Northern Berkshire peaks peek through the windows of Taylor's, where surf and turf unite in a lamp-lit, exposed-brick dining room. An army of appetizers kicks off the menu, including the baked brie, which is infused with grapes and sprinkled with brown sugar, walnuts, and apples ($8). A fresh garden salad sidekicks every entree, serving as a momentary plate mate for hearty dishes such as the filet mignon ($24) and its aquatic, redundant counterpart, grilled mahi-mahi ($21). The ratatouille with tofu forgoes filets for a mix of stewed eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes that are fresher than haircuts of the eighties ($16).
When seated at a secluded dinner table, it’s easy to forget the skill it takes to turn disparate ingredients into a delicious meal. Sakura Japanese Restaurant’s chefs aim to remind their guests of just how incredible that feat is, abandoning the seclusion of the kitchen to prepare dishes tableside. They twirl knives, drumming them against the smooth metal surface of their grill as they use cooking oil to summon gouts of flame. From the dexterous show, they create sizzling hibachi meals of chicken, steak, lobster, and other meats for a rapt audience.
Sakura's sushi chefs specialize in a less flashy craft, drizzling eel sauce on combinations of crab, shrimp, and avocado or topping white- and yellowtail-tuna rolls with tobiko and wasabi. They also make up obento boxes, traditional packaged lunches featuring specific slots for sushi, tempura, a main course, and extra masking tape.
Armed with fresh seafood, authentic recipes, and a sizzling hibachi grill, the chefs at Tokyo Sushi construct fresh sushi rolls and flame-broiled meals of meat and seafood. In the hibachi dining area, chefs artfully spin utensils as they prepare sizzling filet mignon and calamari for visitors seated around the oft-flaming grill, using its intense light to improve their base tans. Diners can also situate themselves in conventional restaurant seating to enjoy uncooked cuisine such as the Kamikaze roll with avocado, spicy tuna, and spicy yellowtail, or a Rock ‘n’ Roll plate that cocoons eel, salmon skin, cucumber, and avocado in rice.
Toshi provides a chic stage for innovative maki makers to exhibit their roll-terrorizing reflexes. An extensive menu boasts both raw and expertly cooked options, such as noodles, surf and turf, and combination dinners. Beef tataki introduces the best of both worlds with seared slices served cold with a special sauce ($7.75). Sip on sake ($4–$13 by the glass) while supping on the Volcano roll: a mountain filled with tempura-flaked spicy tuna, salmon, and yellowtail and erupting with hot sauce ($12). One of Toshi's most frequently requested entrees is the lobster tempura, a debonair crustacean that abandons its bourgeois shell for a refined tempura crust ($19). Desserters can leave with a tummy full of ginger ice cream ($2.75), while those who prefer a night in with off-duty sushi chefs can opt for delivery (good for orders over $25).
Ginza's menu fuses classic Japanese dishes with contemporary adaptations, earning its Bloomfield location second place for Best Japanese Restaurant in the 2011 Hartford Advocate Readers' Poll. A sushi dinner arrives tableside with an assortment of nine sushi pieces around either a tuna roll or a california roll ($20), and the french dragon lights up the night with smoked eel and avocado atop nori-wrapped shrimp tempura ($15). At the Ginza's Bloomfield location, chefs man hibachi stations to cook up grilled chicken ($17), steak and scallops ($22), and lobster tail ($29) fresh, and made-to-order. Other fusion-inspired eats include sake-marinated short ribs accompanied by Holland leeks, wild mushrooms, baby carrots, and red-wine demi glaze ($18), and the miso-broiled Atlantic salmon with baby bok choy and Peruvian corn bathing in miso as well as a sweet and spicy yet vulnerable sauce ($20).
At Ichiro Hibachi & Sushi Bar, presentation is nearly as important as flavor. Sushi rolls leave the sushi bar tightly wrapped and garnished with colorful sauces, fresh flowers, and crunchy masago. Chefs manning the hibachi grill sear and flip meats, seafood, and veggies in an almost choreographed style, all amid a pyrotechnics display of bright orange flames.