1552 Locust St. @Civic Dr., Walnut Creek
Lunch Review Dates: April 2021 and December 2021
Gyoza: Pork And Vegetables, 5 Pieces. These are deep-fried, served with the pre-mixed dipping sauce of soya, dashi, and yuzu. We’re not overfond of deep-fried gyoza, but it was cold and windy, so they were welcome. The filling is tender and loose, as it should be, and the dipping sauce is better than most, the yuzu giving it a slightly acidic edge to cut the oil.
Pacific Roll: Spicy Tuna, Mango, Topped with Salmon, Hamachi, Tobiko. Spouse is a sushi purist. He was unhappy to find this drizzled with both tare sauce and spicy kewpie mayo. We don’t like “wet” rolls, although mercifully Toyosu didn’t go overboard with the squiggles as some sushi chefs do. He checked the menu again and confirmed there was no mention of any sauce on this roll. Not bad, but he would not order this again.
Wild Black Cod Yuzuyaki: Oven-Baked Wild Black Cod Marinated In Citrus Miso. We are very fond of black cod. This wasn’t the best quality, but what I really objected to was a strange sweetness that had nothing to do with the teriyaki glaze. This tasted distinctly as if the fish pieces were soaked in a sugar syrup, and then glazed with teriyaki. I was taken aback; I’ve never encountered such an obvious flavor of white sugar on an entrée before. It wasn’t inedible, just…weird. I gave a piece to Spouse and he was as surprised as I was. We would not order this dish again.
Gyu Udon: A tasty dish, perfect for a cold wintry day.
Agedashi Tofu. This is a starter we order at every new Japanese restaurant we visit. It’s a simple dish of battered fried tofu cubes, in a pool of dashi. It tells a diner volumes about the quality of ingredients used by the kitchen as well as the palate and skill of the chef. Toyosu gave us a mild but very pleasing dish. We could have wished for a slightly more sturdy crust, perhaps – we’re not overly fond of the types that dissolve into a gelatinous sludge when they meet the dashi broth. The tofu was exquisitely fresh, as it should be but often is not. Dashi was mild, but points to the kitchen for not trying to hide this with excessive soya. Mild and pleasing is better than overbalanced sodium, in our minds. Fine shreds of toasted nori sub for the more expensive katsuobushi and work just as well.
Unagi (clay)Pot: This dinner menu plate starts with a green salad, which was very fresh mixed greens with a tasty yuzu dressing he liked very much. The eel was a nice-sized portion, moist and tasty. The tare glaze was lightly applied, rather than the thick oversweetened glop we encounter more and more often these days. Salted red ginger shreds made a colorful accent on top, although Spouse pushed some of it off aside. The serving size was generous, with additions of an egg and some seaweed salad as a veggie atop the rice.
Ribeye Steak Teriyaki: USDA ribeye steak, grilled to medium, topped with teriyaki sauce. I should have specified to the waitress I wanted the dinner order of this plate. Instead she brought me the bento lunch version. It comes with the choice of two small pieces of California roll or Spicy Tuna roll, so I chose the former. I gave one to Spouse – he likes this roll – and ate the other one. I have never thought much of the California roll, but Toyosu does it as well as anyone else.
The shrimp tempura side is a modest five pieces: one shrimp, a mild green chile pepper served whole, one half-round of sliced eggplant, one slice of acorn squash, and one slice of sweet potato. All the vegetables except the pepper were sliced very thin. The batter is odd – a little more sturdy than usual, and it tastes and smells more “wheaty”.
The beef was cooked rare, not medium. I was fine with it. There was some fat on the meat, but only a bit of gristle. The teriyaki was improved with a fruity element to it – more yuzu, I think. The acidity brightened what has become a clichéd pedestrian sauce. The rice was broken short-grain, fine for a lunch.
I miss the small (and profit-eating) touches that used to be part of a bento lunch. Gone are any edamame, or even a few housemade pickles to add a welcome zestiness to what is merely a deconstructed donburi, or rice bowl. There was a small green salad, similar to what Spouse had with the same dressing. Overall a pleasing plate, if not stellar.
I’m not sure who the owners of Toyosu are, although most Japanese restaurant owners these days are either Chinese or Korean. We enjoyed our lunch, and would have no hesitation returning again. Service was very good and cheerful. Tables are small, although these days at least they’re not crowded together!
The charge for tea is fairly high - $3/pp, unlimited refills.
Summary: Despite a few missteps, we still like Toyosu. It does have a few good cooked dishes, and it’s a pleasant, quiet place to eat lunch. The service is very good, fast and cheerful. It’s a convenient location to the two businesses we patronize, as well. It’s not exceptional, but the cooking is slightly above average. These days, that’s as good as it gets for everyday Japanese fare.
Two people, lunch: with tax but without tip, $60-78