On the surface, the new Toyotomi Japanese restaurant that opened this month across from Neumann-Goretti High at 1740 S. 11th St. shows promise. It certainly has better decor than the handful of forgettable takeout places that have filled the tiny corner storefront over the past few years. Dark tones, a handful of plush chairs and red accents dress up the 18-seat BYOB, even if the zebra picture and poster of the Frank Gehry Disney Concert Hall tacky up the joint. The chandelier from Lowe’s, which I briefly considered for my own dining room, sums it up: nothing special, but passable, just like the food.
|That’s more than half the dining room|
|And the rest|
We only got a few basics for takeout, so this isn’t a condemnation of the whole menu, especially since we didn’t get any of the fish (don’t judge us, just felt like going to a new place). But the five items we did get mostly failed to impress. Agedashi Tofu, described on the menu as “Fried tofu, scallion, grated daikon in tempura sauce,” sounded better than it was – essentially cubes of soggy fried tofu over a bed of romaine lettuce with a soup container’s worth of weak broth to dip it in. The spears in the Asparagus Denkatsu (“sesame seed glazed with sweet black sauce”) were crisp but drenched in a thick, sickly sweet plum sauce.
We’d get the Japanese Spring Rolls again, crispy on the outside, fresh snap of bamboo shoots and chicken in the middle. California rolls were just fine (like we said, don’t judge), and the Beef Negimaki were tasty, but the slices of seared flank steak wrapped around scallions also was drenched in too much sauce.
|Now open, across from Neumann-Goretti|
Because of a bit of a language barrier, getting solid info on the place was tough, but the woman manning the counter said that the chef/owner, Sugi Wijaya, runs the place with his family. He was involved with Big Eyes Sushi on 7th and Bainbridge, the spot that took over after the ambitious Roku quickly closed. Before Big Eyes, the family had been living in North Carolina, running a sushi counter at an Asheville grocery store.
|Adorable radish butterfly|
The best part? We were full on $25 for two people, about half what the same meal would have cost at Izumi for about half the quality. We’ll give it another shot — the $8.99 lunch specials look particularly appealing — but probably only for a quick, cheap fix. And next time, we’ll dive into the fish.
Has anyone else been there? Let us know what you thought in the comments.