WHATS FOR LUNCH? TOKI HAS THE ROLL

040415 tokis rollA fresh platter of sushi from Toki in Red Bank features uni, yellowtail hamachi, tuna and a Toki Roll. Below, three chefs work Toki’s sushi bar. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

042115 toki2An area of Red Bank that was once a desert for those craving the cuisine of the Far East is fast becoming what we might call Little Asia.

For several years, following the departure of the Jade Garden takeout place on Broad Street, the only choices were Sogo Sushi and Teak Asian Fusion on facing corners of Monmouth Street. But since the opening of  Temple Gourmet Chinese on Broad Street in 2011, the downtown has seen the addition of Pho Le across the street and Oriental Empire just one block over on English Plaza.

Now, there’s another Asian place in the burgeoning mix of restaurants: Toki, at the corner of Monmouth and Broad is a light-filled, upscale Japanese restaurant dressed in a tranquil aesthetic of celadon green and natural wood adornments.

040415 toki spider rollThe Spider Roll is served on a Tsumi web and wears an orchid corsage. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

An extensive lunch menu offers all the dishes we expect at a Japanese restaurant: Bento Boxes, Donburi and noodles, and Cooked Hibachi dishes with steak and shrimp.

It is the sushi lunch specials though that catch the eye of PieHole. Offers of two rolls of Maki at $9 or 3 rolls at $13 are a good deal, with 27 varieties offered for your  consideration. If you find yourself wanting more, a Toki combo for $15 includes soup, a regular Maki roll and a special Maki roll.

We went with the when-in-Rome theory and opted for the Toki combo so we could try the Toki roll. If they put their name on it, the roll should be something special.

The Toki roll is a resplendent little jewel to behold. Tuna, salmon, yellowtail and avocado make up the inside, while the outside is covered in three kinds of tobiko, or fish roe. Creamy, and fresh inside with the continuous crunch on the outside, it tasted as good as it looked.

We also ordered uni, or sea urchin, because our waitress stressed that it had just come in fresh. Scented with salty seawater, it was the freshest uni we have come across in a long time.

The Spider roll that we ordered separate from our lunch was artistically served with a pretty spider web design on the plate and a bright colored orchid, but the roll itself was rather small and didn’t stand up to the other sushi offerings we tried.

Toki is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.