Here, Eat This: A Beginner's Guide to Japanese Cuisine (That's Not Sushi or Ramen)
Cafe Kubo's: One of the hippest and yet most laid-back places to spend an evening in Chinatown is at Cafe Kubo's, the younger and far more mod sister of the staid Kubo's in Rice Village. Instead of focusing on sushi, however, Cafe Kubo's offers a much more traditional Japanese fast-food menu of dishes like curried pork cutlets over rice, bento boxes of fried chicken and bowls of tonkatsu ramen that complement its casual vibe. Happy hour runs every day of the week here, and the food and drink specials make it a huge draw in the evenings.
Kubo's: The second-story location in the Rice Village can be difficult to find, but if you're a sushi lover, Kubo's is worth the hunt. While chef Hajime Kubokawa -- or Kubo-san, for short -- is no longer at the sushi restaurant he helped found with owner Yoichi 'Yogi' Ueno, nor is Manabu Horiuchi (who is setting the sushi world on fire at Kata Robata), it's still one of the best sushi joints in the city, a fact that's more impressive considering its longevity and the talent that's come through since the place opened in 2002. Try the daily specials for interesting fish finds like idiot fish, or order the enormous sashimi boat if you've got a group of people to impress. On the non-sushi side, the chawanmushi is the best in town and the bar scene is lively when filled with Japanese businessmen in the evenings.
Kata Robata: Sushi chef Hori-san is serving some stellar sushi and stunningly inventive dishes here in Upper Kirby. Granted, the fabulous stuff doesn't come cheap. But if you're on a budget, go to Kata Robata during happy hour when you can eat inexpensive grilled dishes off the robata and drink cheap beer.
Genji: If you're looking for a good time and fantastic Japanese bar food, Genji is the only show in town. Set to the soundtrack of some serious (and sometimes seriously painful) karaoke, Genji attracts businessmen and twentysomethings alike. Menu highlights include teba gyoza (stuffed chicken wings), onigiri (rice balls), beef kushiyaki and yakisoba (pan-fried noodles with a fried egg on top).
Nippon: Nippon has been serving Montrose residents (and expat Japanese) their sushi for decades, and has never failed in that time to serve the freshest fish it can get. The uni here always tastes like a buttery gulp of the sea, and standards like fatty salmon nigiri are marbled and thickly cut. The rolls are also predictably good, like the spider roll stuffed with soft-shell crab, and so is the pork-thickened ramen.
Shabu House: Shabu shabu is a Japanese soup not unlike the Chinese hot pot. At Shabu House, you can sit at one of the 28 places at the horseshoe-shaped bar. In front of each seat is a burner with a pot of boiling broth in which you cook your food. The broth is made with kelp and tastes like miso. Choose ultra-thin slices of certified Angus beef, a seafood platter or, best of all, a combo of both. All soups come with ample veggies and glass noodles. This is a great place to go with a crowd.
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