In 1977, Eddy Ho came to America with the dream of opening his own restaurant. In the 35 years since, he has lived that dream three times over, founding a trio of establishments that spotlight the showiest styles of Japanese cooking while commemorating the year of his transpacific crossing. Whether it's filet mignon, chicken, and seafood chopped by a flurry of clicking blades on hibachi grills or a sleek roll of sushi assembled by deft hands, each entrée arrives in a dining room decked with hints of traditional Japanese architecture, including subtle geometric patterns, crimson accents, and painstakingly manicured flora. Glasses of imported Japanese beer and sake stand ready to accompany each meal, helping diners toast to good fortune or play a glass harp rendition of their college fight song.
Glossy floors and shiny wood walls line the room, setting the stage for UKAI Sushi & Chinese's centerpiece—a burbling fountain, home to a towering plant and cascading waters flowing down a rock formation. Though the scene is captivating, the main attraction is the menu, covering both Japanese and Chinese cuisine. Drawing on Japanese traditions, the chefs craft specialty rolls, some with surprising ingredients. For instance, the Angel roll pairs sliced apples with shrimp and crab meat, and the Snow White roll wraps up coconut sauce and tuna without attracting evil queens. Conversely, they specialize in Chinese-American staples, as well as a lineup of chef's specials, including coconut shrimp drizzled in coconut sauce and honey-walnut shrimp.
Sushi City extinguishes appetites with a mighty menu of tightly rolled maki and traditional Japanese dishes. Like a care package from a pirate, sushi rolls bear fresh favorites in their centers, such as two pieces of tuna ($5), sweet shrimp ($6.50), or fresh water eel ($5). The majordomos of the maki menu include specialty rolls such as the torched dragon maki ($15), in which salmon, shrimp, and tuna join forces under a canopy of spicy mayo. Teriyaki ($11.95–$16.95) also vies for the culinary spotlight with traditional tastes and a thrilling stand-up comedy routine featuring chicken, steak, or a selection of fish.
Eclectic ingredients, including eel and mint leaf, fill more than 30 maki rolls and helped earn Wildfish a spot on Gayot's list of the 10 best Chicago sushi restaurants in 2012. One roll pairs spicy salmon, fried tuna, and pico de gallo, and another mixes spicy mayo and sweet soy sauce with Alaskan king crab and a splash of Bacardi 151. Filet mignon and lobster sizzle in the tropical-hued dining room with walls of red, green, and gold and bamboo that sways against the ceiling. Glasses of imported Japanese beer and sake clink together in high-backed booths that offer privacy during dates and meals out with a parrot that only knows how to say your medical records.
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.