If cooking were a language, the chefs at Makoto Japanese Restaurant would be multilingual. They follow Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, and Thai cooking traditions to craft dishes ranging from Thai-style duck with curry sauce to broiled eel with seaweed salad and Japanese pickles. At any given time, they might be slicing fresh sashimi in the kitchen or dazzling hungry guests at tableside hibachi grills. They approach grilling as a performance, thrilling audiences by flipping juicy steaks, sizzling tender scallops, and chopping vegetables fast enough to ignite the flames that light the grill. Wooden walls border the hibachi tables, creating an air of exclusivity as diners delight in the semi-private show.
The penchant for modernity at o-toro recently caught the eye and taste buds of County Lines magazine’s staff, which named it one of Philly’s Best New Ventures of 2013. The restaurant’s track lighting illuminates a contemporary scene marked by wooden fixtures, vibrant splotches of red and orange, and plates of Japanese cuisine with Mexican, Korean, and American influences. Sushi, sashimi, and specialty rolls—such as the signature o-toro roll with fatty tuna tartar, spicy mayo, and jalapeño—are served alongside tapas-style plates of filet mignon dumplings, duck tacos, and skewers of Korean-style fried chicken. At the polished wooden bar, bartenders pour wine, sake, and craft beer.
Sakura Japanese Cuisine traffics in time-tested Japanese dishes. Sushi dinners highlight chef-selected sampler platters and old-fashioned hand rolls, some of which are crafted with ingredients that are rarely seen stateside, such as plum paste and a fermented-soybean delicacy known as natto. Chefs also whip up traditional entrees, including lightly fried vegetable tempura, shrimp teriyaki with miso soup, and hibachi-grilled steak. They even make authentic sukiyaki hot pots, which come accompanied by morsels of beef or chicken that you cook right at the table—just like anything served at that restaurant on sun.
While scanning the pages of Nooddi Thai Chef's eclectic and lengthy menu amid the eatery's oceanic murals, eyes are forced to stop at words that stand out against the traditional "dumpling," "curry," and "satay." The kitchen staff's specialties cause these double takes on a daily basis, as they introduce eccentric proteins such as wild boar in a garlic red curry sauce or sautéed alligator in an aromatic herb sauce. In addition to their Thai classics, the cooks assemble flavors from across Asia, including those in Vietnamese pho, Japanese yakisoba, and Indonesian mee goreng.
Arirang Hibachi Steakhouse and Sushi Bar's hibachi chefs pull double duty, acting as entertainers in addition to grillmasters. They captivate large groups of diners with whirling knifework, dynamic spatula twirls, and the occasional spout of flame at tableside hibachi grills, flipping hot portions of lobster and chicken directly onto waiting plates. Behind the bamboo-finished bar, the sushi chefs move more slowly as they carefully seal colorful combinations of veggies, seafood, and vinegar-anointed rice within sheets of delicate seaweed. Like a poltergeist beauty pageant, not all of the talent is visible to the eye—the culinary team makes some of the restaurant's most exotic dishes, such as kobe beef sliders and wasabi-crusted filet mignon, behind the closed doors of the kitchen.
Blue lighting spills out from beneath the sleek black counter where Machi Sushi Bar's chefs deftly wrap maki rolls. They fill each lobster roll with an entire lobster tail as well as crabmeat, avocado, cucumber, and a sprinkling of roe. Other specialties burst with ingredients such as tempura shrimp and spicy scallop. In addition to sushi, the eatery prepares Japanese appetizers such as gyoza dumplings, available steamed, fried, or roasted over a bonfire of surplus chopsticks. After meals, diners can enjoy desserts such as mochi flavored with red bean or green tea.