After arriving in the United States from his native China, head chef Leon Liang honed his cookery skills at restaurants in Montgomery, Alabama, and Charleston, South Carolina, eventually opening an establishment of his own with Kasai Japanese Restaurant. Taking its name from the Japanese word for joyous celebration, Kasai welcomes diners with a parade of udon noodles, hibachi-style steaks, and a dizzying array of sushi makis and nigiri treats. Like butter sculptures or edible finger paints, each meal blends artistry and gastronomy, enrapturing taste buds and eyeballs with sushi rolls draped in vibrant green avocado and meticulously arranged sashimi platters. Visitors share laughs over tuna and sake at the marble-topped sushi bar, or ensconce themselves in the sheltered back room with traditional cushioned floor seating and a simple, elegant decor of dark hardwood.
Sushi on the Roll Sushi on the Roll's adroit chefs carefully wrap vinegar-sprinkled rice, nori, and fresh seafood into creations that won the restaurant Best Sushi on the 2010 Fox 8 Akron-Canton Hot List. Classic maki favorites such as an eel or salmon roll satisfy piscine cravings, and spicy rolls such as the Moffa, layered with spicy tuna and shrimp tempura, work their pleasing pyromancy on palates. The eatery's chefs also host periodic hands-on Sushi 101 classes, which divulge the secrets of making nigiri and maki rolls as well as how to grab a good night's sleep by stuffing pillows with perfectly fluffy rice.
A few years ago, Clement Liu came to a realization: the quality and authenticity of local Chinese food wasn’t meeting his expectations. So, along with his partner, Yu-Hong Li—who was part of the first generation to open postwar dine-in restaurants in China—Clement took matters into his own hands and opened Li Asian Cuisine.
Both Clement and Yu-Hong boast decades of experience in the Asian-restaurant industry. At Li Asian Cuisine, they augmented their own skills by hiring chefs from numerous Asian backgrounds. That diversity in cooking styles is reflected on the menu, which features regional Chinese cuisine as well as other popular Japanese, Thai, and Mongolian dishes, including sushi and pad thai. Equally pleasing to the eye and palate, those creations are served in a modern but not over-decorated dining room, complete with a full bar and a hibachi-style cooking station.
As if in competition with Sakura’s playful lemongrass-green hues, the sushi artists twist colorful maki rolls and concoct house-made soy sauce and eel sauce. Whenever possible, they fly in fish in fresh-packed ice and avoid freezing ingredients including seafood, chicken, and beef dipped in golden tempura batter or thick teriyaki. After slathering a california roll with ginger and wasabi, patrons take on the server's challenge of using chopsticks to eat green-tea ice cream or pick up a tear-stained letter from a fork.
At Sakura Sushi House, fresh morsels of fish, eel, and octopi nestle into handcrafted rolls, a hibachi grill sears steak, and teriyaki sauce infuses chicken and tofu with savory flavor. Patrons perch at the granite-topped sushi bar and browse a menu brimming with four pages of specialty sushi rolls, or lounge in maroon booths, filling squirt guns from bowls of udon noodles. In the kitchen, chefs season meats ranging from filet mignon to lobster and augment shrimp tempura with teriyaki. After chopsticks ferry the final pieces of maki to tongues, punch their timecards, and head home, diners sip hot or cold sake to finish the evening with a final gustatory flourish.
Mizu’s sushi bar is supplemented by a full kitchen, and together create a menu with more than 80 pan-Asian items. From the sushi bar, patrons can begin with appetizers of tuna tartar before ordering one of 22 specialty rolls, such as the Stop Light with tuna, avocado, mango, and a small camera on the side that records anyone who speeds through eating it too fast. The Mexican roll is a spicy blend of tempura shrimp, tuna, jalapenos, chili sauce, and eel sauce in a green soybean wrap. At lunch and dinner, guests can create their own combination meals with nigiri, maki, or sashimi.
In the kitchen, chefs prepare plates of dumplings and veggie tempura to whet appetites for Japanese-style entrees such as teriyaki and udon noodle dishes. Donburi rice bowls are filled with deep-fried chicken or pork, and the traditional nabemono, or hot pot, is filled with a combination of potato noodles, veggies, thinly sliced beef, tofu, and an egg. Asian flavors reappear on the dessert menu, which includes banana tempura with honey and green tea or red bean ice cream.