemono, or hot pot, is filled with a combination of potato noodles, veggies, thinly sliced beef, tofu, and an egg. Asian flavors reappear on the dessert menu, which includes banana tempura with honey and green tea or red bean ice cream.