Fresh, flavorful sushi is only half of the story at Japon Bistro. The other? Carefully paired pours from an artisan assortment of sake, stocked by owner and sake expert Clarence Wong, also known as Koji. His seasonal selections complement unique rolls, such as the spicy, jalapeno and-salmon-filled Southwest, or the New Age, featuring tuna, salmon, and albacore topped with a secret-recipe sauce. A selection of noodles and teriyaki entrees satisfy diners who prefer their raw food cooked. The drinks and dishes unite to create a dining experience that has won a recommendation from the Michelin Guide, and been named amongst the area's best by Citysearch.com and Pasadena Magazine.
White is the traditional color of an artist's canvas. At Zushi Restaurant, however, the canvases come in shades of aquamarine, cobalt, watermelon, and lemon yellow. It's onto this colorful collection of dinnerware that chefs plate sushi in startling shades and variations, with garnishes such as orchids, orange slices, and wasabi "leaves" completing each still life. The rolls themselves range from simple to elaborate. The standard list includes sushi with a single element, such as quail egg, scallops, or sweet shrimp. By nature a minimalist art form, Zushi's sashimi nevertheless demonstrates inventiveness with the lemon tako—alternating layers of octopus and lemon, accompanied by a blossom-shaped dish of sesame oil for dipping.
It's with the more complex rolls that Zushi's chefs really flex their creative muscles. The addition of heat to the preparation of baked and tempura maki adds contrasting textures and temperatures to the table. The deep-fried california roll sports a cloak of crispy batter. The warm outer layers of the baked barbecue beef roll mask the cool fresh tuna at its core. Heat is also prominent, twice, in the spicy barbecue pork, or once in the shrimp teppan yaki. House saki—served hot or cold—can extinguish or augment the fire in one's mouth, accordingly.
From the deep-fried popcorn lobster to the banana tempura dessert, A'Float Sushi's menu is a ripe with Japanese dishes prepared with creative flair. But sushi rolls are where the chefs really excel, from classic California or spicy tuna rolls, to green mussel rolls and rolls made with honey walnut shrimp tempura. Entrees, meanwhile, are a bit more traditional, featuring choices such as deep-fried pork tonkatsu served with salad, rice, and soup.
A breathtaking 21 stories above downtown Los Angeles, Takami Sushi & Robata Restaurant gives guests views of the glittering city lights below. But Executive Chef Stan Ota’s gaze, however, never leaves the chopping boards and plates in front of him. Each maki roll and fresh-seafood dish he creates is born out of a lifetime of experience spent cooking Japanese- and French-style food. His cooking has garnered recognition from many trained palates, including British food critic Jay Rayner who put Ota’s restaurant on his list of where to find the world’s best foods.
In addition to seafood such as lobster rolls and lemon-albacore rolls, the extensive menu boasts a wide selection of fine robata, from filet mignon to baby lamp chops. Beyond these printed offerings, Ota also performs a feat of Japanese cookery called Omakase–which translates literally to “I’ll leave it to you”– improvising a five-course menu based upon the fresh-market ingredients gathered that day. To compliment meals, Ota puts an equal amount of thought into his cocktail list, which features exciting blends of liquors and spices. These drinks include lychee-infused mojitos, white-tea-rose martinis, and the Serrano kiss, spiced gin and lime with muddled Serrano chili.
Diners might default to tapas bars when seeking out small plates, but there’s one more term that should be added to their search: izakaya. This is the name for Japanese eateries that churn out “pub-style small plates,” according to the Los Angeles Business Journal; Itacho is one such eatery. Its menu is filled with shareable options, such as steamed clams in an asari-butter broth, seaweed marinated with vegetables, and agedashi tofu, deep-fried cubes that dip into flavorful sauces or into customers’ pockets should they want leftovers. The reviewer from the Journal also lauded the restaurant’s simple-yet-tasty selection of sushi, and, after finishing her meal, said, “[my] only regret is that [I] have not sampled more of the menu.”
When one steps inside, Geisha House "can feel like another planet," says the Los Angeles Times. A self-described "surreal, high-class brothel," Geisha House pays homage to Japan's late-night history and adds modern twists such as backlit neon panels in sultry shades of red and pink. A curved mezzanine grants a bird's-eye view of candlelit tables crowned with specialty rolls full of burdock root, tempura flakes, torched lobster, and other adventurous ingredients. Chatter emanates from a 50-foot sake bar serving the Japanese rice liquor straight or poured into specialty cocktails, sips of which flank bites of carpaccio, mongolian lamb chops, and udon noodles in fragrant broths. A lively dance floor invites diners to remember the simple joy of motion and lets method actors cast as sprinklers fit in.