The woman sat down with her friend opposite the pale wood sushi bar and fingered Tokyo Sushi's menu tentatively. She watched the young sushi chef deftly cutting seaweed-wrapped rolls into beautiful rice-filled rounds and then asked her waitress for advice. "I've never tried sushi before, so I want to start out slowly. What would be good?"
I resisted the impulse to pull up a chair and offer my help. But after sampling the sushi at this Glen Burnie restaurant, here's what I would suggest.
Start with a generous slice of buttery-firm salmon pressed into sushi rice. If you're deft with chopsticks, pick the sushi up and flip it fish-side down into a tiny saucer of soy sauce you spike yourself with horseradish wasabi. Or to make things even easier, try a spicy tuna roll, with dark green seaweed curled tight around pale pink tuna, creamy avocado and hot mayonnaise. The flavor is so zingy, it doesn't need extra heat.
Sushi is a good choice at Tokyo Sushi, as you might gather from the name. Owner Vichien Siprajim opened the restaurant last November, and runs it with his sister and brother-in-law, the sushi chef. The dining room is decorated in typical manner with blond wood, rice-paper lamps and Japanese prints. There's also a display of not-so-typical, gaped-mouth figurines behind the sushi bar.
Tokyo Sushi's food is moderately priced, and the staff is helpful -- at least while they're around. Our server disappeared near the end of our meal.
The start of our meal was fine, both in terms of service and food. In particular, the gyozo were outstanding. Don't miss these pan-fried dumplings with seasoned pork in crispy, paper-thin wrappers. Cold spinach salad was a close second. It featured spinach that had been lightly steamed and flavored with sesame seeds, shavings of dried fish and a sweet brown sauce.
Perhaps the simplest and most inexpensive way to try a lot of dishes at Tokyo Sushi is to order a combination dinner. You'll begin with a tiny platter of California rolls, the least intimidating choice on any sushi menu. Fully cooked crab stick, avocado and cucumber are rolled up inside seaweed and short-grain sushi rice.
Next, sample a full-bodied miso soup with cubes of creamy tofu and a light salad of thin cucumber slices in a dressing of rice wine vinegar. For your main course, there's moist, perfectly cooked salmon in a teriyaki glaze; lightly battered but greasy shrimp and vegetable tempura; and a nest of white daikon radish threads. At $12.50, that's a lot of food.
Also on the menu are noodle dishes, pan-fried or simmered in broth. We liked the flavor of the nabe yaki udon soup, served in an iron pot, with fat udon noodles, one tempura shrimp, slivered chicken, a few mushrooms and a poached egg in a rich-tasting broth. It also was supposed to include something called crab fish cakes, but we never found any.
Rice-based dishes, called donburi, are Japanese comfort food presented in sleek black boxes. We tried the katsu don, a breaded pork cutlet sliced into tender pieces over rice. Eggs played a bigger than usual role in this dish, with a roll of mushroom omelet on one side, and scallion-seasoned eggs on the other.
Unless you're a fan of the red bean and green tea ice creams served in a lot of Asian restaurants, finish with a fresh orange, sliced and sitting in an orange-peel cup. Or simply have a cup of green tea. Just make sure to ask for a stronger brew than the tinted water we sipped.
60 Mountain Road, Glen Burnie
Hours: Open daily for lunch and dinner
Credit cards: All major cards
Prices: Appetizers, $1.25-$9.95; entrees, $5.95-$13
Ratings system: Outstanding: ****; Good ***; Fair or uneven **; Poor *
Pub Date: 05/13/99