4325 Highway 55th
Durham, NC 27701
Every once in a while an old champion flags and an upstart surges ahead. But sometimes, you get an even better surprise–a newcomer that, for some reason, has got /serious/ game and comes out a smidge ahead, with a venerable old favorite finishing gracefully a step behind, but no worse the wear for it.
Such is the case on the Triangle sushi scene.
Upstart restaurant Tokyo Fun–which has taken over the old China One building off Hwy 55 in Durham (just a bit past the intersection with 54, towards Durham)–has just /barely/ displaced perennial favorite Wasabi as the best sushi in the Triangle.
In general? Tokyo Fun is just that… /fun/.
The sushi is inventive, creative, and just delightful. The rolls have wry, sly names–the Obama roll, the Foxy Lady… the Italian Stallion. There’s a variety of different types, and textures–a well-rounded menu that includes a healthy offering of appetizers and other noodle and tempura dishes in addition to quite a few unique roll combinations. There are plenty of tempura-based and typical rolls, for those squeamish about the raw deal or set on a particular favorite, and sashimi and sushi standards in various combinations. But it’s when they go a bit off the map that things get really interesting.
We popped over late in the afternoon on a Sunday; We actually arrived a bit before they opened, and loitered in the parking lot till the staff arrived. When they did, the owner/manager ushered us inside quite politely, and had us seated. He gave us a huge platter of edamame to nosh on while the kitchen got started, and seated us in one of the tiny private tatami rooms. The service was truly first-rate from that moment on–granted, we were just about the only people in the place given the hour, but still… nicer servers and staff you couldn’t find.
We ordered an array of appetizers–spring rolls and shimp shu mai for the meateaters, and some marvelous tempura tofu for the vegetarians, as well as some fantastic vegetable dumplings. All were done perfectly, and delicious. The dumplings had been boiled and fried, though not pan fried but dropped in hot oil, so had a thin crispy skin that was divine. The shu mai were not too salty or soft, and had a fantastic flavor.
We took advantage of their 2-for-1 sushi roll special–a great bonus equal to the one at Shiki Sushi up the road–and ordered quite a few to share. Both of the Dragon Rolls–one Sweet, one Spicy–were amazing. One of the table favorites was a riceless roll–tuna, surrounded by shaved vegetables, an absolutely gorgeous presentation with super-fresh, bright tuna surrounded by vivid primary colored veggies. It tasted as fresh as it looked and was a great palate-soother between bites of the more exciting combinations.
A chopped spicy tuna roll was simply amazing, and the baked mixed seafood roll had none of the typical chewy squid bits–it all was cooked perfectly. There wasn’t a bad roll in the bunch, and I’d wouldn’t hesitate to order anything on the menu.
Another note–and one of the things that put Tokyo Fun over the top–was presentation. The dishware was carefully chosen for each course or type of roll, and the chefs obviously enjoy their work, presenting us with a whimsical parade of dishes that made it a truly special dining experience. They were obviously proud, as they should be, and we were delighted–especially with the tufted chinese dragon face that peered out at us from a plate of–of course–sliced Dragon Rolls. But each roll had a complimentary sauce or splash, spots, or decorative carved vegetable setting it off on the simple plateware. Absolutely stunning.
We’re going to take another large party back for a visit soon, and see if the good beginning turns into delightful consistency–I certainly hope it does. Cause with that, Wasabi might just have to share our sushi-monies.