Savoring a meal at Sake-Tumi doesn’t mean you have to like seaweed or raw fish. Although the restaurant’s name and Japanese-inspired storefront can cause misconceptions, Sake-Tumi caters to more foodies than simply sushi lovers. The restaurant whips up Western dishes, like flatiron steak and fish tacos, serving a variety of selections for a wide audience. It’s no question, however, that what Sake-Tumi does best is imitating authentic Japanese cuisine.
After making myself comfortable in sleek, black wooden chairs, I decided to explore the Asian-fusion options on the menu. For starters, I tried the miso soup and sampled the house salad featuring Sake-Tumi’s homemade ginger dressing. In my past experiences with miso soup, the pieces of tofu are usually slimy, small cubes that won’t even stay on the spoon. But these were impressive in both their size and firmness, and I downed it all almost instantly. The scallions and seaweed were noticeably fresh and smoothly complimented the hot broth.
The house salad, on the other hand, was more than bland. While full of color, the dish itself was little more than a few pieces of lettuce, carrots and not-so-ripe tomatoes strewn together in a small bowl. The ginger dressing was delectable at first taste, but quickly became overpowering with an unpleasant onion flavor. I forked down only a few greens and was impatient to move on to the main course: a teriyaki stir-fry topped with mixed vegetables, and a choice of tofu, chicken or shrimp.
Honestly, the entree was disappointing. I’ve eaten at Sake-Tumi a handful of times before and have always loved it. I usually stick to traditional maki (sushi with seaweed on the outside), and the sushi never fails to be soft and rolled to perfection. I ventured out of my comfort zone for Restaurant Week and I regretted it.
First of all, the stir-fry was immensely dry. When ordering the course, I envisioned a sticky rice bowl moist with sweet teriyaki sauce. I was wrong and instantly disappointed. I felt like there was no actual dressing in the dish, and the teriyaki flavor was only evident in a few bites. The jasmine rice seemed somehow overcooked and flavorless and was sadly reminiscent of the rice at Mein Bowl in the Marketplace. The fried tofu came out refreshingly hot and zesty, but soon turned cold and mushy.
The focal point of the dish — the stir-fried vegetables — was the tastiest element of the rice bowl by far. Squash, zucchini and snow peas were sautéed with teriyaki sauce and left my mouth watering. Tip for those who are going: ask for teriyaki sauce on the side to liven up the too-dry dish.
My meal perked up when the dessert arrived. I ordered chocolate mochi ice cream, which is ice cream encased in sugary, pounded sticky rice. While the display was subpar and featured just a dot of whipped cream in the crevice that held the two mochi scoops together, the taste and texture of the dessert were out of this world. The chocolate mochi itself was cloud-like and dusted with powdered sugar and had a great consistency: not too dense, but also not slopping around on the plate.
Sake-Tumi served a three-course meal that had its high points and its low points. It started out promising with its miso soup, but went downhill from there with its flavorless rice and teriyaki dish sans teriyaki. The dessert was arguably the highlight of my meal, and I would even consider returning solely for the refreshing sweet treat.
Sake-Tumi boasts a menu that is large enough to always try something new and satisfy any Asian-fusion craving. Next time, though, I’ll stick to conventional and casual Japanese dining and order my favorite tuna avocado roll with a glass of cold sake to top it off.