Open since: April
Location: Utage is located in the new Village Shoppes of Creekside center, just past the intersection of Duluth Highway and Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, near Gwinnett Medical Center.
Owners: Scott Kim
Hours: Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday. The restaurant is open from noon to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, and is closed on Sunday.
Atmosphere: Walking into Utage, patrons are instantly transported into old world Japan. Waitresses dress in traditional kimonos, while hibachi and sushi chefs wear white jackets and sashes.
The restaurant is divided in three main dining rooms, each offering a different dining atmosphere. The sushi bar area holds smaller tables for intimate and casual dining. Screened-off rooms with sliding doors are ideal for private parties. The hibachi area is an open room filled with hibachi grills and tables to accommodate larger parties.
The menu: As the name suggests, Utage offers all things steak and sushi, but also features an extensive hibachi menu. The plates at Utage are large - which is good, because so are the meals.
An appetizer of blackened tuna, a row of lightly seared tuna topped with a tangy ginger sauce, is a customer favorite. The edamame, a platter of salted and boiled soy beans, is also popular.
At the hibachi stations, an array of items are cooked before customers' eyes. Standards of grilled chicken, shrimp and beef are served, but the hibachi selection goes beyond the ordinary to include garlic-butter lobster and fist-sized scallops. All hibachi entrees are served with fresh grilled vegetables, steamed or fried rice, miso soup, salad and a shrimp appetizer.
"It's good for when you're really hungry or if you want plenty of leftovers," Kim said. "I think my favorite thing is the steak, the filet mignon. It's very tender, juicy and the best cut of meat you can get."
Kim likes to keep his diners full, but not with greasy or sodium-laden entrees. Rather than add in lots of oil or salt, he has created three light sauces to top his dishes - a spicy mustard sauce, a zesty ginger sauce and a sweet white sauce.
"Instead of adding a lot of salt, try the sauces first," he said. "I know a lot of people are watching their cholesterol, so we don't use a lot of butter or oil. In many dishes, we'll use a little vinegar to cut down on cholesterol but still add flavor."
Kim attempts to make every element of the Utage menu a stand-out - including the rice. This isn't plain and simple fried or white rice. Instead, it is cooked and marinated with a touch of sugar, salt and Kim's signature vinegar to give it extra flavor.
The sushi menu offers customary favorites, such as spicy tuna and California rolls, and as well as a few house specialties, including the Bulldog roll, made with a spicy mayonnaise masago, avocado and fried white fish. During lunch hours, a combination meal is offered, where customer can pick two of any 17 menu items for $7.95.
"There are near endless combinations," Kim said. "You can come every day and try something new."
Beverages: Coke products, water and tea are served. Wine, beer and cocktails are also offered.
Dessert: A variety of ice cream, include green tea and fried ice cream, are dessert favorites.
Thing you might not know: On any given day, Utage goes through about 50 pounds of rice. On a busy days, that number jumps to twice as much.
"Oh yeah, we use a lot of rice," Kim said.
This is Utage's second location. The original Utage is in Athens.