In the lounge-like dining room of Zaza Japan Asian Bistro & Hibachi, the lighting constantly changes, as does your perception. Your dining companion's jacket first looks blue, then green, then purplish. Huge TV screens with multicolor light displays show abstract patterns in perpetual motion. From the packed adjacent hibachi hall come shouts, laughter, clangor. It's a lot of show, a lot of hoopla; what's missing from the mix is a sense of TLC.
Once seated, you'll be handed an iPad instead of a printed menu; you order verbally. On one occasion, a request to substitute salmon roll for the tuna roll included on a sushi platter elicits the answer, "Absolutely not."
Even so, that dinner gets off to a promising start with rock shrimp tempura, crisp fried shellfish lightly coated with a creamy-spicy sauce. Chicken yakitori, skewered pieces of white meat, are nicely glazed, if a trifle dry. A spider roll done with soft shell crab works well, but a rice-free sashimi roll of yellowtail, spicy tuna, salmon, cucumber and eel, is undermined by its too-sweet sauce. Subverting a deftly spiced stir-fry of chicken and vegetables on another night are dripping-wet lettuce wrappers.
No chance to dry them off, though, since three minutes after appetizers are brought, the main courses are deposited on the table. "The kitchen was ready," is the only explanation given. Yaki udon (fat noodles with chicken and vegetables) is pasty and bland, going mostly untouched. And while a Thai green curry with shrimp has lovely flavor, the sauce is much too thick. A shame, since, at a previous dinner, the Thai red curry with chicken hewed closer to proper consistency. But the kitchen does beautifully with chicken-and-vegetable tempura, fried to a greaseless crunch, as well as beef teriyaki, which is tender and flavorful. A sushi entree features pristine, beautifully cut fish over ovals of rice (flecked with a bit of wasabi), accompanied by a tuna roll served at proper temperature.
Out come the iPads at dessert time. Along with all the usual suspects listed is something intriguing: salted caramel cake. But it turns out dry, with no discernible taste of salt. Or caramel.
On the way out, the hibachi room is swept with multicolor lights in holographic star pattern.