Before filling up a plate at Hokkaido Seafood Buffet, take a moment to meander past the seemingly boundless rows of fresh crawfish, jumbo crab legs, and oysters, or to marvel at chefs as they toss steak and chicken on fiery teppanyaki grills. Stroll past the sushi station to admire sushi masters as they nimbly slice fresh fish and crispy vegetables into colorful specialty rolls, then saunter by simmering trays of pan-Asian specialties such as fried rice and crunchy spring rolls. The vast buffet abounds with more than 150 hot and cold items, many of which were made with seafood purchased directly from local fisherman.
Out in the spacious dining room, diners linger over last bites of creamy cheesecake and juicy strawberries in cushy booths, sipping imported beers and colorful cocktails. The bright space is decorated with nautical decor, including orange life preservers and impressionist pieces painted by local sea monkeys.
Each of Yen's Sushi & Sake Bar's five locations has its own feel. The Long Beach restaurant, with its concrete color scheme and mismatched wooden chairs, seems like some kind of industrial antique shop, whereas the downtown Los Angeles spot has the clean white look of a crayon factory that's good at avoiding accidents. But no matter the surroundings, all eyes are soon on the restaurant's fresh rolls, sashimi, and entrees. Again each location's menu differs, but in Long Beach specialties such as grilled jumbo shrimp with garlic salt or blue-crab hand-rolls mingle with charbroiled teriyaki salmon steak, and cuts of Spanish mackerel, fatty tuna, and yellowtail belly arrive on stark white plates.
Vases full of orange fruits reflect the bright orange booths that line the walls at Bamboo Grill & Sushi, a casual eatery that specializes in Japanese classics. In the kitchen, sushi chefs prepare traditional philly and dragon rolls along with sushi options for those who prefer cooked fish such as the baked salmon and lobster rolls. Nine healthful salads combine greens, proteins, and fruits including mango and avocado, which diners can polish off with a dish of green-tea ice cream.
When it comes to cooking, Daimon chefs have a flair for the dramatic. The chefs, like U.S. Presidents during their State of the Union addresses, have the power to summon theatrical flames on command, sizzling up strips of chicken, kobe beef, and seafood over tableside teppanyaki grills. Meanwhile, behind the sleek bar, skilled sushi chefs slice up fresh fish before adorning rolls with sprigs of carrots and swirls of sauces. The bartenders are equally creative, blending liquors and fruit juices into colorful cocktails with imaginative names like "Pink Dragon" or "Ferrari Margi."
The atmosphere is bright and energetic in the trendy dining rooms, where vibrant neon sea creatures speckle the walls and soft blue lights cast an oceanic hue onto the massive booths. All the while, an animated crowd surrounds the bar, swilling sake bombs as they snack on sushi or fried rice playfully arranged into the shape of a heart.
Gonpachi fashions its menu of authentic Japanese fare and Edomae (Tokyo-style) sushi from locally sourced ingredients, as well as authentic foodstuffs purchased from Tokyo's Tsukiji Market. Gonpachi hand-pounds its soba noodles daily from buckwheat flour threshed and milled on the premises. These freshly noodled noodles can then be served chilled with a dipping sauce as seiro ($8) or in a hot broth as kake soba ($8–$9). Gonpachi in Beverly Hills also practices the slow-cooking robata-style, preparing delicacies such as Chilean sea bass ($6) and bacon-wrapped cherry tomatoes ($3) over the gentle firelight of a traditional oak-charcoal pyramid. On the other end of the cooked spectrum, sushi fans can trap spicy tuna rolls ($5) between the bamboo chopsticks in their hands or the insect pincers on their faces. Chopsticks also protect hands from the flavor explosion of the dynamite roll ($16).
The seasoned chefs at Tsunami Sushi augment their tableside cooking techniques with dazzling dramatics, including knife twirling and spatula slinging, as they slice, dice, and sizzle morsels of chicken, steak, and fish atop traditional Japanese teppanyaki-style grills. Sushi gurus also prepare fresh sushi and sashimi rolls as an alternative or supplement to cooked offerings. The full bar offers a lengthy list of liquid meal enhancers, including wine, imported beers, and sake. Valet parking grants patrons a reprieve from finding a space or learning the ancient art of sedan levitation.