Totori Fresh Grill and Sushi is a restaurant that lives near the corner of Five Forks Trickum Road and Sugarloaf Parkway, a bit more on the Five Forks side of the intersection. It’s in a tiny strip mall, the last restaurant in the mall, and as you head from Sugarloaf Parkway down Five Forks, the restaurant would be on your left.
My wife, half Japanese, was very interested as they were setting this up. She has little interest in paying for the show of a hibachi restaurant, and thinks the food selection in the typical hibachi is severely limited. I, for one, have openly stated on this blog that Asian foods are often too expensive, unlike the Japanese restaurants I encountered on Guam. There, young Japanese newlyweds were the target audience, and there were plenty of inexpensive restaurants to feed them.
Totori is a concept restaurant, done professionally enough that my first reaction was, “This has to be a chain.” After reading John Kim’s post on Yelp and the review of the restaurant (posted on the wall) done by the Gwinnett Daily Post, this appears instead to be a well crafted “one of” for now. They are indeed aiming at the classic hibachi audience for Asian food, but they intend to cut it off at the feet by offering their food with no frills and at competitive prices.
I think making too extreme a comparison, though, is doing this restaurant a dissservice. Totori serves rice bowls, for example, and udon. They serve tonkatsu and chicken katsu. They serve bulgogi, half a dozen appetizers and close to a dozen different sushi rolls. This isn’t fast food, it’s convenience food.
When you enter, you walk up to the storefront and order. The grill is open to view, the rice cooker is in plain sight. If you want to stand and watch them cook, you can. They bring out your food, and after you finish, you bus your own tables. If you want silverware, you walk to a table and get it. They offer chopsticks, and a variety of forks and spoons, both metal and plastic.
Menus I found to be a little messy. Things on menus outside were not on the menus inside, nor were they on the takeout menu. As professionally done and well written as the posters on the wall are, the takeout menu is shot through with typographical errors. One my daughter caught is “Frech fried”.
Staff here were either born overseas, or retain the courtesies of their ancestors. When I paid for my meal, my card and the ticket were handed back to me in concert and the staffer bowed. I like that.
The food? Mostly good, though some dishes were just okay, and others were quite tasty. For me at least, the veggie and shrimp tempura was just ordinary. My wife liked their tempura a lot more than I did. The best dishes in our hands were the rice bowls. We tried a bulgogi rice bowl, and a steak rice bowl with their spicy sauce (meats can come with one of five sauces). Both were quite good.
We also had their California roll, one of their hibachi combos, and a bowl of nabeyaki udon. The udon took a while for them to cook, and the tempura was delivered separately. My picture of the udon is pre-tempura. The California roll wasn’t bad. The hibachi combo was really the same food as the rice bowls, but presented differently, and generally is a larger serving of food. I got the hibachi sauce and after trying my daughter’s steak bowl, knew I had gotten the wrong sauce for my taste buds. I would have preferred the spicy sauce. The udon was decent.
Almost all the dishes in this eatery are under 10 dollars. You really have to buy a lot of food to get a 12 dollar dish. And that’s a nice feeling if you’re wanting to save a few dollars here and there.
In conclusion? This eatery is roughly comparable to places like “Tin Drum”, which try to give access to Asian foods to a broader audience than before. I really wish this one was close to work, because I suspect I’d be having lunch here quite a bit. But for now, it’s in Lawrenceville and my fingers are crossed that they’re making money and will expand. I think a few of these would be good for the metro area.
Verdict: Hibachi style food without the show and the cost. Rice bowls and hibachi style food are the stars here. For those on a budget, highly recommended.
Totori Fresh Grill and Sushi
1430 Five Forks Trickum Road
Lawrenceville, GA 30044