Tsujita Dinner – Yes, There’s a Lot of Pork

9 Oct

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“You know we don’t serve ramen for dinner?”

We knew that going in, having been for ramen during lunch several times. But the servers would greet everyone walking in for dinner with this line. Several parties walked out before sitting down.

I was prepared for disappointment, considering the expectations that tsukemen creates and after reading tons of Yelp reviews complaining about the dinner. But dinner turned out to be pretty good.

For a place that serves maybe eight items at lunch, the sprawling menu surprises a bit. The menu goes from izakaya grub to sushi and sashimi to basic Japanese diner food. You can order a la carte, but we went with the prix fixe menu for $50. It sounds like a pricey option when you’re used to coming for a $12 bowl of awesomeness, but it is a huge meal. I was actually too stuffed to go to Blockheads, which is saying something.

The meal started with this duo of tofu topped with uni and roe. The white tofu was so delicate and beautifully accented by the marine taste of the uni and the light broth below. The other tofu had a light taste that was a backdrop for the salty pop of the fish eggs.

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Next came the sashimi plate (caveat: this is a serving for four people) – tuna, salmon, and red snapper. It was served with some wonderful fresh-grated wasabi that almost had a creamy quality. The salmon was some of the best sashimi I’ve ever had – silky, flavorful, incredibly fresh. The tuna, while excellent, was almost transparent – almost too fresh since it was overwhelmed by the wasabi. This was probably also due to the fact that the fish was served on ice, which I don’t think it needed.

I hate to nitpick about the sashimi, since it was a really great plate of fish. But it was excellent, but not new in any way.

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The tonkatsu plate that came next was really excellent. Seriously. Again, like the sashimi, it was nothing really new, just a perfectly done tonkatsu. Actually, I’m sure it was the best tonkatsu I’ve ever had. Be warned that it was huge – a full size portion.

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A couple smaller courses followed, including a tasty enoki mushroom soup that was a nice break for me to try recovering from trying to eat the whole tonkatsu.

I must have been so food comatose that I forgot to take a picture of one of the meal’s highlights, a perfectly grilled miso cod. Again, nothing new in terms of an idea, but perfectly executed. It was one of the moistest, most succulent pieces of grilled fish I’ve ever had. Buttery and seasoned perfectly.

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Unfortunately, the meal ended on a total dud. Dessert was this: fresh fruit, scoop of lemon sorbet, and sugar syrup/broth. I’m not sure this was cool in the 80s, when it was last actually served at an expensive meal. As a capper to a meal of some excellent dishes, it was like ending a recital with a fart. For a meal of such precise seasoning, it was too sweet.

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Anyways, I would definitely recommend dinner, despite the higher cost. It definitely felt like a bargain for what you got. It’s a lot of food and much of it is excellent.

As much as I enjoyed much of the meal, we happened to go on a night in which there were few creative dishes. It was kind of a bunch of Japanese old reliables: sashimi, tonkatsu, miso cod, odd dessert. If it weren’t so well-executed, that could be the bento box at any Little Tokyo diner.

And now to answer the only question you had: no, the tsukemen is still WAY better.

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