From the bustling streets of Times Square to the equally vivacious streets of Hong Kong, people walk around with smiles after enjoying the japanese barbecue cuisine at Gyu-Kaku. The restaurant has more than 700 locations worldwide, each rooted in the belief that some of the strongest bonds between friends are forged at the dinner table. Groups dine on a huge variety of Japanese dishes, from popular meat and veggie dishes such as Harami Skirt Steak, Kalbi Short Rib, and Bacon-wrapped Asparagus - to unique Japanese-American appetizers such as the Spicy Tuna Volcano, Wasabi Crunchy Shrimp, and Ahi Tuna Poke. The real excitement takes place around individual grills, however, where diners can barbecue their own slabs of filet mignon, ahi tuna, or chicken with chili mayo until they are ideally tender or encircled by on-duty firemen.
Gonpachi fashions its menu of authentic Japanese fare and Edomae (Tokyo-style) sushi from locally sourced ingredients, as well as authentic foodstuffs purchased from Tokyo's Tsukiji Market. Gonpachi hand-pounds its soba noodles daily from buckwheat flour threshed and milled on the premises. These freshly noodled noodles can then be served chilled with a dipping sauce as seiro ($8) or in a hot broth as kake soba ($8–$9). Gonpachi in Beverly Hills also practices the slow-cooking robata-style, preparing delicacies such as Chilean sea bass ($6) and bacon-wrapped cherry tomatoes ($3) over the gentle firelight of a traditional oak-charcoal pyramid. On the other end of the cooked spectrum, sushi fans can trap spicy tuna rolls ($5) between the bamboo chopsticks in their hands or the insect pincers on their faces. Chopsticks also protect hands from the flavor explosion of the dynamite roll ($16).
Before filling up a plate at Hokkaido Seafood Buffet, take a moment to meander past the seemingly boundless rows of fresh crawfish, jumbo crab legs, and oysters, or to marvel at chefs as they toss steak and chicken on fiery teppanyaki grills. Stroll past the sushi station to admire sushi masters as they nimbly slice fresh fish and crispy vegetables into colorful specialty rolls, then saunter by simmering trays of pan-Asian specialties such as fried rice and crunchy spring rolls. The vast buffet abounds with more than 150 hot and cold items, many of which were made with seafood purchased directly from local fisherman.
Out in the spacious dining room, diners linger over last bites of creamy cheesecake and juicy strawberries in cushy booths, sipping imported beers and colorful cocktails. The bright space is decorated with nautical decor, including orange life preservers and impressionist pieces painted by local sea monkeys.
Ittou Bento anchors a menu of Japanese-fusion cuisine around a selection of Eastern- and Western-inspired sushi rolls that changes every season. Meander into mealtime with a bowl of edamame pods, squeezing out savory bites before sporting husks as a fake mustache to hide from colorblind U.S. marshals. A catalog of hand and regular rolls share names with forces of nature, such as the Mudslide roll, a core of spicy tuna and cucumber bound in rice and covered with red snapper and wasabi-ponzu sauce, or baked crab and chipotle sauce clutched inside the Monsoon hand roll. The Twister roll seals a combination of crab and avocado beneath a seal of fiery tuna slices autographed in spicy mayo by Bill Paxton. (Soy paper can be spun around any chosen roll for an additional $1.) Coat toasty throats with a cool green-tea-mochi-ice-cream lacquer or tuck in taste buds with a slice of the new york–style cheesecake. Groups of four to six can clash chopsticks over a sushi boat of sashimi and rice-borne nigiri specials crafted from hamachi, albacore, yellow-fin tuna, ebi, salmon, and other fresh catches.
Each of Yen's Sushi & Sake Bar's five locations has its own feel. The Long Beach restaurant, with its concrete color scheme and mismatched wooden chairs, seems like some kind of industrial antique shop, whereas the downtown Los Angeles spot has the clean white look of a crayon factory that's good at avoiding accidents. But no matter the surroundings, all eyes are soon on the restaurant's fresh rolls, sashimi, and entrees. Again each location's menu differs, but in Long Beach specialties such as grilled jumbo shrimp with garlic salt or blue-crab hand-rolls mingle with charbroiled teriyaki salmon steak, and cuts of Spanish mackerel, fatty tuna, and yellowtail belly arrive on stark white plates.
Vases full of orange fruits reflect the bright orange booths that line the walls at Bamboo Grill & Sushi, a casual eatery that specializes in Japanese classics. In the kitchen, sushi chefs prepare traditional philly and dragon rolls along with sushi options for those who prefer cooked fish such as the baked salmon and lobster rolls. Nine healthful salads combine greens, proteins, and fruits including mango and avocado, which diners can polish off with a dish of green-tea ice cream.
When it comes to cooking, Daimon chefs have a flair for the dramatic. The chefs, like U.S. Presidents during their State of the Union addresses, have the power to summon theatrical flames on command, sizzling up strips of chicken, kobe beef, and seafood over tableside teppanyaki grills. Meanwhile, behind the sleek bar, skilled sushi chefs slice up fresh fish before adorning rolls with sprigs of carrots and swirls of sauces. The bartenders are equally creative, blending liquors and fruit juices into colorful cocktails with imaginative names like "Pink Dragon" or "Ferrari Margi."
The atmosphere is bright and energetic in the trendy dining rooms, where vibrant neon sea creatures speckle the walls and soft blue lights cast an oceanic hue onto the massive booths. All the while, an animated crowd surrounds the bar, swilling sake bombs as they snack on sushi or fried rice playfully arranged into the shape of a heart.