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.
More than 15 years of preparing sushi at upscale locales have imbued chef Soon Park with a deep regard for this culinary tradition. Still, he isn't afraid to push his creations into the oven once and a while—his signature Dragon Breath roll sprinkles bread crumbs and garlic over shrimp tempura, which bakes in the kitchen before spicy mayo, chili sauce, and chili tobiko provide a finishing garnish. A simultaneous devotion to ritual and experimentation has enabled Chef Soon to complement these inventive rolls with sushi mainstays, such as Japanese-imported red snapper nigiri and fresh tuna sashimi. Whether he's dreaming up a new entree or wrapping a California roll, his mission remains the same: give each ingredient its due time in the spotlight. Rather than mask flavors with soy sauce or chopsticks made from cinnamon sticks, Chef Soon carefully balances each taste and texture within a given dish. Tender eel precedes crisp bites of lobster tempura on the Golden Lobster roll, which also surprises palates with the tang of spicy mayo and unagi sauces. The Octo nigiri, meanwhile, contrasts spicy salmon with spicy octopus, and a filo-wrapped ahi appetizer deep-fries tuna, cream cheese, and avocado into a flaky shell.
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 meals, 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.
Filet mignon, marinated beef short ribs, and lemon-doused shrimp all meet the same fate when they hit the sizzling surface of a hibachi grill at Bistro Nami. They cook to perfection, joining sides of fried rice, grilled veggies, salad, miso soup and a gyoza as an appetizer. But that's not all Bistro Nami has to offer?the menu also includes ample sushi options, from succulent cuts of striped bass on rice to intricate rolls. The Chanel No. 5 roll combines super white tuna with jalapeno, cilantro, and two kinds of spicy sauce, which, like an angry donkey, delivers a kick to the mouth.
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.
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.