In one section of KAWA Japanese Restaurant, the area behind the gauzy paper screens, guests slip out of their shoes and onto a floor pillow to sip sake at a low table. In another, the main room, they gather around the circular, glossy-topped bar at the room's center and admire the billowing red curtains that sweep across the ceiling's exposed piping. Either way, they get to savor the maki, noodles, and lobster servers tote to tables. They can also serve themselves by visiting the sushi buffet or by saying, "Is that Dan Aykroyd over there?" and grabbing other people's food when they look.
SakeZake's fusion of ancient and contemporary tastes extends from the robust menu of specialty sushi rolls to the artfully minimalist dining-room decor. Executive Chef Ahn Yung Jin's classic nigiri shares menu space with specialty rolls that combine fresh fish with eye-catching ingredients such as tempura flakes, jalapeño, and diamond chips. Mock shoji screens and lacquered red chairs give the dining room the air of a modish teahouse, while the funky hourglass lamps keep things as fresh as the sushi-bar offerings. The lounge-like atmosphere is no accident, as SakeZake is open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Eight Piece is all about serving up food fresh and fast, yet each of the restaurant’s dishes remain meticulously prepared. As chefs layer fresh fish and vegetables into their signature versions of California and Philadelphia rolls, guests watch on through glass like proud parents and point out the roll they named after a grandparent. In an interactive turn, diners are encouraged to create their own sushi rolls from a menu of base rolls, creative toppings, and sauces. From those choices, chefs can add heat to a vegetarian roll with a chili oil-infused kamikaze mixt topping or cool down a chipotle roll with an individual topping of avocado and a sauce. With sushi plates in hand, diners are invited to nestle into the airy dining room where neon lime chairs and white banquettes invite conversation and leisurely dining.
Executive chef Simon Lin beautifully blends various Asian and North American culinary traditions into an eclectic array of sophisticated dishes, enhanced with more than 50 signature sauces, spice blends, and seasonings. The lunch menu satisfies roaring noontime stomachs by offering up the best of the deep blue, including seafood pasta, in which sea scallops, prawns, and crab meat play Marco Polo with pad-thai noodles in a Thai alfredo sauce ($14.99), and a smorgasbord of sushi and sashimi favorites. Dinner dishes slather taste buds in elegant flavors, such as the peppercorn-encrusted tuna, served with wasabi garlic smashed potatoes ($27). Moisten freshly sated palates with a selection of beer, sake, and plum wine or an artistic martini.
Soft light floats in through the shoji-style windows at Bangkok Thai & Sushi, where the menu lists a diversity of Thai curry and noodle dishes such as garlic pepper chicken or roast duck in Thai chili sauce. Sushi chefs prepare rainbow rolls, which wrap the traditional California roll in red tuna, salmon, and avocado, as well as black dragon rolls, which contain spicy salmon, shrimp tempura, and eel.
Sleek decor and bold colors fill Sushi-Ai's dining room to complement the elegant plates of sushi rolls and Japanese-influenced entrees. A white banquette lines one wall and modern chairs snuggle up to black tables illuminated by candlelight. Against a red-tiled backdrop, sushi chefs slice up nigiri and arrange their signature maki rolls, which can be cloaked in black rice upon request. The Green Turtle roll comes topped with shrimp and wasabi tobiko to hide its core of freshwater eel and avocado, and the salmon Obsession is filled with cucumber and crabmeat that move in with lightly battered spicy salmon, gradually copying the salmon's personality quirks and mannerisms.