To the Japanese, the words “sama zama” mean “variety.” But to a food critic from the Pitch, the unfamiliar phrase has become synonymous with “serious snacks.” That’s how she described the fare at Sama Zama, an eatery run by One Bite Japanese Grill's owner, Erika Koike. Perhaps the most intriguing of Erika's family recipes and culinary experiments is the okonomi yaki, a savory pancake often dubbed Japanese-style pizza. It consists of grilled dough crowned with the meat or veggies of your choice, a fried egg, sweet sauces, and crunchy noodles.
Exposed brick juts out from an orange accent wall in Sama Zama's Tokyo-inspired interior, which is splashed with circles and triangles that appear to move of their own volition under the light cast by bare bulbs and the baby suns tethered to the ceiling.
Bold flavors infuse Mizu Sushi Bar's menu of nigiri sushi, maki rolls, and cooked pan-Asian dishes. Spicy garlic sauce erupts from the Screaming Volcano roll, and tangy housemade teriyaki clings to charbroiled chicken and beef. Korean BBQ entrees such as beef ribs and bulgogi add international flavor, like the parts of Three Stooges films where Moe swears in Javanese. And for those who prefer less spice, tempura shrimp and veggies hide inside crisp batter, and udon noodles swirl in mild broth.
Though located in the trendy Washington Avenue district, Mizu's industrial-style space is "spacious and sleek without seeming hipper than thou," according to the Riverfront Times. Track lighting dangles from an exposed ceiling next to flat-screen TVs and a wall-mounted sculpture of tortoises striving to be seen as more than just potential eyeglass frames.
Bambu embraces traditional recipes and dining practices to create an authentic Vietnamese dining experience. Their pho soup packs noodles into a beef or chicken stock made on site and simmered for 12 hours to fully coax out flavors and create a dish named Best Hangover Remedy by the editors of 417 Magazine. The menu showcases rich house specialties, including Bun Bo Hue, a soup from the old imperial capital of Central Vietnam with a spicy broth made from long-simmered beef bones. Most items come with a plate of fiery chilis, fresh herbs, and lime to season dishes instead of boring salt- and peppershakers or somber personal chefs. The courteous wait staff caters to every diner's needs, providing gluten-free menus to those with dietary restrictions and bibs to protect from soup splatters.
Samurai Chef's chefs slice and dice a diverse menu of food right at the restaurant's smokeless hibachi tables. Customers seeking a detour from the hibachi highway can start their feast with the beef kabob ($4.95), pork dumplings ($4.25), or the fried soft shell crab ($6.95). Carnivorous meat lovers can explore the hibachi options including New York steak ($17.95), salmon ($16.95), and teriyaki duck ($16.95), or combinations such as the samurai seafood lovers dinner, featuring lobster accompanied by sousaphone-playing shrimp and saxophone-tooting scallops from the ocean's underwater jazz band ($29.95). Although your Groupon is only valid for the teppanyaki tables, those with images of raw fish recurring in their dreams can conquer their subconscious with Samurai Chef's plethora of maki, sashimi, and sushi.
Working within a lofty stone structure, Geisha Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar’s chefs sear Asian entrees on hibachi grills and tuck French-inspired tidbits into specialty sushi. Across the chic, plum-hued dining room, they’ll sizzle succulent hibachi meats, fresh vegetables, and incriminating tax documents atop slick grill tables. Otherwise, they can pull from a dinner menu filled with fusion entrees such as shrimp and lobster risotto, and Jekyll-and-Hyde pad thai.
Within the geisha-adorned stained-glass doors at Sakura, chefs serve up a tasty array of Asian favorites and sushi specialties in an elegant atmosphere outfitted with mosaic murals, warm cherry accents, and traditional Japanese artwork. Sushi artisans delight diners by handcrafting classic and unique rolls behind a granite bar before comically slipping on tempura banana peels. The Pitch dubs the unexpected décor accents, such as stuffed pandas and a curtain of plastic crystals, as a “blend of the glamorous and the absurd,” also proclaiming that Sakura is “a good date restaurant” because of its mood lighting and romantic music.