(photo credit: PR)
I sit here reflecting on my experience last night at TYO. I have chosen my words carefully, as the immense pleasure of partaking in TYO is not a meal, it is an experience. It was a whirlwind of tastes.
The restaurant really emanates that intimate flavor, with its Japanese minimalist setting and sushi chefs on display so diners can delight in watching their artistic skills. Seating is available at the bar, in the main dining room and in the covered outdoor area with heaters for the cold weather. The curved lit-from- beneath bar is designed so that no matter where you are sitting, you can see everyone else at the bar. The bar is stocked with a wide range of liquors, and the bartenders are practiced in the art of cocktail creation.
But the TYO sushi bar has earned its reputation for far more than its modish ambience. The menu created by master sushi chef Yama Sun rises above and beyond the realm of simply sushi. It offers a large variety for sushi lovers and non-sushi lovers alike. It includes soups, tempuras, yakitori, noodles, makis, hand-rolls, sashimis and much more.
The tuna yoka (NIS 64) was the perfect dish to start our meal. It was simply delicious. The tuna was immersed in miso, chili, pine nuts, apples, poached spinach and quail egg. This was followed by nagy maki (NIS 79), which consisted of asparagus and green onions wrapped in kobe beef and hot teriyaki. Each bite just melted in my mouth. The beef was sliced incredibly thinly and was very tender.
Next up was the seaweed salad (NIS 48), which was light and refreshing. The mix of seaweed, shiitake mushrooms, avocado and crisp cucumber in a miso vinaigrette was just right. We then tried the beef fillet (NIS 28) and salmon (NIS 19) yakitori.
Who knew they could be made so deliciously? It took the Japanese, with their fanatical obsession with quality and detail, to show the rest of us that there is a lot more to simple chicken/meat on a stick than you might think. They show us that with masterful execution, this street food with humble origins can join the ranks of haute cuisine.
After a bit of a breather, it was on to the sushi. Most of the rolls are eight pieces, but for some you can order half. We first tried the spicy tuna roll (NIS 72). Accompanied by avocado, cucumber, spring onions and orange tobiko, the contrast of colors made it a visual delight. The tuna was so fresh, it melted in my mouth, with a hint of spiciness that was just perfect. Next up was the amberjack wasabi (NIS 54). The rice was just the right level of sticky and slightly sweet. The fish and vegetable fillings were fresh and colorful. The amberjack was firm and deliciously buttery, not as fatty as yellowtail. It was already seasoned with a sauce, so no additional soy needed. This was followed by the spider roll (NIS 62) of crab tempura, green onions, asparagus, cucumber and avocado.
With some pieces eaten at the start and others at the end, the flavor increased exponentially when it was allowed to sit.
Last we sampled the salmon lemon roll (NIS 64). The seared salmon was fresh and tasty, but this dish seemed to be more about delighting in the experience of being able to play with your food, mixing and matching the various accompaniments with the fish.
You have to pace yourself with the sushi because it sneaks up on you and fills you with rice before you realize it’s possible. And you need to save room for dessert. We tried the Mr. Bean, a kind of chocolate sponge cake with Earl Grey mousse and some crunchy stuff, all of which was bizarre but absolutely delicious.
TYO is not a cheap restaurant; in fact, it is on the more expensive end of the spectrum. However, it’s worth every penny. We will definitely go back to sample even more of the delicious dishes and revisit some of the wonderful flavors we can still savor.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
7 Montefiore Street, Tel Aviv