With cream-hued seating flanked by gray stone walls, it?s no wonder ?modern? is included in Bambu's name. The atmosphere's more reminiscent of an upscale living room than a traditional dining room: slate tiles and hardwood cover the floors, and elegant leather chairs surround both bistro-style and hibachi tables. And while diners cozy into their seats, chefs stand mere feet away, chopping up steak and chicken, and setting towers of onion rings afire.
But the entertaining display?a signature of any hibachi chef?isn't the only show guests can watch. At the helm of the sushi station is Sushi Chef Hiroshi, who boasts more than 15 years of slicing and stuffing fish into rolls. He builds each one with unconventional yet tasty combinations, such as salmon, lobster tempura, and fried bananas. He even eschews traditional green seaweed wraps in some rolls, instead holding ingredients firm with pink seaweed or edible c-clamps.
Like high-school students at a science demonstration, patrons at Koo Restaurant gather around a table, oohing and ahhing as flames dance high in the air. But instead of test tubes and beakers, the person behind the table wields knives and spatulas, slicing and flipping meats and veggies over a hibachi grill. Once each morsel has sizzled to a crisp golden brown, chefs divvy them up onto plates, and the guests devour the food that was just cooked right before their eyes.
Hibachi meals?which include filet mignon, scallop, and lobster-tail options?are not the only Japanese fare served within Koo's bold red and gray walls. Regular tables host plates of wok-fried noodles, teriyaki shrimp, sesame-crusted ahi tuna, and sushi rolls. Chefs also whip up smaller, tapas-style plates, so groups can bond by sharing steamed shrimp dumplings or stacking thai spring rolls into a rickety Jenga tower.
Knife skills are important to any chef, but at Mr. Fuji Sushi, where the snick-snack of sharp blades fills the air, they’re a form of theater as much as cuisine. Standing at newly installed hibachi grills, chefs swiftly slice morsels of steak and seafood, sending them soaring into the air and onto plates via a sophisticated air-traffic control system. Diners settle into padded leather seats in a sleek, tiled room enlivened by rainbow-colored lanterns, Japanese pottery, and tiny, glowing nooks in the wall as they await hot entrees such as teriyaki or specialty sushi rolls—some deep-fried, some wrapped in different papers such as white seaweed or soybean. Continuing the theme of adhering closely to Japanese culinary traditions, the restaurant frequently uses its Facebook page as a primer on dining etiquette and some of the items guests are likely to find on the menu, from pork tonkatsu cutlets to onigiri, sushi’s answer to the dumpling.
The chefs at Bangkok Bistro not only prepare dishes, such as pad thai and a rainbow of curries, they also plate up roll after roll of inventive sushi creations. The Schenectady roll marries crab, spicy tuna, and baked salmon with fried onion, eel sauce, and spicy mayo, whereas the Facebook roll showcases crab, cream cheese, asparagus, and roe. Bento boxes come neatly packed with appetizers, teriyakis, and salads and platters of fried rice come spiked with ingredients such as pineapple or basil leaves.
U-Me Sushi Hibachi Japanese Restaurant forges together the flavors of its ample menu with the flourishes of fiery tableside hibachi-style preparation. The behind-the-scenes action leaps to the fore at the sushi bar, where nimble fingers assemble delectables into neat bundles such as the california maki roll ($5). Understudies of Elvis impersonators can rouse mouths with the Rock'n roll, its tobiko-ensconced shrimp tempura, eel, avocado, and cream cheese tastefully harmonizing ($12.50), and the vegetarian roll composes notes of lettuce, carrot, cucumber, radish, and more ($6.50). Those seeking heated eats can let eyes alight on the scintillating energy of the hibachi-style craft as chefs sear steaks and sizzle edibles on table-mounted gas griddles. Chicken teriyaki ($14.50) and sukiyaki nabe, a medley of beef and veggies cooked in succulent broth ($14.50), are among many offerings sweetly capped off with fried bananas ($5.50) or fried ice cream ($5.50).
When seated at a secluded dinner table, it’s easy to forget the skill it takes to turn disparate ingredients into a delicious meal. Sakura Japanese Restaurant’s chefs aim to remind their guests of just how incredible that feat is, abandoning the seclusion of the kitchen to prepare dishes tableside. They twirl knives, drumming them against the smooth metal surface of their grill as they use cooking oil to summon gouts of flame. From the dexterous show, they create sizzling hibachi meals of chicken, steak, lobster, and other meats for a rapt audience.
Sakura's sushi chefs specialize in a less flashy craft, drizzling eel sauce on combinations of crab, shrimp, and avocado or topping white- and yellowtail-tuna rolls with tobiko and wasabi. They also make up obento boxes, traditional packaged lunches featuring specific slots for sushi, tempura, a main course, and extra masking tape.