There have only been a few dining experiences in my life that I would classify as “mind-boggling”. The other night at the Tokyo Diner would be one of them, though not in an entirely negative way. You may think we were asking for it, going to a sushi place in the middle of Amish country. Perhaps you’re right, but just a few days prior, we had an awesome dinner at a Vietnamese place down the street, and have nothing but positive experiences at the Asian-themed Manor Buffet off of the Lincoln Highway. I’ve actually seen Tokyo Diner advertised for many years. Maybe it stands out because they are one of, if not the only, Japanese restaurant in the area. The two others, located about 15 minutes away, have both gone out of business within the last five years (Olive & Jasmine’s was actually excellent) . Unless I’m overlooking something, this place is it for sushi and hibachi.
Our appetizers were the vegetable tempura and shrimp shumai. The tempura were lightly fried and not greasy, but they also lacked flavor. It was like eating deep-fried pieces of air. No taste at all. The shumai looked good and were presented in the wooden steamer they were cooked in, but also lacked flavor. There was just nothing there. So far, we’re 0 for 2. My friend had two sushi rolls for his meal. His California roll (the easiest and most basic creation sushi has to offer) was dreadful—flavorless, unappetizing, and one piece included a grain of uncooked rice which he bit into and momentarily flinched in pain. I didn’t even ask to try a piece. The second roll was much better, though that doesn’t really say much. Named the “Pearl River Roll”, it included crab, cream cheese, and shrimp tempura wrapped in a soy-bean paper instead of seaweed. He enjoyed it, and I took a bite as well. I thought it was interesting, and it looked beautiful.
As for why this place boggled me, let’s just say my mind began to wander. His sushi hit the table 10 minutes before my entrée— the teriyaki NY Strip steak. I thought, “Gee, if a sushi place can’t make good sushi, then my steak is going to be horrific”. I admit I was thoroughly shocked when the steak arrived. The portion was massive and cooked rare just like I asked. The strips of meat were melt-in-your mouth tender. There was only a tiny bit of fat. I devoured the entire thing without obstruction. Maybe this restaurant is a case of just knowing what to order. The people at the hibachi table looked like they were having a good time, so I guess the cooks know how to grill here for one thing. Honestly, it was one of the better-cooked steaks I’ve ever had. For $14.95, the portion was enormous. We capped off the night with some tempura-fried ice cream, which was about two dollars cheaper than anywhere else I have been.
He wanted to give the Tokyo Diner a 3. I thought my steak brought their score up to a 4, but I will average out our experiences and award a 3.5 out of 5 stars. If you go, just stay clear of the sushi and appetizers and go for some teriyaki or hibachi. I’d be willing to bet their udon noddle dishes are good too. I don’t think I would bother going back, but I must recommend them to steak-lovers based solely on my meal.
Tokyo Diner is located in Chelsea Square, at 1625 Mannheim Pike in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.