Tairyo Japanese Steakhouse's team of tableside chefs prepares hibachi-style cuisine right before patrons' eager eyes. Diners study the menu and perform tongues stretches in anticipation as their table's built-in hibachi grill heats up to maximum firepower. Savory smells waft across the dining area before darting knives signal the completed searing of 9 ounces of center-cut tenderloin ($30). Sea scallops dance across the grill and dive onto plates ($21), and tuna steak sizzles and browns ($21). The vegetarian dinner furnishes palates with grilled veggies so they don't have to get their fix of greens by carving up Kermit dolls ($16).
Traditional Japanese recipes and cooking styles continue to inspire the chefs at Shinto Naperville. Mushrooming bursts of flame erupt from stainless-steel hibachis as they sear diners' orders tableside. In between shuffling platefuls of scallops or 28-day-aged filet mignon across the steaming surface, the chefs entertain their hungry audience by juggling utensils, tossing small pieces of food into guests' waiting mouths, and correctly guessing everyone's least favorite astrological sign. Measured doses of house-made teriyaki sauce or herb-infused butter lend even more flavor to the carefully caramelized entrees. Meanwhile, the chefs behind the sushi bar avoid grills entirely as they roll specialty maki with premium ingredients, including tempura lobster and jalapeño.
The diners pass banquettes, which range in color from the aquamarine of a shallow sea to the darker purples of deep water, and opt for a private booth. Behind the bar, standing glass partitions painted in intricate designs reminiscent of Eastern calligraphy divide ranks of bottles. Plates of fresh-cut sashimi descend onto a neighboring table, and maki rolls flaunt loads of king crab, lobster, and kanpyo, shavings of a dried gourd. A waitress strides across the dark hardwood floor and slides menus across the diners' black lacquered table, carefully pointing out her favorite appetizers, which range from duck and wrapped scallops to fresh oysters by the half dozen. In the kitchen, chefs simmer red wine, yielding a thicker sauce that drapes across filet mignon or helps prove to an aunt that the bib she knit hasn’t been going unused.
Wagyu-beef jalapeño poppers, baby octopus with wine sauce, oyster shooters, and fresh yellowtail carpaccio prepare stomachs for a culinary adventure at Musashi Sushi & Grill. In addition to these delectable Japanese-style starters and four menus full of maki, nigiri, and sashimi sushi, the kitchen turns out korean hits, such as bulgogi with ginger-marinated beef and sweet-potato noodles, and American-style favorites, such as steaks with mashed potatoes and blue crab cakes drizzled with white-truffle oil.
Over at the full bar, bartenders fill glasses with wine, beer, and mixed drinks. They also pour hot, flavored, and cold sake and can even turn the fermented-rice drink into a Saketini cocktail.
Vintage wooden beams vault over eaters at Sushi Mono, where seasoned chefs fold contemporary twists into traditional nigiri, sashimi, and sushi. The menu's Mono Double signature roll aids bonding between baked shrimp and snow crab ($16) while fueling the efforts of the GlobalGiving Foundation by donating $1 per roll. Tekka don entrees summon 12 pieces of either tuna or yellowtail sashimi to a bed of sushi rice ($24). Fiery salmon and octopus aid the Mini Godzilla special roll ($13) in its quest to stomp out hunger and knock over toothpick towers. In the evening, the eatery comes to life with lights casting a rainbow glow over the crimson walls and Asian-inspired screens and spotlights subtly illuminating cozy booths or singling out operatically trained servers for solos.
Asian Pearl's chefs practice their craft with multitasking; in order to execute the bistro's extensive menu, they must be familiar with the tenets of Thai, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine. Rice noodles and fragrant curries occupy the Thai sphere of the kitchen, while woks toss Chinese favorites including sesame chicken and five-spice duck. Japanese influence appears both in tempura plates and in signature maki rolls, such as the Sky roll that tops shrimp tempura with masago, kanikama, and crunch. Asian Pearl also blends flavors in seafood or grill dishes, such as Tiger's Tears—marinated beef draped in a sauce they claim is "spicy enough to make a tiger cry," something that was said of Judy Garland.
A gentle bath of neon blue light descends over diners inside Asian Pearl's modernist dining room, punctuated by white tablecloths and mural silhouettes of golden trees. Neatly folded napkin peaks greet patrons as they sit down at the sushi bar, forming a crimson vanguard between the wood-and-silver chairs and the chefs' busy hands behind the glass. Around the perimeter of the dining room, thin hanging lamps cast a contrasting red and white light from behind scrawls of Chinese characters.
From behind their blonde wood bar, the sushi chefs set solemnly to work. Grasping rice in their well-seasoned hands, they blend the staple with ocean-caught fish, verdant seaweed, and a roster of international ingredients to produce morsels as delicate as a chrysanthemum blossom or as hearty as a stalwart oak. While these chefs embrace Japanese tastes and aesthetics, you don't have to have a passport to meet them; they ply their trade at Kyoto, where Asian flavors intersect with a decidedly American address.
Not to be outdone by the bar's signature sushi and sashimi, the chefs of Kyoto's kitchen turn in faithful reproductions of dishes generally associated with Tokyo, Beijing, or Korea's moon base. Shrimp and vegetables don a dusting of tempura flakes before a trip to the flash-fryer leaves them crisp and golden, and tender cuts of beef mingle with green onions amid spicy mongolian sauce. No matter the meal, glasses of sake or Japanese beers from brewers including Sapporo, Kirin, and Asahi help wash down bites or power toasts to the chef's good health.