Friday, November 27, 2009

Tokyo Bay Review

Tokyo Bay, Naperville Illinois

Hers . . .
I never would have pegged myself as one of those weirdoes who doesn’t seem to realize that fire has been used prolifically and especially in food preparation since around 7000BC but find myself lately longing for raw eel and the satisfaction only a good roll provides . . . Yes, I’m a sushi lover. Admittedly, I am far from an aficionado when it comes to sushi I’ve only dabbled here and there, but one only needs a satiable entree into this fascinating world to become a well-versed fan of the cuisine.

So imagine my excitement to try a newer sushi restaurant, Tokyo Bay in Naperville, not far from our home. Marcus and I entered the restaurant hand in hand and giddy at the thought of sneaking away from the kids to grab some time together and feed our craving. Well . . . I’m still craving some good sushi. See where this is going?

The experience fell short upon arrival when we almost sat ourselves because for the first few minutes the hostess was missing in action. When she arrived, there was no mistaking she had arrived—is all that glitters a geisha?? Not a good start, one of Marcus’ edicts of service had already been broken: Never leave the costumer waiting. I, on the other hand, was nervous, based on the attire of the hostess, about what the restaurant was offering—if you catch my drift!

As we sat looking at the immense menu offerings, we couldn’t help being dizzied–not by the countless menu offerings but by the schizophrenic décor. We debated . . . were we in an Italian villa or on the Tokyo bay? I still don’t know! Golden colored walls with painted faux bricks on some and warm wood surrounding the bar seemed out of place and in stark contrast to the misplaced dark shoji screens and traditional Japanese lanterns hanging high on the rafters.

The only redemption could be good food. The only problem—good food did not make it on our plate. We ordered the original Spider roll and the Naperville roll. The Spider Roll consisting of soft shell crab, avocado, cucumber, and spicy mayo arrived in inconsistent sized slices or mounds of rice and absent any real flavor. The Naperville Roll contained yellowtail tuna, eel, and asparagus but was amateurish (it fell apart before making it to my mouth) and forgettable—I forgot it had any fish. The only real thing I am sure to remember about the experience is the BIG bill!

NO LOVE here for me.

His . . .
Every industry goes through trends and the food/restaurant industry is no exception. Last year I mistakenly placed sushi in this category for a variety of reasons; chief among them were the rate at which sushi restaurants have popped up everywhere—not to mention you can grab some at most grocery stores, even Wal-Mart, so surely I can be forgiven for passing judgment.

However, there comes a point when every man’s eyes are opened to the truth, and that happened when I had my first piece of real sushi (by the way, California rolls don’t count!) Further research into this art-form led me to discover that sushi has been around since the 3rd or 4th century B.C., so I think that officially throws the “it’s just a trend” thing out the window. It’s probably pretty easy to see where this is going as I have come to love the very thing I used to turn my nose up to which, ironically, is what my wife said to me right before we got married.

Speaking of the Mrs., we were driving around one recent Saturday and I talked her into a late lunch/early dinner at Tokyo Bay, a new sushi joint in Naperville we’ve heard good things about. So we walk in, empty stomachs and all, and were seated fairly quickly. We scanned the menu which was about as long as my kids’ school supply and Christmas lists combined, but I didn’t let that intimidate me. Our waitress was very helpful and answered our questions thoroughly. We ordered two specialty rolls: the Original Spider (soft shell crab, crabmeat, avocado, cucumber, spicy mayo, topped with fish roe) and the Naperville (yellowtail tuna, eel, avocado, & asparagus.) Not sure what was so Naperville about it, but, hey, I’m down for whatever— especially if it’s good. Now I’m really excited, especially for the Spider, as we were fortunate enough to try it at another restaurant a week prior and loved it!

While waiting for our food, we did our usual and scanned the room to get a feel for the décor and atmosphere. With high exposed ceilings, shoji screens, dim lighting, Mediterranean colors, and bottles of wine one the wall, the interior felt as much Italian as it did Japanese, but I didn’t let that distract me because daddy’s sushi is on the way! So we start with Tokyo Bay’s version The Original Spider and although it looked the part and had good texture, I found it to be pretty flat as none of the flavors jumped out at me. Oh well, on to the Naperville which made the Spider look and taste like a superstar. If it’s true you eat with your eyes first (and it is) then I should’ve worn my glasses. The presentation was lacking as the roll was unevenly cut. The pieces appeared to be placed randomly on the plate, and there were chunks of asparagus arbitrarily sticking out of two of the pieces and most of them started to fall apart before making it to my mouth indicating they weren’t rolled properly or the rice wasn’t sticky enough.

It certainly wasn’t my worst dining experience and our service was good which always rates high in my book but overall, Tokyo Bay only gets:

A little love

NEXT DATE: Treat, a restaurant on the North Side of Chicago, serving contemporary American cuisine with Indian influences. And we promise to have pictures of our plates.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Here is our rating system:
  • No Love---Strictly a one night stand (think food people)

A Little Love ---No hope of a long term relationship

Some Love ---Worthy of an occasional date, but not marriage material

A Lot of Love---Taking home to meet the folks

All My Love---Til death do us part

Saturday, November 14, 2009


His . . .

I'm not sure when it happened but at some point between getting married and having kid #1 and kid#3 I became a foodie. Caught me by surprise but that's where I am and no matter how strongly I feel about other things (the Bears, White Sox, Politics, Real Estate...) food always seems to bubble its way near the top of the list running a VERY close second to my family. Matter of fact, if food were a family member (not sure it isn't) it could come over to the house unannounced, use my toothbrush, and borrow money without promising to pay it back......that's how tight we are!

On the topic of family, the one person who should be threatened by my "love affair" but will totally understand is my lovely wife because her love for food just might surpass mine - I doubt it but it makes life easier for me if I let her think that as women have egos too! Seriously, it's not often that two people fall in love with one another and in love again with something that catapults their relationship to another level. I'm serious, that's what food does for us. Nothing excites us more than to search out a new restaurant, share a meal and dissect every element of what we saw, tasted, smelled, heard, and felt during our dining experience.

Food and travel have done more to shape the way we view life and the world today than anything else I can think of. Think about it, when you come home from college, what says welcome home better than a good meal? After a long day of work? A good meal. First date or celebrating a special occasion - food. Watching the game with the fellas - food. Next to the people you share them with, all of these experiences are framed by food and hopefully those who are nice enough to visit us here are enriched by just that - the food and experiences we share.

Hers . . .

There is a thin line between food connoisseur and freak, and I've seen the inauspicious looks as I’ve ranted about a dining experience to people who have presumed the latter. How does one control such a strong affinity for all things food? I know no answer, so I am resigned to the fact that being a lover of food is a blessing and a curse. It leaves you open for the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but I wouldn't have it any other way. The pure joy of a well-composed dish can invade my thoughts, conversations, dreams and prayers for weeks i.e. freak. While a culinary catastrophe leads to a depth of sorrow, I do not wish even on my worst enemy. Does that define passion or insanity? I most certainly hope passion, but if not and a padded room awaits, please allow me to review the chef's credentials and please ensure there is lemon in my water and a variety of textures on my foam plate!

Luckily, I married someone who understands and shares that passion or is willing to share the padded room whichever the case maybe.