Today, a few friends and I took a trip to Summerville to try out a little Japanese restaurant called Little Tokyo. It's a long drive from Charleston for a lunch break, but it had been passionately recommended by another friend, and we were all pretty curious.
The restaurant, which is attached to an Exxon station a few miles from downtown S'ville, is a clean, simple place with maybe six tables. It's owned by a Japanese woman, who welcomed us as we walked in, and her Honduran husband, who was hard at work artfully preparing food in the open kitchen. With the exception of a TV tuned in to Fox News, the atmosphere couldn't have been more friendly.
The menu is full of some very inviting traditional Japanese dishes (as well as a few apologetic American options like buffalo wings and steak with mashed potatoes), which made choosing difficult. I decided on the grilled yellowtail neck with ponzu sauce and a small plate of tempura squid to share with the table. All of our entrées included a small bowl of a mild and distinctly delicious soup of fish broth and a few noodles. I didn't see it listed on the menu, but it would certainly be worth ordering a larger serving on its own if possible.
The yellowtail neck was beautifully served with minced daikon - which the owner suggested adding to the sweet dipping sauce - as well as rice, slaw, broccoli salad and a slice of fresh melon. And it was delicious, as was just about everything we ordered, which included gyoza steamed dumplings, curried potato croquettes, and vegetable tempura, but I think the agreed favorite at the table was the yakisoba noodles, stir-fried with shrimp and vegetables in a sweet, rich sauce.
The couple that owns Little Tokyo moved to the area from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and opened the restaurant eleven months ago. New Orleans is also home to two of the guys a was there with - one of them a Katrina evacuee himself - which they shared as we were settling up. It's amazing to consider the ramifications that storm has had throughout our whole country - an awful lot of suffering, but also the opportunity for a group of people to share such a nice experience, in such an unlikely place, two years later.
We thanked our new acquaintances for the delicious meal and spent most of the forty-minute car ride back to Charleston talking about what we'd like to try the next time we have a good excuse to be in Summerville.
~Thanks are due to Molly Hayes for the fine photographs~