As schedules would have it, we decided to forego our usual January family Birfcake celebrations and chose instead to enjoy an evening out on the town. This was truly going to be a very merry Un-Birfcake! We didn't need the freeway, not even the major streets. I guided our driver, one of the celebrants, through my neighborhood short cuts. Of course he complained about having to drive like an old geezer. "Which way? Left or right?" "Follow the curve." "What!?" That had us laughing for the rest of the trip. I try to keep away from the Saturday night traffic with the fender-benders, the looky-looz, and the careless drivers who are always preoccupied and distracted. Driving in and around my 'hood is dangerous, especially at night. However, since finding my way through these side streets, it is a safer and more enjoyable ride. Our driver did eventually agree, it was safer.
I hadn't been to Tokyo Lobby in years. Not exactly the hippest or fanciest Japanese restaurant. The plate presentations are nothing spectacular. But the place is always packed, with lots of families and groups out to have fun. It has an atmosphere that is friendly and although it presently has a "B" rating, that did nothing to stop the crowds from lining up at the hostess station. Neither did the cold weather, and since we had to wait to be seated, that front door kept opening and closing, letting the brisk air to keep our minds off the wait. All around us were smiling people, knowing that soon they'd be served food like on the platters and boats and bridges that passed by. I actually observed a group conversation stop mid-sentence to watch a server with a boat. Yes, boats and bridges filled with tempura, ribs, steak, chops, fish and sushi!
As soon as we were seated our server presented us with a huge menu offering countless combinations, boats and bridges. Pages and pages of sushi. Nearly everything is pictured, so if you are uncertain, just point at the picture! The "hi sign" is to close the menu book, then your server quickly appears to take your order. Being a small group, we declined to order a boat or bridge, but watching them pass by tempted us to re-think our order. We are served the usual tea, tsukemono and soup. Then the first platter of shared sushi is served. Dragon roll, tempura roll and salmon skin roll.
The salmon skin roll was our least favorite, as if it was thrown together, messy and not neatly wrapped, the small salmon pieces falling out. It was hard to decide about which of the others we liked better, the dragon or the tempura, since both were delicious. Next came our individual orders.
These were served promptly and we were surprised to find that they actually looked better than the photos in the menu.Even I cannot eat that much food! Good thing we shared, that sushi combination was delicious, except for the boring California roll. The steak was tender and perfectly cooked, although overly sauced. The tempura was crispy, my favorite piece was the sweet potato. Or was it the shrimp? And since we each ordered combination plates, we were rewarded with a generous scoop of green tea ice cream. It was more food coloring than green tea, but I managed to eat it anyway! Real green tea has an unusual color when mixed into ice cream, a dusty grayish green, not exactly visually appealing. I would have preferred ginger ice cream, but that was not an option here. We sang happy birfcake right along with the large group seated across from us. They served one of those famous Chinese strawberry whipped cream sheet cakes.
It was really more like taking home groceries than a "doggie bag" from Tokyo Lobby. We were shocked to have so much left over and wasted none of it. It may not the hippest, but it sure was lots of fun to celebrate a very merry Un-Birfcake at Tokyo Lobby.
927-K East Las Tunas Drive
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Located in the Albertson Center