We all shed a wasabi-tinged tear when Oyaji shut its doors after more than a decade of serving some of the finest sushi in the city. Its hidden-gem status lent further cause among sushi cognoscenti, not to mention the contingent of Japanese patrons, to keep their fishy yaps shut when it came to spreading the word about the place.
But dry your weary eyes and prick up your ears, dear readers, because Ochiai Hidehiko, head blade at Sushi Tomi, is poised to step into the role relinquished by Takashi Hayakawa. So Sushi Tomi's digs are about as inviting as a badly lit basement apartment and its proximity to a Super Wal-Mart doesn't exactly entice ' such annoyances don't seem to bother diners here, a good number of whom, I'm happy to report, are of Japanese descent. You'll hear murmurs of 'Ita-dakimasu,â?� the pre-meal Japanese utterance akin to saying grace, followed by cries of 'Oishi!â?� (delicious!), thanks to the healthy sampling of sushi and authentic Japanese fare offered.
Having been denied the pleasure of nibbling on gyoza ($4), those delectable little potstickers they had just run out of, we opted for the gyu tataki ($8.50) instead ' buttery soft slices of rare beef dressed with scallions and sparked with lemony ponzu. Suffice it to say, the Lucky Cat atop the sushi bar shone a little culinary beneficence on us. I wish I could say the same for the overly pasty sweet purple potato tempura ($4.50) and the small bowl of soggy edamame ($3.50), but the sushi is what people come here for, and in that respect Hidehiko, former head chef at Ran-Getsu on I-Drive, doesn't disappoint.
His sunshine roll ($9.50) was described as 'a mouthful of awesomeâ?� by my dining partner, and I couldn't have agreed more. The colorfully impressive bundle of tuna, salmon, yellowtail and whitefish rolled in a wheel of crunchy cucumber made an emphatic impression ' it was certainly one of the finer rolls I've sampled in the city. Aesthetics played a part in the samurai roll ($9.75) as well, the soft shell of avocado molded atop spicy tuna being a must for those who like a little fire with their flair.
My favorite was the impeccably carved fatty tuna nigiri (market price) which felt like foie gras on the palate. I could've downed a dozen of these toro alone ' a prospect I'm seriously considering on my next visit. Sesame overwhelmed the well-formed cherry dragon roll ($10.95), but the mix of eel, tuna, cucumber and spicy mayo created a warm and delicate balance of flavors.
While the maraschino cherry and whipped cream were superfluous embellishments to the red bean ice cream ($3.50), the icy treat's essence is just what you want in your mouth when walking out the door. Partly frozen, partly creamy tempura cheesecake ($4.75) was marred by inconsistent texture and temperature, and left me with an undesirable heaviness antithetical to the typical sushi-going experience. Then again, from the kind and charming staff and the reasonable prices to the hideously colored walls and the exceptional rolls fashioned by chef Hidehiko, Sushi Tomi is anything but typical.
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