Amid hissing steam and gouts of flame, the sound of cutlery rings out above metal grills as skilled chefs twirl their knives with practiced ease. The chefs divide juicy filet mignon steak and buttery scallops into perfectly grilled bite-sized portions, then serve them to diners at the very table where they were cooked. Across the restaurant, sushi chefs perform their own delicate knife work as they prepare, slice, and plate sushi rolls. Their specialty maki include such unique creations as the Red Dragon Roll, with asparagus and zucchini tempura, and the Fuji Roll, with fried lobster and avocado.
It’s important to Sakura Cafe that its sushi chef, David Li, be given free rein when it comes to creating new sushi rolls. That’s why its maki menu, with nearly 50 specialty rolls, includes creations that have likely never appeared on another menu. The New York roll wraps apple, fish eggs, avocado, and cucumber in soy paper. The Fuji Mountain roll combines eel and smoked salmon with green seaweed powder. And the Bonsai roll drizzles a spicy vinaigrette sauce over spicy tuna, fresh red tuna, and cream cheese.
For those who prefer something other than sushi, the immense menu also offers hot hibachi combinations, such as filet mignon and shrimp, and pan-Asian classics, such as drunken noodle and pad thai. It even has American options, including philly-cheesesteak wraps.
Chiyo Sushi's talented chefs prepare more than 100 familiar Japanese eats such as teriyaki and salmon nigiri as well as dishes that make use of more inventive ingredients such as monkfish liver, sea urchin, and live scallops. The bill of fare contains multitudes, from delicate sashimi to crispy tempura to savory udon soup. Diners populate tables at lunch and dinner, sandwiched between prints of kimono-clad nobles that adorn the walls and broad, tree-framed windows that allow fresh air in and soy sauce-dwelling demons out.
Shiso Tavern takes the concept of Asian fusion beyond the table to behind the bar. There, signature cocktails have half-familiar names: the green tea palmer, for example, which mixes green tea-infused vodka with lemonade and honey. There are lychee martinis, bottled beers, and sake samplers, all influenced by, if not imported from the east.
These libations pair well with a menu of sushi and wok-fired dishes. There are enough staples here to delight fans of classic Thai, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine, but the chefs shine when permitted to invent. The Baltimore Sun praises their soft-shell crab roll, calling it a visual "stunner" with an "exciting" medley of textures, from the tender crab to the crisp veggies and tempura. Specialty entrees range from grilled octopus salad to the sushi nacho, a wonton wrapper layered with sliced tuna tataki, spicy salmon, and avocado. You can also trust the chef's judgment by ordering a plate of sashimi or nigiri, cuts of fish picked based on their freshness and the likelihood that they'll match your dinner jacket.
At Tatu Restaurant--voted “Best New Restaurant” in 2011 by the readers of Baltimore Magazine--the culinary team unites Chinese and Japanese cuisines into a single smorgasbord. Diners can feast on traditional Chinese dishes, such as sesame chicken, short ribs braised in five spices, or Shanghai beef, a New York strip steak grilled in hot oil, cilantro and soy-mirin sauce. Fresh sushi interpretations include the salmon tartar roll with Chinese mustard and wonton chips, or a chilled shrimp roll with wasabi cocktail sauce. Diners are encouraged to share their plates, and complement their meals with house cocktails such as sake sangria, a mix of sake and plum wine muddled with lychee fruit and tangerines.
Sculptures of simple wooden sailboats glide across the wall behind Sake House's sushi bar, where chefs bend intently over long filets of fresh fish. In front of them in the dining room, tables draped with tidy white tablecloths stand out against the dark, wooden walls, and platters littered with colorful sushi travel on the arms of servers. Behind the bar, bottles of chilled sake wear poetic labels such as "Bamboo Dew", "Soaring Cloud", and "Black River", and at hibachi tables, chefs deftly manipulate their knives across steaks and lobsters or carve their initials into broccoli trees.