A la Carte: Japanese style and steel at the Tokyo Inn

The development of Japanese culture and integrity follows a path of diligence that might have began with folklore but finishes with the finest steel found anywhere.

The sharpness of the samurai sword is legendary, but the beginnings of sword smithing, and the discovery of a unique source of iron, run parallel to the myths, mysteries, and legendary monsters of an island nation.

In ancient Japan, there was always the legend of the “Oni.” The old stories told about the ogre that lived in foreign lands and threatened to pillage the islands of Nippon just might be the reason that Japanese steel is so sharp. With the threat of an invading monster imminent, why wouldn’t an isolated island focus on sharper weapons?

The beginnings of alchemy started with the smelting of metal, but in Japan, an iron-rich black sand allowed early development of the purest and most highly tempered cutting edges ever. The process and discipline to create this exceptionally sharp steel is not only reflected in the sheen of the blades but in the precision and presentation of Japanese cooking as an art.

With a February full moon lighting the way, the Culinary Adventuress and I called on the Tokyo Inn in the Shops of Marco. Located at 1825 San Marco Road, this little Asian inn is full of all the tasty treats we all have learned to love about Japanese hibachi cooking and sushi, but there is sharper edge to the Tokyo Inn that is definitely a cut above.

In Japanese society, there has always been a focus on harmony. The delicate balance of fire and water are only one example of the tangible ambience at the Tokyo Inn. After gaining the threshold and hearing the subtle flow of a fountain and seeing the flash of tableside cooking flames an anticipation begins that can only finish with an evening of entertainment and a wonderful dinning experience.

After warm and gracious welcome from Nokhee, our group was seated at the fun and unique setting that is center stage for watching the craft of Japanese cooking and the even sharper skills of a hibachi Chef and the finely honed tools of the trade.

After ordering ice-cold Japanese beer and sushi — we chose the avocado roll for $4.50 and the spicy tuna roll for $7.50 — our party tucked in for an evening of fun. At the Tokyo Inn, the famous Kirin beer is only $4 a bottle, and Sapporo only $ 5.00.

According to Japanese custom, a dab of wasabi should be placed in the soy dish with chopsticks and then soy sauce added and stirred in to taste. With this method, the spicy-sharp horseradish is tamed to individual preference as it blends evenly with the soy sauce.

After our soy and wasabi mixture was perfected, we settled in to sip beer and sample the Japanese inspired delicacies with chopsticks. The sushi bar at the Tokyo Inn is always active and the results from this corner of the Asian Inn are delightful.

With sushi well underway, Chef Tim appeared tableside and our evening of flashing steel, entertainment, and tasty treats began. As the cooking surface of the hibachi table is brought up to temperature, the Tokyo Inn serves a tasty miso appetizer soup (clear broth with noodles and mushrooms and scallions) and a delicious ice-chilled very crisp salad with a tangy ginger sauce. The sliced ginger served on the side with sushi, and the ginger salad dressing hone the appetite and sharpen the palate for the sensations to come.

Our choices for dinner were the sesame chicken for $15.95 and the combination of scallops and beef filet for $24.95. After the first courses of soup and salad, Chef Tim began to sharpen the steel.

Leading the way onto the grill was the shrimp flambé and at once, the sharpness of Chef Tim’s knife was amazing. His knife was held with careful and well-practiced precision and with deft and precise strokes, the shrimp tails were severed and dispatched with alacrity. The discarded shrimp tails were comically sent flying to different parts of the table and even into Chef Tim’s hat!

As onions, zucchini, mushrooms, and stir-fried rice are added to the sizzling grill the savory scents of an Asian Inn are well underway. After the sesame chicken and the beef filet began to sizzle, Chef Tim’s knife was unstoppable.

“Wow!” I could not help but announce after watching the Chef’s knife in action. “That’s the sharpest knife I have ever seen.”

“Yes, of course,” Chef Tim replied with a smile. “It’s Japanese steel and some of the finest in the world. I keep this blade very sharp with the old school method of a Japanese sharpening stone.”

The scallops were as tasty as the steak and chicken, and all along this multi-course meal of fun and entertainment, there were two wonderful dipping sauces for every delicate bite.

For an Asian-style desert, we chose the fried ice cream with white bread coating quick fried at 350 degrees. For those with a sharpened sweet tooth, The Tokyo Inn’s specialty desert is sure to satisfy.

The Tokyo Inn is open seven days from 5 to 10 p.m. on weekdays and until 10:30 on Saturday and Sunday with reservation and private party information available at 642-3999. An eight-seat sushi bar offers a separate dining experience or appetizer option, and a children’s menu will tempt youngsters with meals starting at only $8.95

With the finest and sharpest steel in the world honed to perfection, and the savory scents of Asia ready to whet the appetite, why not settle in for an evening of great tableside entertainment and Asian delicacies served with a flourish at Marco’s very own Tokyo Inn.

Tom Williams debut adventure/thriller novel “Lost and Found” has been released by Archebooks and is now available on Amazon. A website with reviews and storyline is available at www.lostandfoundadventure.com

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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