Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Sushi goes mainstream

Posted By on Wed, Jan 4, 2006 at 12:00 AM

It wasn’t long ago when Japanese food meant an expensive special occasion, an outing. Now many of us can find it in our neighborhoods, or at least in our offices’ neighborhoods. Some folks are as likely to pop out for a weekday lunch of sashimi as for a sandwich at Così.

And prices have fallen. Chanpheng Sayanthone, owner of the four-store Tokyo Sushi chain in the northern suburbs, says two lunchers will share his $9.95 “boat special” and exclaim over how much food it is.

As sushi becomes as integrated into American eating habits as pad thai (before that, tacos; way before, spaghetti), it’s inevitable that some of the ceremony would be lost. Tokyo Sushi manages to prepare authentic Japanese food — with nods to American tastes, of course — in an unassuming environment.

Sayanthone is handling chef duties at his newest store, in Royal Oak, while various relatives hold down the other three forts. Born in Laos, he describes himself as a “wannabe Japanese”; his wife is from Hiroshima and his Laotian friends call him “Mr. Tokyo.”

His polite servers (no one calls customers “you guys” here) are patient as the diner pores over five different menus. If we added correctly, Mr. Tokyo is offering 119 items just in the “rolls” category. These include the Toyota Roll, the Mazda and the Honda, as well as the Audi, the BMW and the Benz.

The choices are vast because Sayanthone is constantly adding ideas as his in-laws fax menus from Japan. The rivalry there is cutthroat; when a new sushi restaurant opens, Sayanthone says, the chef tries to impress customers with novel combinations.

So competition, the lifeblood of capitalism, brings about such innovations as the $10 Dragon Roll. It’s long, high, wide and bright, with different fillings, toppings and colored sauces as you eat your way from head to tail. Crab tempura, cucumber, avocado, eel, eel sauce, bright orange smelt roe and octopus each play a part in surprising and delighting the diner from one bite to the next.

In my view, eel alone is enough reason to go for sushi — who’d suspect such a rich, tangy flavor from such a lowly life form? Tokyo Sushi serves plenty of eel combos, such as eel California and eel spinach rolls. Although not native to Japan, avocado also appears frequently — perhaps chosen for its cool, smooth, slippery similarity to raw fish.

For those who fear the raw, Sayanthone serves plenty of tempura items in his rolls, or the whole roll can be deep fried, creating a crisp outside while leaving the inside in its original state — no mean trick.

Hot appetizers are also done well. The Spider is delectable soft-shell crab tempura with ponzu sauce, and the gyoza — pan-fried pork and vegetable dumplings — are rich. There is no culture — no person — that doesn’t love a dumpling.

As you sit down, you’re immediately brought a bowl of edamame, unfortunately cold, and a small iceberg-carrot salad. The thick ginger dressing, strong and delicious, is available for sale.

From 13 noodle dishes, I chose nabeyaki soup. It sounds confused, and could have done without chicken, but it looks beautiful: red-orange shrimp tempura, deep green seaweed, stark white udon noodles, fish cake, napa, scallions, shiitakes and a perfect orb of egg yolk to break and turn the whole thing golden.

The udon noodles are very long, and you must slurp them whole; it’s considered bad form in Japan to break a noodle. A Web site on Japanese customs advises: “Lead them with the chopsticks step by step into your mouth. Keep the distance between the bowl and your mouth small, and don’t worry about making slurping noises as you eat it.”

In order to get a good sample of his fare, Sayanthone recommends either his boat lunch — three different sashimi, shrimp tempura, a spicy tuna or California roll, chicken teriyaki, potato salad and dessert — or a bento box, which might include dumplings, fish, rice, three sashimi, shrimp tempura and crab. The latter is good for those who’ve been to Japan, he says; the boat is for Americans.

Other Tokyo Sushis: 225 E. Maple, Birmingham; 248-258-2601. 30 W. Square Lake, Troy; 248-828-0090. 2560 N. Squirrel Rd., Auburn Hills; 248-373-7201. All are open seven days except Troy, which closes on Sundays. Students receive a 10 percent discount.

Jane Slaughter dines for Metro Times. Send comments to


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 12, 2022

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2022 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation