There isn’t much worth reviewing, food-wise, in Northfield, the small Minnesota town in which we live, and so I haven’t reviewed much: only El Triunfo, a small, unpretentious Mexican restaurant and store. For a town with two colleges, we certainly don’t have the usual college town staples: there’s no Thai or Vietnamese; the two Chinese places are execrable and the one surviving Indian place is not much better, despite a welcome change in ownership. Beyond that is mostly sandwiches and the Ole Store, whose food falls quite a bit short of its pretensions and its local reputation and popularity. Which brings us to Tokyo Grill, a Japanese restaurant on Highway 3 that opened about five years ago (I want to say), and of which the best that can probably be said is that it is mostly inoffensive. I hadn’t planned to review it either—I’d only eaten there twice in the years since its opening—but a friend mock-criticized me for not reviewing more local places just a couple of days before I was scheduled to take a visiting guest there, and so here we are.
As noted already, Tokyo Grill is located on Highway 3, some distance from downtown Northfield (which is how we like to refer to the three small blocks that form the commercial centre of the town). They do decent business anyway as there are a number of local businesses that help with lunch time and because—as also previously noted—there’s not a lot of good food in town. The interior is large and bright; the decor is contemporary Orientalist with a softcore edge (you’ll see what I mean in the gallery below). The menu is a grab-bag of Japanese categories: bento boxes, teriyaki, sushi (mostly rolls) and so on.
On this occasion there were three of us; two got the sushi deluxe combo and one got the bento box with steak teriyaki. The sushi combo comes with anonymous miso soup and a decent salad with some wasabi in the creamy dressing. The bento comes with either soup or salad. Confusingly, the bento box includes not-very Japanese deep-fried spring rolls and fried rice. When I mentioned this to friends a few days later, one person said he’d never seen fried rice in the bento, but folks, it’s right there on the menu. The missus was the one that got this and she was neither impressed nor amused.
As for the sushi, they don’t have a large selection; the sushi deluxe gives you two pieces each of snapper, salmon, yellowfin tuna and escolar plus one piece of yellowtail. The fish was cold and tending towards the anonymous but it was also not offensive; the rice, however, was too cold and hard; the wasabi was extruded from a tube and the ginger was no better. I would suggest that the sashimi combo might be a better way to go but then I remember that a Japanese colleague once complained about having received fried rice with sashimi there!
Pictures of the restaurant and the food below. Scroll down for price, service and to see why I might recommend them anyway.
Service was friendly and present enough. All of this came to about $22/head with tax and tip. This is both twice as much as you would pay at El Triunfo for better food and not bad per se for a meal involving a lot of fish.
As is probably clear, I don’t have a very high opinion of the place; but I might recommend them anyway. This is partly because—for the third time—there aren’t many options in Northfield, and if you’re driving through town, headed south where things are even worse, then you could easily do a lot worse; and partly because it’s probably not a bad place for starter sushi for people, and especially children, who’ve not had much/any sushi before. Nothing here will make you recoil and the price is not forbidding. In fact, I’d say the sushi here is better value than at a place like Kado no Mise, which has a wider selection but whose fish really does not justify the much higher tariff. I might even try them again in another four years.
Next up from the Minnesota food world: an image-heavy report on an Asian grocery in St. Paul.