Behind a sleek sushi bar, the chefs at Maru Maru wrap seaweed around fresh fish before slicing rolls into creative make sushi. Pieces of sashimi and nigiri bolster dishes such as Japanese teriyaki and vegetable tempura. Bright wall sconces illuminate rows of seating in the tile-floored restaurant, where groups of diners share their deepest regrets over platters of sushi.
The cooks at Tenka Japanese Restaurant grill squid, deep-fry oysters, and assemble raw orders of sushi with the steady hands of a brain surgeon building a house of cards. Sushi rolls can grow around simple cores of tuna and cucumber or more piquant fillings like spicy mayonnaise, asparagus, or shrimp tempura. For even more robust flavor, the cooks skewer beef after first marinating it in soy sauce and sake, or deep-fry pork cutlets and add them to curry rice.
The specialty rolls at Hop On Sushi take their titles seriously. The Kimono roll, for example, dresses its tuna, hamachi, salmon, and avocado with a pink soy sheet, evoking the traditional Japanese robe. The Fire Dragon roll's mix of crab, jalapeños, and tuna is not only spicy, it's also torch-seared, then topped in a tangy thai sauce.
These rolls occupy the Maki Maniac portion of an exhaustive menu. Beginning with small plates of grilled king mackerel and ending with bento boxes of teriyaki meats, the selection spans Asian classics as well as creative inventions. California rolls share the table with kimchee-flavored diced salmon and power shooters—a shot of chilled sake, quail egg, and oyster that counterbalances the warmth of udon soups. If they'd rather not navigate the catalog of nigiri and rice bowls, guests can leave their orders up to the kitchen. Omakase-style dining covers three or five courses, all of which depend on the chef's whims and whether his tuna plants are in full bloom.
At Tokai Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar, guests can slide right up to the sushi bar and watch Chef David at work, folding yellow tail and avocado or soft-shell crab and eel into decadent sushi rolls. Sushi is just half of the eatery’s specialty; the menu also tempts diners with thinly sliced ginger beef, shrimp tempura, and chirashi—an assortment of fresh seafood served over seasoned rice. Japanese beer, wines, and sake complement both cooked and raw meals.
With more than 40 different specialty rolls in their repertoire, you'd almost expect to see all of the ingredients jotted down on the sushi chefs' palms. For the volcano roll alone, they have to wrap spicy tuna and asparagus inside a sheath of salmon and avocado before crowning it with snow crab, crunchy tempura flakes, and scallions. If anyone is up to the task of building these impressive amalgamations from memory, though, it's the sushi masters at Zen Bistro—they boast a combined 20 years of experience, and make it a point of pride to present each of their dishes as a piece of art. This commitment to distinctive menu items and attractive presentation is what helped transform this once small corner sushi joint in Sacramento to a full-grown restaurant in downtown Millbrae. Here, Zen Bistro surrounds its guests with an elegant atmosphere to match its unique creations, boasting seats along a sushi bar, blue ambient lighting, and framed autographs of the yellowtail fish starring in the popular Fong & Fong roll.
With quick, sure gestures, sushi chefs at Koto Teppanyaki & Sushi drizzle colorful sauces in intricate, linear designs, emblazoning plates of handmade sushi rolls with silhouettes of butterflies, dragons, and spiders. And this is only on the left side of the restaurant. Diners who choose the hibachi section on the right watch chefs theatrically flip morsels of steak, swordfish, and lobster teppanyaki on tabletop griddles.
New York native Kevin Lin and his two restaurant co-owners work to bring East Coast–style sauces and cooking techniques to Koto's traditional Japanese menu, according to Redwood City Patch. Amid walls the color of melted butter, servers pile tables with kitchen-prepared entrees, such as teriyaki chicken and sea bass or delicately breaded veggie tempura. And, in a private room, parties of up to 25 people can utilize a personal hibachi grill to prepare their own meals or send smoke signals to the waiter for more sushi.
The sushi chefs at Yoko’s Japanese Cuisine artistically roll arrangements of eel, spicy tuna, and thick-sliced salmon for diners to prod with discerning chopsticks. The menu reads like a voracious mariner's Christmas list with its plethora of ocean-fresh goodies, such as traditional california rolls ($3.75), tied together with delicate ribbons of seaweed. King Kong specialty rolls ($7.95) swat away hunger as if it were a pesky airplane, daring tongues to scale a towering combination of hamachi, salmon, and crab to reach a pinnacle of spicy squid. The deep-fried Dangerous roll ($7.95) lives life on the plate’s edge with a bold assortment of fish, avocado, and scallions, and the spicy scallop salad creeps down the slopes of the crab- and unagi-packed Volcano roll ($7.95). Diners need not scan the ocean’s vast horizon to find vegetarian or cooked options, as herbivore-friendly shiitake mushroom rolls ($2.95) and grilled chicken-teriyaki entrees ($8.95) placate taste buds of all persuasions in the restaurant’s low-key dining room.