Second Helpings: All Japanese

Austin is the new Japan! In this week's "Second Helpings."

"Second Helpings" offers tasty, bite-sized restaurant listings compiled from new and previous reviews, guides, and poll results. This week's entries were updated by Erin Mosow. For quick, reliable information about Austin eateries, check here.

Ichiban

7310 Burnet Rd., 452-2883

Monday-Thursday, 11am-10pm; Friday, 11am-10:30pm; Saturday, noon-10:30pm; Sunday, 4-10pm

Ichiban is a favorite of the native Japanese in Austin, considered a good sign by non-native diners like us. They offer some Korean fare as well as all of the traditional Japanese items and, of course, sushi (considered by many to be in the top three of Austin's sushi restaurants). A major plus at Ichiban is large entrée portioning and a focus on taste as well as artistry of presentation.

Kyoto

4815 W. Braker #580, 346-5800

Monday-Friday, 11am-2pm, 5:30-10pm; Saturday, 5:30-10pm

315 Congress #200, 482-9010

Tuesday-Friday, 11:30am-2pm; Monday-Saturday, 6-10:30pm

Sushi's the thing at both locations, but there are other options to choose from, such as Kushi Teri (skewers of chicken, beef, or veggies), katsu, teriyaki, tepanyaki, sukiyaki, tempura, and yakisoba. The most expensive menu item is also the most economical: Combo B, which is shrimp and veggie tempura, grilled salmon, seafood kushi, and sushi, with all the trimmings for $19.95. One of Austin's Japanese mainstays.

Zen

2900 W. Anderson #250, 451-4811

Monday-Saturday, 11am-9pm; Sunday, 11:30am-8pm

1305 S. Congress, 444-8081

Monday-Saturday, 11am-10pm; Sunday, 11:30am-10pm

Zen offers quick Japanese fast food at really great prices for the diner on the go and has a new location for Southsiders in a hurry. The menu is selective, but most categories are covered, from sushi to salads, rice bowls with toppings to teriyaki. It's easy for the diner to customize the meal, getting as much or as little as desired. Zen's perfect for that healthy Japanese food fix when you're in a rush.

Pango Tea Bar

718 Congress, 478-8899

Monday-Tuesday, 11am-3pm, 5pm-midnight; Wednesday-Friday, 11am-3pm, 5pm-2am; Saturday, 6pm-2am

Pango covers several categories, including floral and specialty teas, syphone process and Dutch water drip-process coffees, pearl, milk, and jelly teas, and traditional Chinese cha (tea) ceremony presentations. They feature sushi, rice rolls, dumplings, spring rolls, and wraps until 1:45am Fridays and Saturdays, as well as live music Wednesdays and Thursdays. It's the perfect spot for that late-night pick me up.

13492 Hwy. 183 N., 918-8012

Monday-Friday, 11:30am-2pm, 5:30-10pm; Saturday, 5-10pm; Sunday, 5-9pm

Osaka is the fave of the far-flung northwestern area of town and has a solid reputation for its outstanding sushi presentations. The atmosphere is serene, sedate, and cozy ... perfect for family dining or that special date. Aside from the sushi bar, Osaka has a fairly complete selection of traditional Japanese fare, all prepared with care and concern.

Benihana

9070 Research, 451-7505

Monday-Thursday, 11:30am-2:30pm, 5-10pm; Friday, 11:30am-2:30pm, 5-11pm; Saturday, 11:30am-11pm; Sunday, 11:30am-10pm; Sushi bar opens at 11am

At Benihana, the show's the thing, with chefs cooking at your table hibachi with a flurry of flashing steel and leaping flames. But the food is surprisingly good as well. The prices might seem a little on the high side, but you get a lot of chow for the price, not to mention the entertainment value. Interesting sides and a full sushi menu are also available, and your kids will go nuts over the dazzling cooking activities.

Shogun

1807 Slaughter #225, 292-1580

Monday-Saturday, 11:30am-midnight

Shogun is the far-south option for lovers of Japanese cuisine, with 24 different lunch specials offered between $5.25 and $6.95. A full menu of fresh and firm sushi selections are also available. Shogun has a great assortment of appetizers from which diners could make their own kaiseki dinner, or go with the specials menu, the large selection of noodle dishes, or any of the standards.

Mikado Ryotei

9033 Research, 833-8188

Sunday-Thursday, 11am-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 11am-10:30pm

Offering the newest trend to hit Austin recently, Mikado serves Japanese tapas, or robata, a mix of grilled seafood, meats, and vegetables. Owner Henry Wong wanted to expand beyond the sushi bar into other areas of Japanese cuisine. Beautiful décor and sharable portions make Mikado the perfect place to relax and try the many tastes of Japanese cuisine.

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