Bursts of flame spring from the tableside teppan grills at Shogun Japanese Restaurant / Izakaya 88. These flares aren't used to scare away Frankensteins; rather, the fiery pillars are showy flairs of personal chefs as they grill tender meats, veggies, and stacks of onion. Away from the sizzling show, velvety-red wooden chairs line a bar focused on chefs tucking seafood into carefully wrapped rolls of rice and folding traditional Japanese dinners into bento boxes for lunch and dinner.
There's much more to Oyama Sushi than its name suggests. Yes, there are eye-catching platters of thin-sliced sashimi, carefully arranged nigiri, and more than 40 sushi rolls, featuring everything from lobster and avocado to tempura-fried shrimp and honey-wasabi sauce. But another side of the restaurant appears as soon as you walk in: several tables feature gleaming hibachi grills, where chefs sear orders of vegetables, filet mignon, or scallops while dazzling their hungry audience with culinary showmanship. No matter which neighborhood of the menu you're ordering from, dishes are designed to be visually appealing as well as tasty; The Culture Trip's Cedar Rapids guide placed Oyama on its list of Top 10 Restaurants in the city, praising its knack for "turning food into art."
The decor is as traditional as the menu. A torii-style gateway divides two seating sections, and red lanterns decorated with kanji hang from the ceiling alongside kaleidoscopic chains of origami cranes. The blonde woodwork, pale yellow walls, and soft lighting all contribute to an open and inviting ambiance. In addition to its collection of wines and familiar spirits, the bar also displays its collection of Japanese beers and sakes, imported straight from Tokyo via underground tunnel.
With an expertise honed over two decades in kitchens at home and abroad, Flambé Gourmet's head chef Angelo Cattaneo captains a crew of cooks to offer a white-sleeved helping hand with catering services and intimate cooking classes comprised of 6?12 students. Demonstration classes held in the 1,500-square-foot kitchen teach students a healthy sampling of the chef of the week's raison d'être while granting an insider's look at the kitchen without forcing students to forge a false identity as a recently transferred dishwashing specialist. During the classes, students participate in the culinary crafting in a hands-on way at every step, manifesting a full meal by the end of the session. Flambé Gourmet welcomes suggestions for future classes on its Facebook page, and offers online reservations to take the place of unreliable ESP-RSVPs and unsanitary registration by messenger pigeon.
Hibachi Buffet settles arguments over sushi or lo mein before they begin, thanks to its plentiful Japanese and Chinese selections. Specialty rolls, fresh sashimi, and hibachi-style dinners satisfy cravings for Japanese meals, and the equally extensive Chinese menu tempts appetites with egg drop soup or orange chicken.
There are plenty of intimate tabletops and booths inside Murasaki Japanese & Thai Fusion, but the best seats in the house are arguably stationed in front of tableside hibachi grills. There, diners can marvel at expert chefs, who sizzle cuts of steak, salmon, and shrimp amid dancing flames and trees that have retired as chopsticks. As hibachi masters labor over the grills, sushi chefs create colorful pieces at the sushi station, slicing up fresh fish for sashimi and more than 20 types of specialty rolls—including the Sunshine roll, with tuna, scallion, and yellowtail, which was celebrated by the Rockford Register Star. The Asian fusion restaurant also whips up Thai and Japanese specialties, ranging from spicy pad thai noodles to simmering Japanese udon noodle soups.
Chefs at Izakaya 88 specialize in Japanese-style tapas, which they create alongside eclectic international dishes such as soft shell crab BLTs and fresh sashimi crowned with sizzling sesame oil. Seated next to tall botanical sculptures or beneath a grid of organically-arranged lights, guests dig into plates of slow-roasted pork belly, sipping on mai tais or beers from the bar. On Friday and Saturday nights, visitors can lend an ear to fellow diners, who belt out karaoke classics beneath the glow of multi-colored lights and the distant gaze of glowering, music-hating deities.