Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Sun Also Rises: Japanese Options Abound in Yoknapatapha

There was a time when the only Asian cuisine in town was Chinese, and it was only Ruby Chinese.
Today, a variety of Asian flavors are available in Oxford, and one cuisine that’s really grown is Japanese. Here, we take a look at three popular purveyors of dishes from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Hotty Toddy Roll from Toyo / Photo by Kendyl Noon
Hotty Toddy Roll from Toyo / Photo by Kendyl Noon

1. Toyo Japanese Sushi Bar & Hibachi (Formally Nagoya) $$
Where to find them: In the Galleria on West Jackson Avenue, between Newks and Kinnucan’s.
Reason to go: Let’s start with the wonderful hospitality. From the moment we sat down, to when we left the restaurant, we were welcomed by a helpful staff making sure our experience was a good one. The tranquil fountain separating the sushi seating from the hibachi grills added a natural divider. If you consider yourself a Japanese amateur, every member of the staff was very menu-educated and could find something on their menu for anyone’s taste buds. “Hibachi is probably one of the most popular [items.] It doesn’t just taste good, but it’s fun to watch,” says manager Kheng H. Chan. “If you see your food prepared in front of you, you don’t have to worry about how it’s made back in the kitchen.”“
Dragon & Phoenix roll prepared at Toyo / Photo by Courtney Richards
Dragon & Phoenix roll prepared at Toyo / Photo by Courtney Richards

What we tried: We had the Hibachi Chicken Lunch, a Hotty Toddy Roll, and the Dragon & Phoenix Roll. The Hibachi Chicken came with hibachi soup, salad with ginger dressing, fried rice, vegetables, and chicken. Very filling, but worth every bite. The Hotty Toddy roll was Jumbo shrimp tempura, cream cheese, and avocado rolled in rice and soy wrap, then topped with tempura batter and diced mango in a special spicy sauce. Perfect for anyone who doesn’t like the raw fish route. The Dragon & Phoenix was two rolls in one. The Dragon part was rolled with jumbo shrimp tempura and avocado and topped with BBQ eel, eel sauce, and sesame seeds. The phoenix part was rolled with crawfish and shrimp tempura then topped with seared tuna, tempura flakes, roe, and spicy mayo. Delicious! Oh, don’t forget the Yum!Yum! sauce. We don’t know what’s in it; we don’t care, and we know you won’t either after you’ve tried it.
Blackberry Mojito (left) and Mango Ginger Mojito from Jinsei. / Photo by Kendyl Noon
Blackberry Mojito (left) and Mango Ginger Mojito from Jinsei. / Photo by Kendyl Noon

2. Jinsei $$$
Where to find them: On North Lamar in the Mid-Town Shopping Center, close to Big Bad Breakfast.
Reason to go: The fun, upbeat atmosphere sets the stage for contemporary Japanese cuisine with a metropolitan twist. This is a perfect place to go to escape the “small-city” feel, and enjoy their chic bar items. Jinsei captures the essence of a big city vibe while still offering an intimate atmosphere. “It’s not super uptight like a traditional white-tablecloth restaurant,” says manager Nate Carlson. “But at the same time we want our service and standards to be at that level.” Carlson also says Jinsei offers the largest Champagne selection in the state of Mississippi.
What we tried: We were at a standstill with the menu, and our server graciously made suggestions based on what we both we did and did not like. We started with the Kadoma tuna made of spicy tuna, tempura rice cake, avocado, jalapeno, scallions, tobiko, and eel sauce. The party just started. The Red Dragon sushi roll and the Shirohama sushi roll followed the outstanding dish.
Hibachi Steak cooked fresh from Kabuki. / Photo by Kendyl Noon
Hibachi Steak cooked fresh from Kabuki. / Photo by Kendyl Noon

3. Kabuki Sushi Bar & Steak $$
Where to find them: Centrally located on Jackson Avenue, next to Kiamie’s liquor store.
Reason to go: Craving Japanese with a twist? Kabuki’s energetic staff provides an exciting night out with friends or family. The close-knit hibachi setup gives everyone a front view to an entertaining chef performance. The cheery atmosphere is one of the many reasons the restaurant has repeating customers. Weekly customers Lisa Wilson and Keshia Dykes say they have their favorites, including the spicy seafood soup, but like to try something new every time.
Rebel Roll from Kabuki / Photo by Kendyl Noon
Rebel Roll from Kabuki / Photo by Kendyl Noon

What we tried: We watched the chef prepare our hibachi steak, which came with hibachi soup, salad with ginger dressing, fried rice, and vegetables. We also had the Rebel Roll filled with shrimp tempura, cucumbers, and spicy crawfish and topped with their signature rock ‘n’ roll and eel sauce. What can go wrong—they have Yum!Yum! sauce, too!
No matter which Japanese route you choose to take, none of the above restaurants will let you down. Each of them brings an authentic taste of Asia to Oxford.
Kendyl Noon and Courtney Richards are students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media at Ole Miss.

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