Blaring tv noise–is someone channel surfing?–wafting through my open windows. How else such an insomnia-producing pastiche of sounds. Commercials wailing. Music played with a foreign bleat. A low hum of response with fitful barking laughter from the watchers.
Daytime and Welcome to the City of Cranky People. It’s too hot. Children whine, parents snap (and sometimes slap). Whole families in undershirts and flip flops hang out on stoops. Beer bottles are left on sidewalks. Back of my neck, and you know the rest.
A three digit heat index makes it hard to think of food, either preparing it or eating it. Mostly my visits to Reading Terminal Market are a treat: either well-planned or spontaneous. This visit was a necessity. Don’t want to turn on the oven in my sweltering house. Don’t even want to warm up the electric stovetop. Or raise my body temperature by chopping vegetables for a salad. Such considerations made, we found ourselves at Tokyo Sushi Bar, the only sushi purveyor in the Market.
Maybe it’s the lack of competition (oh my, are the free market people right?) but Tokyo Sushi is, at best, ok. We barely squeezed ourselves in at the counter, which was full with a young couple at one end, a middle-aged couple who sniffed with displeasure at the conversation my companion and I were having and a young African American woman having a heated argument on her cell phone.
If you’ve read any of my earlier entries, you may have noticed that I never mention prices. I suppose I should, but it hardly occurs to me since most items at the Market are so reasonably priced. But here, friend, I’ll make an exception. Tokyo Sushi is overpriced. How overpriced? Imagine a cartoon thermometer’s bulb exploding. A hamachi roll (yellowtail and scallion) costs $9.50! At Fat Salmon or Izumi, the same roll ranges from $5.50-$6.00. Hell bent on getting my cold lunch, I handed over my credit card (minimum $20 charge, not hard to get to here) for the hamachi, the Terminal Roll with roe and spicy rice, and an octopus salad (the tentacles on display behind the glass simply called to me).
Price-griping aside, the sushi was fine. Tokyo makes its own soy sauce, rare in such a place, and gives quite a heaping pile of wasabi and fresh pickled ginger, which I appreciated. The roe in the Terminal Roll was the large kind, with the feel of salty, blooming eyeballs–which I mean in the best possible way. The hamachi was nice, too, but not extraordinary.
And the salad? The octopus was sliced, a pink quivery gelatinous thing hardly recognizable, chewy and immensely improved with a drop of soy sauce. The salad beneath it was just iceberg lettuce, covered in a pinkish dressing that reminded me, faintly, of Russian dressing, but that can’t be possible, can it?
Eating is a gestalt experience, greater than the sum of its parts. Clean flavors and artful technique rank high, but sometimes not having to cook is almost as important. I don’t think I’ll be back to Tokyo Sushi anytime soon, but it served its purpose that day–effortlessness, cold and simple.
Recommended: honestly, probably going to one of the 700 other sushi places in Center City, but, if you’re committed, the Terminal Roll was satisfying.