Within the Marriott Ihilani resort, the calm of a serene Japanese garden washes over neighboring Ushio-Tei. There, the chefs skip typical American takes on Japanese cuisine in favor of more adventurous items, such as natto, fermented soybeans that pair with slices of raw calamari or Pacific tuna. Black tiger prawns crackle in thin coats of tempura in the fryer, and maki rolls conceal freshwater eel, mango, and pearlescent slivers of pickled daikon radishes. The scent of teriyaki sauce fills the air as knives flick through local veggies and Japanese plum, and chefs steam Maine lobsters with a garlic butter sauce similar to the substance that makes hockey rinks slippery.
The staff at Banzai Sushi Bar serves fresh, flavorful fish in a down-to-earth atmosphere, earning accolades as one of Oahu's top restaurants in the Star Advertiser for several years running. Nestled in a corner of Haleiwa's North Shore Marketplace, the restaurant offers casual fine dining outdoors on Japanese-style seating or conventional tables?with projected surf videos and live music playing in the background. Maki rolls and nigiri are crafted with organic, locally sourced produce and fresh fish purchased daily at the Honolulu fish auction. Salads, tempura, poke, and specialty sashimi pair with an extensive list of sake.
From the bustling streets of Times Square to the equally vivacious streets of Hong Kong, people walk around with smiles after enjoying the japanese barbecue cuisine at Gyu-Kaku. The restaurant has more than 700 locations worldwide, each rooted in the belief that some of the strongest bonds between friends are forged at the dinner table. Groups dine on a huge variety of Japanese dishes, from popular meat and veggie dishes such as Harami Skirt Steak, Kalbi Short Rib, and Mushroom Medley - to unique Japanese-American appetizers such as the Spicy Tuna Volcano, Pork Gyoza Dumplings, and Chicken Karaage. The real excitement takes place around individual grills, however, where diners can barbecue their own slabs of filet mignon, grilled ahi tuna, or chicken with basil sauce until they are ideally tender or encircled by on-duty firemen.
For more than 35 years, Kobe Steak House's skilled master chefs have fired seafood, meat, and vegetarian fare on tableside griddles—or teppans—right in front of captivated patrons. Pulling from a pantry stocked with tender aged beef, Nova Scotia scallops, cold water lobsters, and garden-fresh vegetables, these teppanyaki artists dazzlingly toss their ingredients and cookery tools into the air as they sear dishes such as teriyaki chicken or Emperor steak. Diners can also dig their chopsticks into sushi selections, including fresh cuts of daily-caught Hawaiian maguro sashimi.
When they're not watching the chefs helm a thrilling knife show, guests can cast their gaze upon the antique décor of a 300-year-old fisherman kimono, emperor dolls, fine porcelain hibachis, and steak-sauce bottles from the Edo period.
Tenyaku's menu abounds in yakiniku and shabu-shabu, two closely intertwined styles of traditional Japanese cooking. Yakiniku is a shared social meal, ordered one or two bites at a time, so that tantalized tongues can sample a smorgasbord of savory fare, including teriyaki chicken ($5.95), premium Kobe beef short ribs ($19.50), grilled pork belly ($5.95), and Korean-style octopus ($6.50). Shabu-shabu, or Japanese hot pot, also treats groups of gourmands to a cornucopia of thinly sliced meats, veggies, and supplemental dipping sauces. Where yakiniku metes out customer-selected bites, shabu-shabu unleashes a colossal cavalcade of the chef’s choosing, complete with a tabletop pot to cook it in. At Tenyaku, shabu-shabu comes in three varieties: beef ($19.95), seafood ($24.95), and beef and seafood ($23.95), but any order should contain enough variety to placate the persnickety and to ensure the meal’s genetic line adapts to evolutionary changes. Diners can also select one of Tenyaku's many Korean options, such as the fiery pork kimchi ($9.50) or the traditional Korean bulgogi, with sweetly savory marinated beef ($14.95).
Odoriko Restaurant has reaped the delectable harvest of the sea and transformed it into stylish Japanese cuisine for almost 40 years. A crew of seasoned chefs slice seafood and twirl it into rolls, such as the Odoriko roll with salmon, squid, avocado, and tuna ($9.95). King clam holds court over the sashimi menu ($25), leading the octopus ($12.50), aji ($11.50), and other sea creatures in the war against cooking. Nabemono, or hot-pot dishes, invite diners to brandish culinary gadgets and sear their choice of meat, vegetables, and Odoriko's handmade tofu at their tables ($35+). Nine varieties of sake headline the vast drink menu, which also includes shochu, a distilled traditional Japanese liquor ($6.95+ per glass). Odoriko extends a sharable party menu to groups of four or more, who may transform their conviviality into a full-fledged bash in a private room complete with karaoke and nearly endless renditions of "Endless Love."