The diners pass banquettes, which range in color from the aquamarine of a shallow sea to the darker purples of deep water, and opt for a private booth. Behind the bar, standing glass partitions painted in intricate designs reminiscent of Eastern calligraphy divide ranks of bottles. Plates of fresh-cut sashimi descend onto a neighboring table, and maki rolls flaunt loads of king crab, lobster, and kanpyo, shavings of a dried gourd. A waitress strides across the dark hardwood floor and slides menus across the diners' black lacquered table, carefully pointing out her favorite appetizers, which range from duck and wrapped scallops to fresh oysters by the half dozen. In the kitchen, chefs simmer red wine, yielding a thicker sauce that drapes across filet mignon or helps prove to an aunt that the bib she knit hasn’t been going unused.
Chefs at Aodake Sushi & Steak House dispatch sushi and hibachi-seared steaks beneath hanging lamps and glowing globes. Meat, vegetables, and seafood make for multicourse lunches, and a variety of kitchen entrees bolster the thronged dinner menu. At the bar, more than 20 vodkas alchemize into a variety of martinis or blocks of pure gold.
From behind their blonde wood bar, the sushi chefs set solemnly to work. Grasping rice in their well-seasoned hands, they blend the staple with ocean-caught fish, verdant seaweed, and a roster of international ingredients to produce morsels as delicate as a chrysanthemum blossom or as hearty as a stalwart oak. While these chefs embrace Japanese tastes and aesthetics, you don't have to have a passport to meet them; they ply their trade at Kyoto, where Asian flavors intersect with a decidedly American address.
Not to be outdone by the bar's signature sushi and sashimi, the chefs of Kyoto's kitchen turn in faithful reproductions of dishes generally associated with Tokyo, Beijing, or Korea's moon base. Shrimp and vegetables don a dusting of tempura flakes before a trip to the flash-fryer leaves them crisp and golden, and tender cuts of beef mingle with green onions amid spicy mongolian sauce. No matter the meal, glasses of sake or Japanese beers from brewers including Sapporo, Kirin, and Asahi help wash down bites or power toasts to the chef's good health.
In 1977, Eddy Ho came to America with the dream of opening his own restaurant. In the 35 years since, he has lived that dream three times over, founding a trio of establishments that spotlight the showiest styles of Japanese cooking while commemorating the year of his transpacific crossing. Whether it's filet mignon, chicken, and seafood chopped by a flurry of clicking blades on hibachi grills or a sleek roll of sushi assembled by deft hands, each entrée arrives in a dining room decked with hints of traditional Japanese architecture, including subtle geometric patterns, crimson accents, and painstakingly manicured flora. Glasses of imported Japanese beer and sake stand ready to accompany each meal, helping diners toast to good fortune or play a glass harp rendition of their college fight song.
Inside Dao Sushi, Thai, and Hibachi Restaurant, eyes drink up sumptuous interior design and ornately arranged sushi as taste buds sample Thai spices and meats seared on a hibachi. Patrons let their chopsticks breathe on the outdoor patio, sip specialty cocktails under boxy lanterns, or sit on floor cushions beneath lines of Japanese text on khaki-colored walls. Noodles and vegetable slivers trail from appetizers served in martini glasses, like the protein drinks James Bond downs before chasing down Goldfinger's private airplane on foot.
Traditional Japanese recipes and cooking styles continue to inspire the chefs at Shinto Naperville. Mushrooming bursts of flame erupt from stainless-steel hibachis as they sear diners' orders tableside. In between shuffling platefuls of scallops or 28-day-aged filet mignon across the steaming surface, the chefs entertain their hungry audience by juggling utensils, tossing small pieces of food into guests' waiting mouths, and correctly guessing everyone's least favorite astrological sign. Measured doses of house-made teriyaki sauce or herb-infused butter lend even more flavor to the carefully caramelized entrees. Meanwhile, the chefs behind the sushi bar avoid grills entirely as they roll specialty maki with premium ingredients, including tempura lobster and jalapeño.
Vintage wooden beams vault over eaters at Sushi Mono, where seasoned chefs fold contemporary twists into traditional nigiri, sashimi, and sushi. The menu's Mono Double signature roll aids bonding between baked shrimp and snow crab ($16) while fueling the efforts of the GlobalGiving Foundation by donating $1 per roll. Tekka don entrees summon 12 pieces of either tuna or yellowtail sashimi to a bed of sushi rice ($24). Fiery salmon and octopus aid the Mini Godzilla special roll ($13) in its quest to stomp out hunger and knock over toothpick towers. In the evening, the eatery comes to life with lights casting a rainbow glow over the crimson walls and Asian-inspired screens and spotlights subtly illuminating cozy booths or singling out operatically trained servers for solos.