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Dining Out: Sushi, saki varieties rule in Little Neck

SUSHI TOMI

254-04 Northern Blvd.

Little Neck

279-1116 fax-279-3524

There’s been a Japanese restaurant on the corner of 254th Street and Northern Boulevard for 12 years. I’ve wanted to go but didn’t until recently. For the last year, it has been under new management. Go. “All you can eat sushi” is their big thing.

So off we went. Except for a vegetarian version, my dining companion had never eaten sushi, but I assured her, “there are lots of other possibilities.”

The restaurant is cozily sized and unpretentious with just a few Japanese touches. The sushi bar is on one side and artful hangings are on the wall opposite. Our jovial waiter was all smiles and personality. Three chefs stood behind the bar ready to make sushi.

We studied the menu and the Japanese couple seated at the table to our left. She had a big bowlful of pencil thick noodles in broth and a side dish of four sushi. He had an ample bowl of salad, perhaps the Mr. T mixed seafood salad. Empty bowls of miso soup had just been taken away.

Whatcaught our eye on the menu was a listing of mixed drinks. Have you ever had saki with soda? Or saki with plum wine? Or saki with white wine? Well, here’s your chance. Saki and soda after the first tentative sip goes down nicely. Since saki is actually a wine, it should marry well with white or plum wine. Will a sakatini be next?

Age tofu, an appetizer of deep fried bean curd, sounded enticing. And it was: six cubes of tofu, floured and deep fried, a dish I understand takes considerable skill to avoid it being a disaster. At Tomi’s the result was a Japanese heaven of mouth melting goodness with a delicate, delectable crispy coating. Why hadn’t I noted it on a menu before? (But let me caution you. It is scorching hot. If you are tempted to eat it with chopsticks, take that into consioderation. Do not put it into your mouth in one fell swoop.)

And we had a seaweed salad. My dining companion was dubious. One taste and she was ecstatic. She loved the bite from the flecks of chili pepper. And then she jokingly described using seaweed successfully, after hosing it down, as mulch in her North Fork garden.

Miso soup followed. On a scale of one to five I would rate this version a four plus. There was a house salad with rather tired looking iceberg lettuce but a good dressing. Actually, I had an “unsushi” as my main course - another “why didn’t I know of this entree before” item. It was chirashi - a bowl of sticky rice topped with an array of sliced fresh fish plus sliced, pickled ginger and a dab of green wasabi. It was so colorful: tuna and salmon, scallop and fluke and others of varying colors and textures. The rice was unusually tasty.

My companion was effusive about her choice of shrimp tempura. And I must say, I had never seen it presented more impressively. It was a tray with the batter-dipped shrimp and vegetables. Here the array included acorn squash, an eighth-inch thick green skin left on accenting the beautifully scalloped edge. And there were halved rings of green peppper and scallop-like shrimp cakes, plus a cold noodles and salad greens for tasting pleasure.

My neophyte Japanese-dining companion had never eaten fried ice cream for dessert. That was a must. The ice cream was green tea and the batter-dipped fried ball ball was cut in fours a la tartufu - a nice touch. I went with red bean ice cream and a cup of green tea. I really can’t say why ,but we oohed and aahed in delight as we tasted each dish. It was a happy time. My dining companion was all set to come back for takeout. I wanted to discover more “new-to-mes.”

I never did get to all-you-can-eat sushi with their rule #1. No more than four pieces per serving. No sharing. A charge of $1 for takeout. No doggy bagging.

Party trays are featured prominently on the take out menu. They are combinations of sushi and rolls plus Tokyo mori that sounded terrific: Ithyad beef negimaki (beef rolled with scallions then cooked in teriyaki sauce), shrimp and vegetable tempura, tatsuage (fried chicken), gyoza (pork dumplings) and edame for $26.95. If you served it with saki and soda or saki and plum wine or saki with white wine, it would be a great party.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Surprises in Japanese dining. Saki + soda, saki + plum wine and saki + white wine served. Home of the all-you-can-eat sushi. Great party platters. Jovial service +personality.

Chef’s Choice

Luncheon Special...$6.95

Salmon Teriyaki (salmon broiled in teriyaki sauce)

Chicken Katsu (breaded and deep-fried chicken)

Fish Tempura (deep-fried fish and vegetables)

Sushi (assorted fish and eel)

California Roll (2 rolls of California)

Yaki Soba (stir-fried noodles with vegetables)

Yaki Udon (Stir-fried udon noodles with chicen and mixed vegetables)

Oykako Don (chicken, vegetables & egg over rice)

Hours: L & D 6 Tue.-Sun.

Reservations: Yes

Parking: Street

Location: E of Little Neck Pky. S side

Dress: Casual

Credit cards: All major

Children: Share

Takeout: Yes

Private parties: To 20

Off premise catering: Yes

Noise level: Low

Smoking: None

Handicap access: Yes

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