In my opinion, there are three types of Japanese restaurants outside of Japan. First is an authentic one operated and managed by native Japanese chefs. Most of these restaurants originated to serve Japanese expatriates, embassy personnel, and other citizens living abroad. However, as Japanese food entered in to the main stream and gained popularity, it attracted more and more local food enthusiasts. Most dishes offered authentic, high quality ingredients similarly offered back at home.
Second is contemporary Japanese fusion. This category is typically run by chefs whose mission is to deliver innovative food strongly inspired and influenced by Japanese culture. I personally love these restaurants because it is so fun to see their ideas and expressed creativity. When I lived in Texas, I often dined at Uchi Restaurant run by Tyson Cole. I really enjoyed his interpretation of Japanese traditions that were converted into contemporary delicious recipes. For example, Cole’s Maguro sashimi and goat cheese was one of my favorite appetizers – and this combination won’t easily be found anywhere in Tokyo!
The third category is a general “Asian Grill and Sushi” type of restaurant, and this style can be easily found all over the world. The majority of this group started as offsets of other Asian restaurants, such as Chinese, where Japanese dishes were simply added to menus for better profits. Sometimes I ask myself what are the ingredients contained in my ordered food, and how does the restaurant handle both raw seafood and woks in the same kitchen, as sashimi-grade seafood requires sensitive and delicate handling.