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Defying expectations 

Tokyo House delivers a delicious Japanese buffet.

TIGER EYE ROLL: Filled with spicy tuna and topped with avocado, salmon and fat ikura.
  • TIGER EYE ROLL: Filled with spicy tuna and topped with avocado, salmon and fat ikura.

We love good sushi. But we never dreamed that there would be a place in these parts where artistic and creative sushi could be had at a bargain flat-rate price. We are happy to report we were wrong.

Tokyo House opened recently in the location that formerly housed a number of Jerry Barakat operations on Shackleford Drive, including Rockston's, Gaucho's and Tony Roma's. Inside are two buffet areas.

We stopped in for both lunch ($9.95 a person) and dinner ($18.95). On our lunch visit we were surprised to find more than two dozen maki rolls on the cold buffet; not just standards like spicy tuna and Philadelphia rolls but a selection of high-end rolls such as Green River, Spicy Mama, Rainbow and thick Vegetable rolls. There were tempura shrimp and avocado filled temaki (hand rolled cones), beautiful ika (squid) nigiri and pockets of gunkanmaki topped with masago (smelt roe), along with cold octopus and seaweed salads.

Our dining companions feasted on the cold buffet, not realizing that just beyond a wall lay a full spread hot buffet. At this spread, we found strips of excellent hibachi steak, strips of sirloin seasoned with soy and cooked to medium with a bit of pink in the center. The grilled calamari really shone — tender, non-rubbery and expertly prepared. We also enjoyed crab cakes, tempura-battered shrimp and vegetables, slightly pungent shumai and savory dumplings.

The lunch buffet surprised us. We were satisfied beyond our expectations. Would the evening buffet, which cost nearly twice as much, be worthy of the extra price? We are happy to report that yes, it's worth the elevated price.

On the hot buffet, items such as lamb chops, fat udon noodles, chicken teriyaki and grilled shrimp on skewers come out at night. Plus, ribeye steak slices still pink in the middle, grilled salmon medallions and shrimp with zucchini, asparagus and carrots. And the cold buffet featured the likes of crab legs and oysters on the half shell.

But all that could be overlooked by the mastery of three sushi chefs trying to outdo each other behind the cold buffet. They produced beautiful creations one after another: a delicate Queen Roll in pink rice paper with tuna, avocado and tempura crumbles topped with a tiny dab of Japanese mayo and shaped into beautiful flowers. An alluring Tiger Eye Roll filled with spicy tuna and topped with avocado, salmon and fat ikura (salmon roe).

There were a dozen types of nigiri, too, including tako (octopus), saba (mackerel) and a fantastic peppered seared tuna; more hand rolls and even sculpted cucumber cups full of spiced scallops. Six types of sashimi were offered on seashell-shaped plates, some of the freshest we've encountered in these parts. We were stunned by one uramaki (rice on the outside) filled with tempura battered chicken and crabstick, topped with salmon and a touch of a mango-sweet sauce. We have never encountered anything like it, but we will ask for it next time.

Each meal can be rounded out with ice cream. Chocolate, strawberry and vanilla are offered, but we couldn't resist the hand-dipped green tea ice cream, the perfect palate cleanser. We suspect we will be growing fat on Tokyo House's buffet in months to come. The service was excellent and we're still shaking our heads over how good a sushi and hot foods buffet could be.

Tokyo House

11 Shackleford Drive

501-219-4286

tokyohouselr.com

Quick bite

Tokyo House also offers an extensive designer sushi roll menu with rolls ranging up to $14, a selection of appetizers and menu service on most of the items found on its buffet. Unless you're on a diet or have a craving for designer rolls, we suggest sticking with the buffet — most of the items are available there.

Hours

Lunch buffet: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Dinner buffet: 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday through Saturday.

Other info

Beer and wine. Credit cards accepted.

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