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.
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).
More than 15 years of preparing sushi at upscale locales have imbued chef Soon Park with a deep regard for this culinary tradition. Still, he isn't afraid to push his creations into the oven once and a while—his signature Dragon Breath roll sprinkles bread crumbs and garlic over shrimp tempura, which bakes in the kitchen before spicy mayo, chili sauce, and chili tobiko provide a finishing garnish. A simultaneous devotion to ritual and experimentation has enabled Chef Soon to complement these inventive rolls with sushi mainstays, such as Japanese-imported red snapper nigiri and fresh tuna sashimi. Whether he's dreaming up a new entree or wrapping a California roll, his mission remains the same: give each ingredient its due time in the spotlight. Rather than mask flavors with soy sauce or chopsticks made from cinnamon sticks, Chef Soon carefully balances each taste and texture within a given dish. Tender eel precedes crisp bites of lobster tempura on the Golden Lobster roll, which also surprises palates with the tang of spicy mayo and unagi sauces. The Octo nigiri, meanwhile, contrasts spicy salmon with spicy octopus, and a filo-wrapped ahi appetizer deep-fries tuna, cream cheese, and avocado into a flaky shell.
Tanaka spent his childhood in both Japan and Korea, allowing him to master each style of cooking before making his way to the United States. While here, he sharpened his chef-owner skills at a restaurant in New Mexico before bringing his breadth of culinary knowledge to Lisle’s own Tanaka Sushi. Tanaka’s hands are as agile as the local paper snowflake maker as he slices tuna, eel, avocados, pickled radishes, and green bell peppers for his sushi rolls. His intimate, cafeteria-style eatery also warms bellies with Korean staples, such as spicy kimchi soup and bibimbap—a mishmash of vegetables, egg, and spicy squid served in a hot stone bowl.