As if in competition with Sakura’s playful lemongrass-green hues, the sushi artists twist colorful maki rolls and concoct house-made soy sauce and eel sauce. Whenever possible, they fly in fish in fresh-packed ice and avoid freezing ingredients including seafood, chicken, and beef dipped in golden tempura batter or thick teriyaki. After slathering a california roll with ginger and wasabi, patrons take on the server's challenge of using chopsticks to eat green-tea ice cream or pick up a tear-stained letter from a fork.
A few years ago, Clement Liu came to a realization: the quality and authenticity of local Chinese food wasn’t meeting his expectations. So, along with his partner, Yu-Hong Li—who was part of the first generation to open postwar dine-in restaurants in China—Clement took matters into his own hands and opened Li Asian Cuisine.
Both Clement and Yu-Hong boast decades of experience in the Asian-restaurant industry. At Li Asian Cuisine, they augmented their own skills by hiring chefs from numerous Asian backgrounds. That diversity in cooking styles is reflected on the menu, which features regional Chinese cuisine as well as other popular Japanese, Thai, and Mongolian dishes, including sushi and pad thai. Equally pleasing to the eye and palate, those creations are served in a modern but not over-decorated dining room, complete with a full bar and a hibachi-style cooking station.
At Samurai Sushi and Hibachi, diners sup on plates of freshly grilled hibachi meats, succulent sushi, and savory tempura in an atmosphere with the low-lit feel of a nightclub. Like a pie fight with explosions in the background, the restaurant blends food with entertainment: skilled chefs display their mastery of knifework at 12 hibachi tables as revelers sip cocktails and sake at a full-service bar or private party room. Rays of electric blue and purple light emanate from ceiling fixtures and disco balls, and walls of gray stone and leafy bamboo lend an organic touch to the chic décor.
Mizu’s sushi bar is supplemented by a full kitchen, and together create a menu with more than 80 pan-Asian items. From the sushi bar, patrons can begin with appetizers of tuna tartar before ordering one of 22 specialty rolls, such as the Stop Light with tuna, avocado, mango, and a small camera on the side that records anyone who speeds through eating it too fast. The Mexican roll is a spicy blend of tempura shrimp, tuna, jalapenos, chili sauce, and eel sauce in a green soybean wrap. At lunch and dinner, guests can create their own combination meals with nigiri, maki, or sashimi.
In the kitchen, chefs prepare plates of dumplings and veggie tempura to whet appetites for Japanese-style entrees such as teriyaki and udon noodle dishes. Donburi rice bowls are filled with deep-fried chicken or pork, and the traditional nabemono, or hot pot, is filled with a combination of potato noodles, veggies, thinly sliced beef, tofu, and an egg. Asian flavors reappear on the dessert menu, which includes banana tempura with honey and green tea or red bean ice cream.
Yama’s owner, Mr. Yeung, opened the restaurant in October 2009 intending to fill a void in the local cuisine scene by offering fresh and authentic Japanese recipes. A glance at the sushi menu confirms the presence of stalwart favorites such as salmon sashimi ($4.50 for two pieces) and California rolls (crabmeat, cucumber, and avocado, $4.50), as well as a wide selection of specialty rolls, including the Greenwich roll (white tuna, avocado, yellowtail and jalapeño, $12) and the snow roll (shrimp tempura and cucumber capped by blue crab and served with lemon sauce, $14). The staff at Yama can help first-time sushi-goers by counseling them on dish choices, the proper way to hold chopsticks, and the pros and cons of providing room and board to circus performers. Along with fresh ingredients and expert preparation, the sushi is enhanced by elaborate, artistic platings.