Within the Marriott Ihilani resort, the calm of a serene Japanese garden washes over neighboring Ushio-Tei. There, the chefs skip typical American takes on Japanese cuisine in favor of more adventurous items, such as natto, fermented soybeans that pair with slices of raw calamari or Pacific tuna. Black tiger prawns crackle in thin coats of tempura in the fryer, and maki rolls conceal freshwater eel, mango, and pearlescent slivers of pickled daikon radishes. The scent of teriyaki sauce fills the air as knives flick through local veggies and Japanese plum, and chefs steam Maine lobsters with a garlic butter sauce similar to the substance that makes hockey rinks slippery.
The staff at Banzai Sushi Bar serves fresh, flavorful fish in a down-to-earth atmosphere, earning accolades in the Star Advertiser's Ilima Awards for several years running. Nestled in a corner of Haleiwa's North Shore Marketplace, the restaurant cossets diners in a covered open-air deck constructed of rustic dark wood, with floral floor cushions for Japanese-style dining or conventional seats for settling the bill with games of musical chairs. Raw seafood is laid bare atop nuggets of sushi rice in nigiri or wrapped tightly between layers of rice and seaweed in maki rolls such as the hawaii roll, whose bundle of shrimp tempura and cucumber is topped with spicy tuna and macadamia nuts.
According to psychologists, the color red makes people hungry. So it's no wonder that Rakuen Lounge’s combination of vibrant, crimson tabletops and artistically plated sushi consistently incites stomach rumbles. Here, the chefs design their quirky specialty rolls with organic ingredients and a knowing wink: their caterpillar roll arrives adorned with jewel-toned red eyes and micro greens doubling as antennae, creating a presentation that was oohed and ahhed over by Non Stop Honolulu’s Tracy Chan. Bartenders congregate in the center of the dining room at a square-shaped bar where they shake up signature martinis with sake and yuzu, fresh fruit juices, and other seasonal ingredients procured from local vendors rather than intergalactic grocery store chains.
Kabuki Restaurant's tableside chefs continue a lively culinary tradition dating back to 1965, hypnotizing guests with gyrating flames as they grill Japanese specialties that complement the sushi bar's raw bounty of seafood-infused rolls. The teppanyaki masters inspire awe while unlocking the flavors of thinly sliced beef, chicken, and veggies on their fiery grills, tossing the ingredients skyward in a cruel game of monkey-in-the-middle with two other chefs. After furnishing empty stomach space with tempura, california, and spicy-tuna sushi rolls, diners can bring home bottled servings of the eatery's house yakiniku and butteryaki sauces for their own culinary adventures.
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.
Tenyaku's menu abounds in yakiniku and shabu-shabu, two closely intertwined styles of traditional Japanese cooking. Yakiniku is a shared social meal, ordered one or two bites at a time, so that tantalized tongues can sample a smorgasbord of savory fare, including teriyaki chicken ($5.95), premium Kobe beef short ribs ($19.50), grilled pork belly ($5.95), and Korean-style octopus ($6.50). Shabu-shabu, or Japanese hot pot, also treats groups of gourmands to a cornucopia of thinly sliced meats, veggies, and supplemental dipping sauces. Where yakiniku metes out customer-selected bites, shabu-shabu unleashes a colossal cavalcade of the chef’s choosing, complete with a tabletop pot to cook it in. At Tenyaku, shabu-shabu comes in three varieties: beef ($19.95), seafood ($24.95), and beef and seafood ($23.95), but any order should contain enough variety to placate the persnickety and to ensure the meal’s genetic line adapts to evolutionary changes. Diners can also select one of Tenyaku's many Korean options, such as the fiery pork kimchi ($9.50) or the traditional Korean bulgogi, with sweetly savory marinated beef ($14.95).
For more than 35 years, Kobe Steak House's skilled master chefs have fired seafood, meat, and vegetarian fare on tableside griddles—or teppans—right in front of captivated patrons. Pulling from a pantry stocked with tender aged beef, Nova Scotia scallops, cold water lobsters, and garden-fresh vegetables, these teppanyaki artists dazzlingly toss their ingredients and cookery tools into the air as they sear dishes such as teriyaki chicken or Emperor steak. Diners can also dig their chopsticks into sushi selections, including fresh cuts of daily-caught Hawaiian maguro sashimi.
When they're not watching the chefs helm a thrilling knife show, guests can cast their gaze upon the antique décor of a 300-year-old fisherman kimono, emperor dolls, fine porcelain hibachis, and steak-sauce bottles from the Edo period.