Sunday, May 16, 2021
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Fort Worth

Tokyo Cafe rises from the ashes

Tokyo Cafe

5121 Pershing Ave.

Fort Worth 76107


When Tokyo Cafe was lost to a fire in June 2014, it left a hole that fans and nearby residents could not fill. Owners Jarry and Mary Ho promised it would return, better than ever, but two years passed while they focused their energies on getting Tokyo Cafe’s sister restaurant, Cannon Chinese, launched on the Southside.

Finally, last fall Tokyo Cafe was reintroduced with chef Kevin Martinez back in the kitchen.

The layout has been altered for the better, with a more spacious and inviting entry and waiting area that is nearly always filled to capacity. Hand-crafted papier-mâché lampshades hang along the entry.

A full bar has been added to the left and across from it, a snug and secluded sushi bar. The main dining room is filled with geometric windows at the front and decorated with bright Japanese lanterns overhead. Black ladder-back chairs and butcher block-topped tables supply flexible seating.

Every lunch and dinner service has been pretty much a full house since Tokyo Cafe reopened. On a busy Friday night it is attractive but loud, even with sound-absorbing panels scattered over the ceiling.

The simple and affordable menu offers rice bowls, ramen with ingredient options, wok-fried yakisoba noodles, fried rice and a full range of sushi.

New to the menu is a version of okonomiyaki (classic savory pancake) that is different from the one they serve at Shinjuku Station, which is owned by in-law Casey Kha.

Dubbed the Tokyokonomiyaki ($8) this potato flour pancake is mixed with noodles, grilled onions, and egg. It is a moister version topped with rich and sweet teriyaki sauce and drizzled with mayonnaise. The show-stopping large shavings of dried bonito dance on top when the pancake is served in its cast iron pan.

Okonomiyaki is one of my favorite dishes. It is straightforward pub food that can be mixed with a number of different ingredients in Tokyo from shrimp to pork belly to octopus. It is a common if not weekly meal for most. This one is meat-free except for the dried bonito and is an excellent specimen of what you would find in Japan. It’s my new favorite dish, enough to share with the table as an appetizer, or an ample meal in itself.

As always the sushi is fresh and creative. The specialty happy roll ($12) includes crab mix, cream cheese and avocado, topped with spicy tuna and butterflied tiger shrimp. It is served with two sauces, one a tangy and spicy ketchup and the other a mayo.

We also tried the nightly special roll called The White Russian ($13). It was a colorful creation filled with salmon, crab, cucumber and avocado. Velvety and mild white tuna slices topped the roll along with a nice dusting of black tobiko (caviar) and wasabi mayonnaise decorated the plate. I enjoyed the freshness and the crunch of the cucumber and fish eggs, and the lack of spice, (not even wasabi) allows you to taste the fish. This should become a regular on the menu.

A chicken teriyaki bowl ($8) looks simple enough; diced chicken ($2 added for white meat) is glazed in a flavorful teriyaki sauce and covers the rice beneath. It is a filling meal, adorned with pickled yellow daikon radish and white and black sesame seeds.

The bar menu has four interesting yet pricey Japanese whiskeys as well as both average and elegant sake selections to complement you meal.

A few other dishes that I don’t recall from the original menu include a slow-braised bone-in beef short rib, tempura fried Brussels sprouts, and a daily variety of bao bun (a Chinese-style tender steamed dough with different fillings). I will be back soon to sample these new dishes for sure.

The popularity of Tokyo Cafe and the community’s warm embrace have welcomed it back with open arms.

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