Sean Thongsiri learned to cook alongside his mother and grandmother in Vientiane, Laos, but it was a lot of trial and error. Getting the best food for his dishes was easy, though. He frequented the town's market, where he culled relationships with local farmers and fisherman to ensure the best possible product. This is a practice he still clings to as head chef of Ele Fine Fusion restaurant, where his modern fusion style is alive in the food, as well as the decor. There, in the glow of handsome blond sconces and colorful landscape prints, guests sit on banquettes and enjoy sushi rolls, crispy duck, and steaming curry dishes, many fashioned with fresh organic vegetables.
Situated beneath an arrangement of glowing peach blossoms, couples clink glasses of house sake and white wine together, seated at dark tables that dot the low-lit dining room. Then again, everything inside Haru is done with the utmost attention to detail, which goes far beyond just the atmosphere. When it comes to sushi, each roll is made with deference to a multisensory experience: the feel of the weighty rolls, the colorful presentation, and the balance of flavors. Reaching back into traditional Japanese cuisine with hibachi dinners, yet creating brand new sushi ideas with an ever-changing chef's menu, a meal here can be a surprise at every visit.
No less visually dazzling for its lack of movement, sushi rolls from the nearby bar spiral outwards in riots of color, from the deep red of tuna to the bright white of fresh rice. Nagoya snagged the title of Best Sushi from Mississippi magazine in 2013 and 2010, as well as Jackson Free Press's 2014 award for Best Sushi. Gathered around a table-sized grill, guests ooh and ahh as shrimp and steak somersault through the air, eggs crack open mid-fall, and veggies sizzle in a ring of shooting flames. The agent behind these daredevil feats? Nagoya Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar's expert hibachi grill masters, who deftly prepare meals before wondering eyes with dramatic flair and a craftily wielded spatula.
Honing in on the diverse flavors and epicurean culture of Asia, Pan Asia’s menu spans the culinary gamut, offering Thai, Japanese, and Southeast Asian specialties. Chefs artfully sear tuna steak, fashion maki rolls with fresh fish, and braise tender lamb in a green curry sauce. Dessert also bears the hallmarks of Asian influence, as diners dig into thai lime tarts, banana spring rolls, and coconut-flavored crème brûlée. These colorfully plated dishes pop against the surface of Pan Asia’s dark wood tables, which sit below high ceilings and adjacent to the full-service Gong Bar. Outside, patio seating supplies diners with fresh air and views of the sun’s ticklish underbelly.
A flame-spewing hibachi grill and a glowing blue sushi bar send Japanese fusion cuisine onto the chopsticks of hungry patrons. Award-winning sushi chef Ethan wei Huang melds a variety of culinary influences into his artfully plated dishes, which are crafted with fresh filets flown in from Hawaii. For an original twist, Huang bundles his special rolls in rice paper, soy paper, and white seaweed, which becomes unfashionable in undersea gardens after Labor Day. French-style steaks and lamb chops put a continental spin on the menu, and a martini bar boasts more than 10 specialty cocktails. Wasabi Sushi & Bar also offers an outdoor patio-courtyard where diners breathe in fresh air between bites.
Hokkaido's veteran kitchen staff rolls, chops, and flips fresh fish and other flavorful ingredients onto diners’ plates while interacting with onlookers sitting at the restaurant's hibachi. On the salmon sushi platter ($11), the rich colors and aromas of salad and miso soup distract nearby grizzlies from five pieces of sushi and a full roll stuffed with the platter’s namesake fish. Chefs also wrap snow crab ($4.50) and crayfish ($4.95) into rice blankets by hand, and tuck eel and cucumber into an avocado-topped dragon roll ($9.95). Hibachi chefs interact with both lunch and dinner crowds by flipping food morsels through the air onto diners' plates, or amuse onlookers by building flame-spouting volcanos and realistic facsimiles of the J. Edgar Hoover building from sizzling fare. After the performance, patrons partake of the resulting chicken ($8.95 lunch; $14.95 dinner), vegetable ($6.95 lunch; $9.25 dinner), and steak ($10.95 lunch; $18.95 dinner) meals.