Kiku Japanese Cuisine nabbed numerous accolades in Express Milkwaukee ?s Best of Milwaukee 2012 and 2013 for lavishing guests with both a friendly staff that jots orders until 3 a.m. on weekends, and a vast menu of seafood-centric cuisine. Sushi chefs roll up more than 40 fillings into artfully plated sushi rolls, crowning their creations with creative flourishes such as fresh mango. Fish and vegetables can also transform from raw to sizzling with a dunk into tempura batter, which imparts a crispy golden sheen and keeps chopsticks too busy to assist with walrus impersonations.
Inside Sake Tumi's main dining room and private banquet areas, guests sample everything from colorful sashimi to peppered tenderloin. During dinner, the menu is home to a variety of Japanese classics such as sushi rolls, as well as Korean barbecue dishes including beef bulgogi. Midday visitors can order up traditional bento boxes during lunch, which neatly pack soup, salad, and sides alongside various entrees.
Pacific Bistro leads diners through a whirlwind tour of Asia with a menu loaded with hibachi, sushi, and traditional Thai, Laotian, Vietnamese, and Chinese dishes. Begin Eastward adventures by pairing a crab rangoon ($7) starter or edamame ($4) with a libation from the full bar and a field trip permission slip signed by the president. Once tummies are prepped, diners can choose their own adventure with a la carte sushi ($4–$8 for two pieces) or hand the reins to a licensed knife wielder for a carefully diced teriyaki chicken hibachi dinner ($18). Or furnish tables with sumptuous entrees such as pad thai noodles ($12 for chicken, pork, or beef; $14 for shrimp), crispy duck ($25), and mango curry ($14 for chicken, pork, or beef; $16 for shrimp). Meanwhile, diapered diners can use highchairs as a launching pad for launching shrimp tempura ($8) grenades and tossing fried rice ($6–$7) confetti at newlywed birds.
After sharpening his culinary skills in his native Japan at Monsel Ton Ton Restaurant in Tokyo and the five-star Westin Osaka, Chef Yamamoto Lee relocated to Milwaukee, where he now brings nearly 30 years of culinary experience to the kitchen at Midori Fusion. The eatery, which was featured as the Restaurant of the Month by Key Milwaukee, satiates cravings for Japanese cuisine with an extensive menu of appetizers—such as fried bean curd and tempura squid—and traditional entrees, including beef short ribs, tempura shrimp, and salmon teriyaki. Chef Lee also creates more than 70 classic and unique sushi and sashimi options, from a spicy tuna roll to the no-carb roll wrapped in crabmeat and Dr. Atkins' diploma.
At South Kawa Japanese Restaurant, sushi isn’t just a delight for the mouth; it’s a feast for the eyes. Bold colors and delicate flavors intermingle as chefs spool fresh fish and rice into more than 40 types of maki rolls, including specialties such as the American Eagle, a mélange of king crab, spicy tuna, asparagus, and two types of roe. Plates of sashimi can be made to order from more than 20 varieties of sea fare, such as yellowtail, octopus, and freshwater eel. Hot starters such as steamed seafood shumai and pan-fried chicken gyoza pair nicely with cool beverages, which diners can bring from home or squeeze from low-hanging rain clouds.
SakeZake's fusion of ancient and contemporary tastes extends from the robust menu of specialty sushi rolls to the artfully minimalist dining-room decor. Executive Chef Ahn Yung Jin's classic nigiri shares menu space with specialty rolls that combine fresh fish with eye-catching ingredients such as tempura flakes, jalapeño, and diamond chips. Mock shoji screens and lacquered red chairs give the dining room the air of a modish teahouse, while the funky hourglass lamps keep things as fresh as the sushi-bar offerings. The lounge-like atmosphere is no accident, as SakeZake is open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.