Dale Del Bello remembers everything about his first hibachi experience. While stationed in Korea as a part of the Air Force National Guard, Dale and a group of friends visited Tokyo on leave. They followed a traditional route among his fellow service people, which took him to a hibachi restaurant. Immediately he sensed that he’d stumbled upon more than just dinner. The chefs’ showmanship fascinated him as they seared meats and vegetables on their tabletop grills, allowing guests to sample forkfuls directly off the 600-degree surface. After returning to Buffalo, New York, in 1971, Dale opened his first Arigato location, attempting to recreate what made that dining experience so remarkable. Since then, he has distilled the authentic experience into something that families can enjoy without traveling abroad, establishing Arigato restaurants throughout New York and Florida and staffing them with more than 60 chefs from Japan.
Surrounded by 8–10 diners, these chefs act not only as the restaurant’s culinary creators, but also as showmen and magicians of sorts, dexterously slicing ingredients, flipping shrimp tails into their hats, and conjuring soy sauce out of thin air. Away from the flaming tabletops, meanwhile, bartenders make use of their own skill sets as they mix specialty cocktails, which occasionally use splashes of plum wine or sake to imbue familiar-sounding drinks with new dimension.
Led by head shushi chef Toshiaki Mizutani, a Tokyo native with more than 30 years of experience, the chefs at Tokyo Bay Japanese Restaurant craft sushi rolls, teriyaki dishes, and crispy tempura-fried entrees from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Its most popular rolls include the Wuz Up Be roll, stuffed with spicy yellowtail, avocado, and green wasabi-flavored tobiko, and the Deadliest Catch roll with snow crab, avocado, mayo, and roe, all topped with grilled eel and a savory sauce. Fuji rolls are filled, volcano-style, with spicy hot sauce, and after taking a bite, diners can put out the flames that erupt from their mouths with Japanese and domestic beer, sake, and wine.
In addition to sushi, guests feast on steak, chicken, and seafood in housemade teriyaki sauce. They slurp down noodle dishes or crunch into meats, vegetables, and tofu coated in tempura batter and fried to a light, crispy finish.
Tokyo Bay Mang Sushi and Japanese Steakhouse spans a spectrum of cooking ideologies, simultaneously folding fresh, raw fish into sushi rolls, searing hibachi items in a scorching blaze, and rounding out the menu with pan-Asian entrees and Thai dishes. Chefs fire up three front-and-center teppanyaki tables, where flaming plumes obscure steak, shrimp, and scallops. The King lobster sushi roll sports dual tempura and fried lobster tails swept up in the flavors of faux crab, asparagus, avocado, and eel sauce. Basil sprinkles thai curries and piping-hot seafood, served behind a façade that mimics the tiered roofs in Thailand that protect possessions from pad thai monsoons.
Named one of the city’s best family-friendly restaurants, Sushi Rock Grill specializes in Pan-Asian entrees and creative sushi rolls made from fresh, premium seafood. Bypass cross-planetary hole digs and emerge onto the flavorful Silk Road with the expansive dinner menu featuring pad thai with chicken ($14), Japanese-inspired teriyaki filet mignon ($19), or saigon noodles, a shrimp-studded pile of vermicelli rice noodles, fresh herbs, and peanuts covered in a spicy french-vietnamese sauce ($16). The sushi menu offers creative starters, such as a spicy tuna martini, a mixture of spicy tuna, daikon radish, avocado, and ponzu sauce shaken, not stirred, in honor of legendary man of mystery Barry Bonds ($11.95). Placate palates with one of the restaurant’s innovative sushi rolls, such as the Tampa, a tubular testament to lightly battered grouper, mayo, and white onion ($7.95), or the Eskimo, fresh salmon and cream cheese wrapped in snapper, baked, and served with teriyaki after the waiter rubs noses with the chef ($9.95).
Edo Japanese Steakhouse’s chefs simmer and slice tender cuts of chicken, seafood, and steak into sauce-coated dishes. Enter a sleek dining room peppered with authentic Eastern artwork such as traditional fans and Godzilla’s third-grade self-portrait before diving into bowls of yakisoba noodles with chicken ($11.99) or special seafood udon ($12.99). Yakiniku beef inundates taste buds with a wave of hot and spicy flavor ($13.95), and cutlets of deep-fried tonkatsu pork ($11.99) are whisked to plates by blue-robe-bedecked wait staff. At the crimson-seat-adorned sushi bar, two fish manipulators lure raw octopus, salmon, and tuna into hand-wrapped rolls by beatboxing a rendition of the Free Willy theme, as detailed on an expansive sushi menu.
Situated a few chopsticks’ length away from a nearby beach, Sushi Shoya serves Japanese fare and sushi amid ocean breezes. Inside, foliage spills from wicker baskets lining the doorway, echoing the pale green walls that envelop the eating environment in a natural tone. Guests can settle into black leather chairs at a table or sidle up to the sushi bar, where chefs slip fresh fish such as salmon, tuna, and spicy yellowtail into a variety of specialty rolls. Unlike their more secretive maki counterparts, nigiri sushi pieces covered with eel, surf clam, and smelt roe let it all hang out, much like clotheslines on vacation.