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Lexington Ky Restaurants


Your Guide to Fine Dining


Kobe Stone Grille

Nagasaki Inn
Sakura Garden
Lexington has seven Japanese restaurants, all excellent, unlike any other dining experience, and well worth a visit. A unique feature of Japanese establishments is their tradition of preparing your food right in front of you. They also offer their own delicacies: octopus, seaweed salad, eel, fluke, rice paper, green mussels, dragon rolls, fish eggs, sea urchin, and of course Sushi. Their various rolls (each restaurant has its own specialties) are interesting, with their fish and vegetable ingredients. You can order your favorite steak, fish or chicken at a Japanese eatery, but they'll fix it with a different twist than you're used to. Rice, noodles and soups are traditional Japanese side dishes but, as you might expect with a heavily populated mountainous island, sea food makes up a large portion of the menu. For example, that rice might be made into a seafood rice cake. A typical soup might contain various seafood items. The Japanese use both chopsticks and silverware, so you can experiment with the sticks but if you get frustrated there are always the utensils. Japanese wines and teas are very delicate in taste. The Japanese have borrowed certain dishes from the Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese, but they fix them slightly differently, with their own seasonings. Japanese food tends to be milder than mainland Asian cooking.
Nagasaki Inn was the first Japanese restaurant in Lexington, opening in 1981 on Southland Drive. The idea of sitting at the hibachi table and watching your chef fix your dinner right in front of you became an exotic fad in Central Kentucky and drew in the customers. Once there they were introduced to Sushi, which for many took getting used to. However, Nagasaki's extensive menu, featuring steak, seafood, vegetable and chicken items, proved popular, and by the end of the 80s the restaurant had a passionate clientele. It has since moved to its 435 Redding Road location, just off Tates Creek Road behind Thorntons out past New Circle Road. On weekends reservations are a good idea (272-1858).
Miyako is out Richmond Road on the left just past New Circle Road. Miyako has the most extensive teriyaki menu in town with seven dinners, and offers two tempuras (battered and fried dishes) as appetizers and four more as dinner sides. Its raw sushi menu features squid, sea urchin and octopus. Cooked sushi includes Tako, Smoked Salmon, Ebi, Tamago and Unagi Kani. Miyako's Sushi specialty is its Dancing Tuna Roll, spicy tuna wrapped in seaweed and tart rice, topped with seared tuna, wasabi sauce, scallions and masago. Heavy with wood, the decor conceals the fact six lane Richmond Road is only feet from the building. The Plum Wine is the best beverage on the menu.
Hananoki bills itself as a Steak House and Sushi Bar but as a regular restaurant it does quite well. There are three classic steak dinners, three seafood dinners, one chicken and one vegetarian dish, and three steak - fish mixtures. Then there are 17 rolls, a Japanese item which is a good lunch or , if you combine it with an appetizer and soup, a light dinner. For examples, the Wildcat is a hefty mix of shrimp, crab, masago, avocado, cucumber and seaweed for $9; and the Sunrise is tuna, salmon, yellow tail, masago, avocado, cucumber, soy bean, and lobster salad for $10. Lunch weekdays 11:30 - 2 pm. Dinner 4:30 - 9:30. The address is misleading. Hananoki really faces down on Richmond Road from a high bluff, next to Mia Mexico. To get to it, turn North onto Man o War, then look for the first right turn. That takes you up behind the restaurant.
Yamamoto prides itself on its Samurai dinners of steak, chicken and shrimp. Their Hibachi lineup leans heavily to combination meals of three seafoods, or mixes of steak, seafood and chicken. All their dinners are served with Japanese Onion Soup, salad, shrimp, whatever local vegetables are in season, steamed rice and raspberry sherbert. But, in classic Japanese style, Yamamoto also offers the full lineup of rolls. They are most proud of their red dragon, yellow dragon and Samarai Jack rolls. And of course there is the sushi bar. Their famous specialty is the Pretty Woman Roll. It includes shrimp, tuna and avocado, wrapped in rice, and topped with fish eggs. Visually, it's a work of art. And it tastes even better. 130 West Tiverton Way. 272-6668. You access West Tiverton from Nicholasville Road. Pass Fayette Mall and the car dealerships, move to the right lane and look for the next right turn. The restaurant is on the left about halfway up the gradual hill.
Kobe Stone Grille is the only Japanese restaurant in town offering hot rocks. That is, you order your favorite raw meat, whether seafood, steak or chicken. It comes chopped in small chunks, delivered with a foot square of superheated rock slab in a wooden carrying rack. You skewer the meat with a tiny fork and place it on the rock, allowing the meat to cook to your liking. This may sound a bit intense but it makes for a very entertaining meal, rather like fondue without the pot. Kobe's also offers all the other Japanese staples : sushi bar, traditional menu items, beers and wines. It is the smallest Japanese restaurant in town, but definitely worth a stop. Kobe's has the greatest selection of specialty rolls in town. Beaumont Center. 219-2166. Take Harrodsburg Road just past Man O War, and turn right into Beaumont Center. Get in the right lane immediately, and take the first right turn. Turn left at the T, and as you round the turn look for Kobe on your left.

