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.
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.
Over the last five years, the chefs at Barracuda Japanese Restaurant have continually tinkered with their sushi, teriyaki, and noodle dishes, customizing the menu to fit each Barracuda location’s neighborhood and clientele. Using fresh fish and fruit sourced locally and sustainably whenever possible, the team crafts more than a dozen specialty rolls, including the Japanese Cowboy Roll, which matches crabmeat with mango, avocado, and thinly sliced Kobe beef. Staples such as chicken teriyaki rest side by side with more intricately prepared eats including pan-seared rib eye with mashed potatoes. Lit from underneath, the dining room’s dim orange walls surround potted plants and wooden tables that can accommodate groups of all sizes.
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.