As the most populous city in the world, Shanghai has been shaped by travelers and settlers from all over. This is particularly evident in the city's food, which has been influenced by the culinary styles from both the northern and southern regions of China, as well as dishes from throughout the entire continent of Asia. This cultural integration holds true at Shanghai Café, where the chefs use recipes the Hu family has spent the past half-century perfecting. These recipes follow various Shanghai cooking principles—for instance, the original flavors of meats and fish are allowed to shine through rather than being drowned out by heavy marinades or sauces that are too sweet or salty.
Though the recipes are traditional, they respect modern, healthful eating habits by incorporating natural broths and stocks and limiting the use of oil. Some of the restaurant's signature dishes include boiled dumplings, steamed pork buns, and dim sum—a Shanghai staple. In the spirit of Shanghai's pan-Asian tendencies, the menus also include Thai dishes, such as pad kee mao (drunken noodles), nigiri, sashimi, and maki.
When he's not busy passing down the history and art of sushi making to his students, executive chef Hiro-san practices what he preaches behind the bar. He incorporates ingredients such as cured mackerel and bean curd into his hand-formed nigiri, and his traditional and fusion maki include components such as shiitake mushrooms and fried jalapeño rolled in seaweed. Diners also can order sushi alternatives, from vegetable udon to broiled chilean sea bass marinated in sake seasoning. An extensive selection of sake, beer, and wine washes down meals, which unfold in Obi Sushi's spacious lower dining room. Upstairs, three shoji screens shelter private feasts for up to 25 people, creating more privacy than a group of sumo wrestlers guarding the table.
At Hikaru Sushi, seasoned chefs mold the sea's freshest specimens into more than 70 types of maki and nigiri. In addition to constructing classic California rolls from crab sticks and cucumbers, they whisk taste buds to the frontier of the sushi realm with colorful fruit maki and a deep-fried Virginia roll stuffed with asparagus, cream cheese, and yellowtail. The eponymous Hikaru bento box pairs a choice of five sushi rolls with hot teriyaki and an Asian amuse-bouche such as gyoza or shumai, and the Hikaru maki teams crispy shrimp tempura with a mayo that has more kick than a Rockette who took tae kwon do lessons as a child. To end the meal on a sweet note, guests can nibble desserts such as mango sherbet and tempura ice cream on the restaurant's outdoor patio.
Saigon Saigon's immersive Vietnamese menu features pho noodle soups, spicy curries, and entrees of lemongrass chicken or roast pork. Diners sip wine while nibbling small plates of shrimp-topped baguettes, mushroom-stuffed spring rolls, or skewers of marinated chicken satay. Main courses appease appetites with stir-fried noodle dishes, or Chef Vu's specialties of rice topped with Saigon sausage and lemongrass pork, flank steak in sizzling hot pots, and filets of ginger-infused salmon. Chefs garnish dishes with colorful fresh veggies and fragrant herbs, and diners enjoy their feasts amid the warm-colored walls and sprigs of bamboo of the interior or in the open air of the patio.
Kanpai Japanese Restaurant encourages diners to raise their glasses over platefuls of fresh sushi and traditional Japanese entrees. Inside the restaurant—which takes its name from a word that means “cheers!” —patrons gather around the sushi bar and watch as chefs set pieces of yellowtail, white tuna, and smoked salmon over rice and slice up various specialty rolls. Meanwhile, the wait staff carries salmon and chicken teriyaki from the grill to dining room tables both indoors and out. Throughout meals, patrons can sip wine and sake, or kick back with a bottle of Japanese beer.
Though the interior of Matsutake Ballston Japanese Steak and Seafood House takes a modern approach to traditional Asian décor, its lunch and dinner menus are filled with authentic Japanese cuisine. On traditional hibachi grills, chefs-turned-showmen sizzle morsels of marinated chicken, NY strip steak, and lobster alongside fresh vegetables. At the sushi bar, maki-makers hand craft spicy tuna, tempura shrimp, and California rolls in a less flashy display. For more unique flavors, Matsutake serves up appetizers of tempura-fry calamari and cap meals with desserts such as housemade crème brulee infused with green tea and cream harvested from the brulee tree. Matsutake also stocks a selection of imported Japanese drinks including Echigo Koshi Hikari rice lager, Junmai sake, and Ramune orange soda.