Tachibana is the Japanese restaurant closest to the Toyota plant, and the one most often visited by the executives there, along with their guests from the home office back in Japan. LexMark and other major corporations are also nearby, and drop by frequently for lunch or early dinner. As such, it is a bit pricier than the others, a bit more formal, a bit more traditional, and a bit more authentic. The biggest difference seems to be in the quality of the beef and the number of beef entrees on the menu. They emphasize Sushi a little less and the wine list is more extensive. Flavoring has not been Americanized as much, and the Seaweed Salads seem to have a deeper, darker, richer taste. 785 Newtown Court. 859-254-1911. Downtown, head out West Main and turn right on Newtown Pike. Follow it out past Lexmark over New Circle Road. Turn right turn into Newtown Court and look for Tachibana on the left.

Tomo. Located where East High Street turns into Tates Creek as it rounds the bend in Chevy Chase. Deceptive front entrance looks like small storefront restaurant but opens out into a futuristic wood and mirror interior, remodelled in 2007, very upscale and classy. This is not one of those Japanese restaurants where the cook sets up in front of you at a Hibachi table and prepares your meal right there. They bring it to you from the kitchen or sushi bar. But they have excellent sushi and rolls. Each day Tomo offers 17 specials and six standards. Among the rotating specials, when the Grilled Squid, Braised Pike or Simmered Hot Radish Fish Cake are available, try them. From the six Sushi appetizers, we like the Mackerel, Flounder and Sea Cucumber. The regular appetizers have some unique items : Shrimp Dumplings, Asparagus Beef Maki, and Green Mussels. There are seven soups, of which our favorites are the Miso and Red Miso. From eight salads, we like the Octopus Vegetable, Tomo Special (Greens, Crab, Avocado, Masago, Cucumber and Shrimp), and Sunomono Moriawase (Seafood, Cucumber, Seaweed). Tomo offers 12 dinners. We like the Chicken Teriyaki, Salmon Teriyaki, Saba Mackerel, and Asparagus Beef Maki. If you're in the mood for steak, Tomo lists three. The Yakiniki is a rib eye with onion and yakiniki sauce. We've been there on various occasions with different friends who have tried this and they've all raved about it. But there's a Bite Sized Steak and a Tofu Steak which also look tempting. There are also pork and shrimp entrees. If you're really in an adventurous mood, try the Beef Tongue, Barbercued Eel, Tofu Duck, or Monk fish Liver. This is one of those restaurants where the dessert menu is as interesting as the regular menu. Ice Cream comes in green tea, red bean and ginger. There's Tucker's Mom's Cheese Cake, and Golddigger Carrot Cake. We can get cheesecake and carrot cake elsewhere, but this is the only place we know of to get those three ice cream flavors, and we really love the ginger. 848 East High. 269-9291. There is one parking lot behind the restaurant and another opening off South Ashland one block back with a walkway through.

Sunrise Bistro is the newest entry in Lexington's Japanese galaxy, and does some creative things with the traditional cuisine. This is an extensive menu, with three pages of Sushi and more Sushi on the page long lunch listing. Our favorite among the appetizers are the Kushiyaki, the grilled skewers of bacon, asparagus, scallops, beef, chicken and shrimp. But for the adventurous, there's Grilled Squid or Soft Shell Crab. Of the three soups, we prefer the Seafood Broth (shrimp, scallop, squid, crab, spinach), but the Miso (soybean, seaweed, scallions) is tempting. Of the entrees, there are six Tempuras, 10 Katsus, seven Teriyakis and five Seafood Stir Fry dishes. The Seafood Noodle Soup is not an appetizer; it's a large meal in itself (noodles, poached egg, shrimp, scallop, squid, crab, fish cake and scallions in a special pot). Sunrise offers four Benta Boxes, sort of a box lunch. The Ocean Box holds salmon teriyaki, shumai, shrimp, three pieces of sashimi and three pieces of tuna roll. If you're into Noodles, you can order six dinners, with choices like Wheat, Buckwheat or Egg Noodles. To really liven up your day, try the Octopus, Eel, Sea Urchin, Flying Fish or Salmon Roe. Save room for the Green Tea Ice Cream. 3090 Todds Road. 543-1126. From downtown, take Richmond Road to Man O War, turn left (North), and drive to Todds Road. Turn left (across the oncoming traffic). Todd's Road makes a sharp left, and you'll see Liberty Road coming from the right. Sakura is on your left at that T intersection.

Seki's is Lexington's very own version of Saturday Night Live's Sumarai Chef, or Jerry Seinfeld's Soup Nazi. The husband and wife team seem interested only in a certain clique of patrons and no one new. If you call for a reservation they hang up on you. If you come by, they tell you the wait will be an hour even though you can see empty tables inside. If you manage to get a table, if your order is too small, your service is less than that of more free spending customers at neighboring tables. If you question the menu, they act insulted, as if anyone not familiar with Japanese food and language does not belong in a Japanese restaurant. It's a strange way to run a business. Why would anyone put up with this? Because many locals believe Seki's offers the best Sushi in town. The rest of the menu is limited, so if you want a complete meal, this is not your place. But if you want authentic Japanese Sushi prepared exactly the way you would get it on a Tokyo street corner, this is where you come. 1093 South Broadway. 254-5289. From downtown, head South on Broadway until you cross Virginia Avenue and the right turn to the Red Mile Racetrack. To your left are Sonic and Atlanta Bread Company. Seki's is on the right. But you have to look carefully. It's the lower right corner of a multipurpose building.

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