Dale Del Bello remembers everything about his first hibachi experience. While stationed in Korea as a part of the Air Force National Guard, Dale and a group of friends visited Tokyo on leave. They followed a traditional route among his fellow service people, which took him to a hibachi restaurant. Immediately he sensed that he’d stumbled upon more than just dinner. The chefs’ showmanship fascinated him as they seared meats and vegetables on their tabletop grills, allowing guests to sample forkfuls directly off the 600-degree surface. After returning to Buffalo, New York, in 1971, Dale opened his first Arigato location, attempting to recreate what made that dining experience so remarkable. Since then, he has distilled the authentic experience into something that families can enjoy without traveling abroad, establishing Arigato restaurants throughout New York and Florida and staffing them with more than 60 chefs from Japan.
Surrounded by 8–10 diners, these chefs act not only as the restaurant’s culinary creators, but also as showmen and magicians of sorts, dexterously slicing ingredients, flipping shrimp tails into their hats, and conjuring soy sauce out of thin air. Away from the flaming tabletops, meanwhile, bartenders make use of their own skill sets as they mix specialty cocktails, which occasionally use splashes of plum wine or sake to imbue familiar-sounding drinks with new dimension.
Sushi Tsu's talented hibachi chefs create savory masterpieces in a jaw-dropping tornado of blades on the restaurant's grill tables, while skilled sushi rollers craft novel seafood bites. The hibachi menu bursts with Eastern appetizers, including gyoza fried dumplings ($6) and tempura-battered strips of alligator tail ($8). Showboating chefs, each of whom have apprenticed for at least two years under the owner's masterful eye, forge beef teriyaki ($17) and succulent Teppanyaki scallops ($20.50), exciting adrenaline and salivary glands like a ruptured nacho-cheese pipeline. Sushi Tsu’s avant-garde rice rollers eschew humdrum rolls in favor of the eclectic mexican roll ($6) and the lightning roll, an electrifying amalgam of baked salmon skin, wasabi, and fresh veggies ($7). Diners can also grease their fast-working mouthparts with a bubbly selection of Japanese beers ($4+).
Outside Ballyhoo Grill, a sign made to look like a colorful speedboat beckons to passersby, hinting at the smorgasbord of fresh seafood to be found within. A tropical theme permeates the space, with live music setting a relaxing mood and nautical decor—such as a surfboard, an alligator head, and a stuffed and mounted kraken—adorning the walls. Guests dine on surf 'n' turf plates, fish tacos, pulled pork, and burgers as they share friendly conversation and clink cocktail glasses and mugs of draft beer.
Texas de Brazil blends the steak-centric cuisine of Texas with the traditional churrasco method of slow-roasting meat over an open flame grill to form a luscious meaty mélange. The full dinner ($39.99) marches out a cavalcade of choice cuts, allowing diners to welcome continuous windfalls of flavorful proteins. Brandish your table's provided card, green on one side, red on the other, and it will function as a meat traffic light that summons servers to either send stacks of seasoned beef, pork, or lamb skewers or halt plate traffic like a decorated culinary crossing guard. Or feel free to substitute greens for the grill by stepping into the sprawling salad-bar conga line ($24.99), two-stepping through toothsome goodies such as imported cheeses, steamed asparagus, and dozens of other hors d'oeuvres.
Living up to your dad's legacy can be tough when your dad was George Steinbrenner's go-to guy. Malio Iavarone often hosted "The Boss" during his tenure as the Yankees manager, serving him steaks at the original Malio's Steakhouse on South Dale Mabry. Today, Malio's son Derek works to produce similar hype at a new, swankier location in Rivergate Tower, where the one-word difference in the venue's name—"Prime" hints at the USDA Prime beef cooked within—belies the recipes’ faithful adherence to tradition.
Each steak, from the New York strip to the filet, receives a simple yet meticulously scattered dash of salt and pepper. Couples can even go all-out with a 40-oz. prime porterhouse for two, admittedly a more filling romantic dinner than catching and swallowing each other’s blown kisses. Aside from tender cuts of beef, the menu at Malio's boasts lamb and veal chops as well as lobster tails and Chilean sea bass cooked several ways, including blackened, Theresa-style, and pan-fried.
Like the patrons who like their steaks rare, Malio’s Prime Steakhouse seems enamored with the color red. Broad red columns stand between the windows overlooking the waterfront, and framed works by Joe Testa-Secca—Art Professor Emeritus at the University of Tampa—hang over the crimson semicircular booths. The reds from a list of more than 200 wines complete the motif.