This review originally appeared in the Ramapo News, March 20 2008
Jess: Poor college kids. Half price sushi, what could go wrong? A lot could go wrong. Things you couldn’t imagine could go wrong. The things I’ve seen gone wrong with raw fish. At East Tokyo Hibachi and Sushi’s half price sushi night nothing actually went wrong. It was all delicious, cheap, nutritious, and—dare I say—fun? Every Thursday at East Tokyo, there is a special menu of selected half priced rolls and sushi.
James: Most rolls on this menu are only two to
four dollars, and sushi around a dollar apiece. The price and the place make this a good big group trip for friends, only five minutes from campus. Something we learned was to not overwhelm the sushi chef with too big an order at once. Order in smaller rounds with everyone getting one or two things at a time and going back for more later. We noticed the smaller the amount ordered each round, the tastier and better plated the portions.
Jess: Our particular booth had plenty of room for the large selection of food they had, even when we went overboard with the first order wanting to try it all. The half- priced menu spans from the standard California rolls and spicy tuna, up to things involving tempura shrimp and fried bean curd. We got a smattering of sushi from the cleverly named Christmas Roll (avocado and tuna) to the crispy Ramapo favorite, the spider roll. On the more exotic side, the fried salmon skin roll was my personal favorite. It was crispy, savory and a lovely compliment to their great rice. They’ve also got the sushi and hibachi standards from the regular menu such as salad with ginger dressing and miso soup, though we decided to pretty much go straight for the sushi to keep the tab low.
James: This restaurant is absolutely beautiful. We sat in the new addition, added in the past couple of years, where even the lighting fixtures are worth mentioning. Ambiance is set with high ceilings, bright colors and recessed lighting fixtures that rotate in color. Polished hardwood booths with cushions were divided from each other with glass etchings. There were small tables to big party booths perfect for having a large outing with your buddies. There is a well- stocked bar, but watch out for drink prices inflating the bill fast. I tried the East Tokyo Special, a blended drink of juices and rums. It was poured a bit strong with a lot of alcohol bite for a drink served in a hurricane glass with a construction on the side of an orange slice, with cherries on a sword skewer stuck into that, with an umbrella stuck into that. I wish I would’ve gone with the sake or one of the imported Japanese beers they had, as past experiences have taught me they compliment sushi better than the sugar bomb I tried out.
Jess: Budget-minded students might want to cut the drinks out altogether, and hit up the lunch specials. While we stuff ourselves sufficiently full of sushi for diner and didn’t try lunch, the menu had good prices on Diner Boxes, Asian curries and noodle dishes.
James: Something I’d go back for is to get more tempura. The tempura there was exactly how it should be: light, airy, crisp, and not greasy. Too many Chinese places claim all sorts of tempura fish and vegetables on the menu and serve up something battered and fried. Making real Japanese tempura is a delicate thing, involving ice cold water being mixed with flour and spices. The shrimp in the spider rolls was particularly good, but what really stood out for me was the fried banana dessert. I don’t care if it’s $6.95 and we’re trying to stay cheap this week, everyone should try it. The battered and fried fruit was sweet and flavorful, served warm with a spine of whipped cream and two cherries stuck on like eyes. The plating on it was really great, the same with the rest of the sushi; it’s something that could easily fall by the wayside during the volume of discount night service.
Jess: Another tempura aspect worth mentioning is their fried ice cream. This ice cream comes in many flavors including those which Americans might not consider, such as red bean and green tea. I got the red bean tempura ice cream and was delighted by the subtle sweetness and the actual chunks of bean in my ice cream. The service was more than I’d expect anywhere, never mind a stressed staff on half price sushi night. As we gleefully searched our way through the half price menu, we found ourselves ordering quite a bit. Too much, really; $40 worth of half priced sushi is more than 3 people should order at once. Our extremely friendly waiter managed to talk us down from our exorbitance and we got an appropriate amount of sushi. He continually checked on us and had the joyful enthusiasm of an Applebee’s or Chili’s server without all the saccharine insincerity. He called us “you guys” without making us feel like chumps. It’s harder to do than you’d think.
Bottom Line: Cheerful friendly service, great atmosphere, and a night of affordable delights combine for a great (Thursday) night out on the town.