Don’t let the name fool you — Sake Lounge is more than a bar.
The restaurant, located next to the AMC Studio 28 movie multiplex in Olathe, serves sake sangria and blueberry mojitos alongside a variety of Asian dishes. Japanese sushi is the specialty, but the menu also features Thai-style noodles and curry as well as American Chinese staples such as fried rice, crab Rangoon and General Tso’s chicken.
The nearly two-year-old restaurant is divided into two distinct spaces: A dining room and a lounge area. The dining room is outfitted with tables and booths surrounding a U-shaped sushi bar where chefs plate up Instagram-worthy rolls. Wood paneling made from particle board and a black-and-white checkered ceiling lend a casual and comfortable vibe.
The contemporary lounge is dimmer and a bit more chic. The full bar is topped with a glowing red countertop, kaleidoscopic art adorns the walls and jellyfish-shaped pendant lights give off mellow amber light.
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Before moving to the Kansas City area and opening Sake Lounge, owner Sean Lin worked as an executive chef for restaurants in New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Lin puts his 15 years of experience to work at the restaurant: He often steps behind the sushi bar to assemble rolls or train other chefs.
The first time I went to Sake Lounge, I was a bit overwhelmed at the number of rolls listed in the book-like menu. There are more than 50 rolls arranged into categories such as “raw,” “cooked,” “tempura,” “hand rolls” and “fruit rolls.”
Perhaps it was the name, but I couldn’t resist ordering the Godzilla ($10.75), which tops a spicy tuna roll with scale-like layers of sliced avocado and fiery red tobiko, or fish eggs. I also ordered the King Salmon ($13.75), a hefty roll with raw salmon inside and seared salmon on top, and a Rock-N-Roll ($12.75), which wraps crispy tempura shrimp in pale green soybean paper with spicy crab, cream cheese and avocado.
After a very short wait, the three rolls arrived at the table, artfully arranged in a large white ceramic bowl. Before dipping our chopsticks into the bowl, my husband and I spent a minute or so snapping photos and admiring the creative garnishes. A tiny light glowed green beneath a nest-like layer of shaved daikon radish; a tilted wine glass displayed a blooming purple flower.
“Japanese food is like an art,” Sake Lounge manager Ling Lin later told me. “It has to look pretty and delicate.”
Lin says her favorite roll is the Black Angel ($12.75), made with peppered tuna, avocado, eel, salmon and a spicy wasabi sauce that gives it “kick.” Customer favorites include the Wild Cat ($9.75), a deep-fried roll that incorporates yellowtail, red snapper, snow crab, cream cheese and eel sauce, and the KC Rainbow ($10.95), which layers spicy crunchy crab with salmon, tuna, white fish, avocado and garlic mayo.
Customers who like surprises can request the Omakase, an assortment of off-menu sushi rolls chosen and prepared by a Sake Lounge chef. Omakase meals must be ordered a day in advance; they come in $30, $50, $80 and $100 price increments.
Sake Lounge also serves Japanese bento boxes and hibachi dishes. The chicken and steak hibachi meal ($16.25) is a top seller; it comes with rice and miso soup or salad topped with housemade ginger dressing.
The ginger dressing has become so popular with customers that Sake Lounge sells it to go. A 16-ounce bottle costs $5; a 32-ounce bottle is $8. The dressing is especially awesome on the restaurant’s Thai mango shrimp salad ($7.25), a bowl of mixed greens adorned with matchsticks of mango and grilled shrimp.
The restaurant also offers catering, daily lunch specials between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and special events.
From 7-9 p.m. on July 14, Sake Lounge will treat customers to a wine, sushi and painting dinner. Tickets cost $50 and include a three-course sushi dinner, a glass of wine and a lesson in art.
Sarah Gish writes about Johnson County restaurants every second and fourth week of the month. Contact her by calling 816-234-4823, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sarah_gish.
Location: 11953 S. Strang Line Road in Olathe
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
Happy hour: From 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 3:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday, draft beer costs $2.50, house wine and sake sangria are $4, and small hot sakes cost $3 each.
Credit cards: Yes
Parking: Free lot
Don’t miss: The Thai mango shrimp salad ($7.25), the king salmon roll ($13.75) and the Godzilla roll ($10.75). The king salmon roll tops a spicy salmon and avocado roll with slices of seared salmon; the Godzilla roll features spicy tuna, red tobiko (fish eggs), spicy mayo and layered slices of avocado.
Vegetarian: Try the house salad with ginger dressing ($4) and/or the vegetable tempura combo ($10.25), which comes with rice and miso soup or house salad. Sake Lounge also serves several vegetarian rolls, including an avocado roll ($3.95), a cucumber roll ($3.25), an asparagus roll ($3.50) and a sweet potato roll ($4.25).