Cafe Beautiful owner and sole chef Melinda Roeder fashions artfully arranged Asian fusion cuisine for diners who like to eat with their eyes just as much as they like to eat with their mouths. “The presentation,” she says in a profile piece by LJWorld.com, “is just as important as how it tastes.” At Cafe Beautiful, each multi-course meal feels more like an extravagant event than an ordinary restaurant visit, stretching over hours as guests take in a parade of plates that may include savory Korean custards or spicy sushi with a Thai pepper sauce.
Cafe Beautiful’s expansive windows unveil picturesque views of the outside hustle and bustle on Massachusetts Street while its intimate dining room warmly embraces guests with its candlelit setting, bursting decorative foliage, and local artwork. In the aforementioned LJWorld.com article, Chef Roeder decries the culture of rushing customers before they can savor their food or fold their napkins into swans, stating, “We eat at such a rapid rate…and sometimes you feel pushed out by restaurants waiting to get another table. That’s not the experience you have here.”
At Edokko, the fanfare of teppanyaki shows has been exchanged for the peace of a secluded bamboo forest—an ambiance bolstered by the stalks that grow near the entrance. As guests pass between the greenery and the clear surface of a koi pond, they enter into a gold-and-red dining room, where polished stones form mosaics of grappling sumo wrestlers on the walls. At the sushi bar, 18 seats line a granite countertop, allowing diners prime views of chefs as the chefs prepare maki rolls, nigiri, and sashimi.
It seems that a tabletop performance would only serve to disrupt the serenity of the restaurant, says a review in the Pitch, because "the food puts on its own show." Guests receive overtures in the form of detailed picture menus that stoke appetites more safely than jumper cables connected to bellybuttons. The traditional Japanese dishes range from teriyaki meats to noodle soups, and visitors can still order hibachi plates, but without the flashy routine. Specialty rolls such as the crab-and-mango roll or the rainbow-caviar roll collect fresh seafood in expertly wrapped rice and seaweed, and tempura desserts encase cheesecake, bananas, and ice cream in a crispy shell.
Tucked inside the lobby of the Overland Park Marriott Hotel, Nikko Japanese Steakhouse's chefs gracefully twirl their gleaming steel utensils and flip vegetables through the air while cooking filet mignon, teriyaki salmon, and scallops at each tabletop griddle. Traditional teppanyaki cooking is the foundation of the menu, which features seared morsels of steak and fresh seafood cooked before your very eyes instead of inside a magician's hat. Away from the sizzling action, the sleek sushi bar houses deft chefs slicing fresh sashimi and rolling ingredients into flavorful combinations, such as the spider roll's soft-shell crab, smelt roe, and avocado. Behind a second bar, the servers replace sushi with shakers of freshly squeezed fruit-juice cocktails and hot and cold pours of sake. Nikko Japanese Steakhouse also recently completed a renovation.
After moving to Kansas City from Tokyo in the early 90s, Saeko Tsunashima wanted to create a restaurant similar to her favorites in Japan. She combined her original recipes, many of which were inspired by her mother, and enlisted culinary expertise from bona fide sushi chefs to create the menu at Sushi Gin Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar. Along the way, she developed considerable sushi skills, and regularly unveils her flashy knifesmanship at the sushi bar. To keep the gustatory experience fresh, she consistently creates new menu items, many of which pay homage to cities or natural phenomena, such as the New Orleans roll, the tornado roll, or the That One Time it Rained Halibut roll.
Hikari Japanese Steakhouse's thespian chefs grill Japanese-inflected steakhouse fare in breathtaking tableside performances as rice artisans craft fresh maki and nigiri from an open-air sushi bar. Cuts of steak, shrimp, and lobster dance on sizzling grills situated in the middle of each dining table, where chefs chop, flip, and ignite each luscious morsel in a more theatrical culinary display than Hamlet's famous TV-dinner scene. The full bar decants cocktails, beers, and an exotic sake and plum wine fusion to patrons 21 and older, whereas children 10 and younger can sup on kids’-menu items tailored to simpler palates.
A chef stands over a flaming tableside teppanyaki grill, twirling his cooking instruments in the air and catching them in each hand. As his audience whistles and cheers, he sears juicy morsels of filet mignon, chicken, and seafood alongside colorful slices of mixed vegetables. Chefs are equally busy behind the sushi counter, artfully arranging more than 100 different types of rolls with fresh tuna, spicy salmon, and crispy shrimp tempura. At the bar, expert mixologists shake premium liquors and juices into cocktails, garnishing them with duos of plump olives and curls of lemon rind. At nightfall as the moon filters in through the skylight windows, the contemporary dining room comes alive with glimmering televisions, lively music, and friends debating the existence of wood nymphs over drinks.