Twelve chefs clad in black uniforms and red hats stand at attention over tableside hibachis. All eyes on them, they start to play with their food: the culinary wizards wave lobster tails at guests, set onions aflame, and flip shrimp high in the air to land in their tall hats. ?It is not just about the food, it?s about the show,? says Sumo Japanese Steakhouse owner Brad Meltzer. ?The show brings you in and the food brings you back.?
Prior to landing on the hibachi grill, beef is butchered in-house and dressed in its Sunday best. Filet mignon shares grilling space with salmon, chicken, tuna, and scallops dipped in house-made ginger sauce. Meltzer and a small army of trained sushi chefs designed their menu of more than two dozen nigiri and sashimi rolls to please even the prickliest taste buds. Meltzer himself favors the 210 roll, a cyclone of scallops, shrimp, and crab slathered in sweet-and-spicy sauce and topped with crabstick, eel sauce, spicy mayo, and a snowfall of tempura flakes.
Chefs Shibasaki San and Michael Luna rely on decades of culinary experience and an ever-changing supply of seasonal ingredients to craft Japanese and Chinese staples. The menu includes 58 specialty sushi rolls that feature thin-sliced fish along with a slew of premium fillings such as roasted jalape?os, red-chili sauce, and scraps of Julia Childs?s first shopping list. The rest of the pages highlight a pan-Asian selection that ranges from teriyaki entrees to yakisoba noodles and sweet and sour chicken.
Thai Topaz has been in business for nearly a decade, but the path it took to get there was much, much longer. Somchai and Jiraporn Namarsa, the husband-and-wife team behind the restaurant, have picked up and moved numerous times, first from Thailand to Tennessee, then Wisconsin, then Texas. This was all in service of one desire: to support their daughter Somjira in her journey to becoming a doctor. Once Somjira was officially Dr. Namarsa, the family finally settled in San Antonio to open Thai Topaz.
Though the owners often call on generations-old recipes for their sauces and entrees, the key to the menu at Thai Topaz is change. As new dishes are discovered, less popular ones are retired. This leads to a dynamic menu that, like letting a crayon-wielding toddler loose on an art museum, strikes a pleasing balance between traditional favorites and original creations. Stand-bys such as pad thai and panang curry share space with unique dishes such as emerald salmon swimming in green curry and fresh avocado. The dessert menu is also respectably large, with treats ranging from sweet sticky rice with mango to homemade coconut ice cream.
A reception desk lined in shimmery green tiles welcomes diners to the earth-toned dining room of MJ China Bistro, where ambitious stalks of bamboo stretch upwards around the perimeter of the seating area. Reflecting the contemporary decor of the room, the kitchen crafts a menu of traditional Chinese-American cuisine with a modern spin. Diners can wrap spoonfuls of mu shu pork in pancakes made by hand. Tea and sugar coat the browning skin of duck as it slowly smokes, its five-spice marinade growing more complex in flavor. The Chin Yuan pork chop, a classic Taiwanese street food, soaks in a secret blend of spices before being fried until just crispy on the outside but still tender on the inside, just like the best customer-service operators.
The restaurant also houses a sushi bar, where chefs whip up the TNT Roll, a combination of crawfish, tuna, and salmon drizzled in a chipotle mayo spicier than that time Charo put wasabi and Sriracha sauce in her tea.
Chinese-American fusion stars on the menus served at Taipei Restaurants, located in both Stone Oak and Castle Hills. Both locations specialize in wok-seared moo shu pork served with housemade pancakes, salt-and-pepper shrimp, and triple delight—a tasty trifecta of chicken, beef, and shrimp in a spicy housemade sauce. Sizzling firecracker chicken sets tongues aflame with jalapenos at the Castle Hills dining room, and in Stone Oak, knives glide through tender osso bucco, a bone-in pork shank poached in a traditional sauce of rice wine and soy. At the Stone Oak location, sushi chefs carefully craft maki rolls or assemble plates of precisely sliced sashimi and nigiri from fresh seafood fished by the staff's resident mermaid. The Castle Hills location cultivates serenity with muted tan walls, rows of tall windows, and mounted Chinese paintings that depict subjects from a horse to a parade.
Though its name suggests otherwise, the Forget About It roll?s unorthodox ingredients make it pretty memorable: the flavorful crunch of shrimp tempura is wrapped up with crawfish and accented by ginger cream. It's just one of the many unique combinations dreamed up by Piranha Killer Sushi's owner and chef, Kenzo Tran. Non-traditional sushi fixings are Kenzo?s specialty, from the White Lotus roll?s pico de gallo and truffle oil sauce to the Bullet roll?s cilantro chili pur?e and edible police officer?s badge.
That blend of the classic and unconventional runs throughout Piranha Killer Sushi's menu. Besides distinctive rolls, the kitchen serves up dishes such as Korean beef in ginger marinade, salads with octopus and spicy conch, and blue crab fried rice. Ditto the drink menu, featuring specialty libations such as the saketini, a blend of vodka, gin, and sake with a cucumber garnish. The restaurant's whimsical take on Japanese fare hasn't gone unnoticed?media outlets laud it for its tasty creations and inviting decor.