“What was that?”
“The tuna−S5, I think.”
Ah—the joys of the drive-through, bringing you hockey-puck hamburgers, fries, liquor (no, really!) and now...sushi. Yep, you read that right. Here in landlocked Santa Fe, we now have a drive-through sushi joint by the name of Tokyo Café (1847 Cerrillos Road, 982-1688) across the street from The Pantry and next to Baskin Robbins.
The concept seems pretty questionable, but after being told by a number of friends, including the Internet, that it’s actually pretty good, I decide to check it out.
I roll up to the first window and am greeted by a rather intimidating array of sushi options on a whiteboard. It takes us a minute to order, since, unlike at McDonald’s, there is a lot more meaningful variety in a sushi menu than at fast-food joints. After some brief confusion (see above), I get my order and roll up to the second window. After paying, I am instructed to drive past the second window and wait in my car by the front door. I feel a little weird hanging out by the front window of a sushi restaurant, but the diners don’t seem to mind, so I try not to worry about it.
Apart from that weirdness though, the drive-through experience is reassuring. Although I’m kept waiting three minutes longer than I would normally expect from drive-through, the wait is just long enough to convince me that they haven’t just grabbed some pre-made rolls out of the freezer.
In addition to a good selection of sushi varietals, there are, for the less adventurous, your basic fried rice dishes ($6.50-$7 with no vegetables but with a generous portion of chicken). They’re not great, but they’re not bad either, and the chicken itself seems to be a grade above the typical takeout-quality chicken. If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous than fried rice but not so adventurous as eating raw fish handed to you through a window, the udon noodles ($8.99) are simple and tasty.
Now to the actual sushi. I get the spicy tuna ($6.50 for a roll of six), dragon and rainbow rolls ($11.50 for a roll of eight for each). The dragon roll is baked eel with cucumber and avocado and drizzled with a little caviar. The presentation is great, especially considering I was looking at the rolls in a little to-go container. The actual flavor though, while not at all bad, is a little bland. The spicy tuna ($6.50) and rainbow rolls are much more satisfying, with the tuna in particular having just the right amount of crunch.
A second trip reveals that, in contrast to what the location and exterior decoration—consisting of Christmas lights and pictures of the food—lead me to believe, the interior is pretty nice. It’s the kind of place I wouldn’t be embarrassed to take my parents if I were paying.
I’m only ordering takeout, but the hostess seats me like any other customer and gives me a few minutes to make my decision. This frees me up to look around and admire the décor. The bar, which has a frosted white front, is illuminated by a slideshow of pastel hues I associate with the iPod nano or an especially fancy Jacuzzi.
I’m ready to order and the waitress returns. She hasn’t brought a pad, but clearly isn’t confident that she can memorize the order either. She runs through the four items three times before she is satisfied, pointing out each item on the menu with long, marzipan-frosted nails. It wouldn’t be ideal if I were in a hurry, but as it is, I find her anxiousness endearing.
Open: Sunday-Thursday 11 am-9 pm;
Friday and Saturday 11 am-10 pm
Best bet: Udon noodles on the go