Todoroki: the newest kid on the Davis Street block
    Photo courtesy of author / North by Northwestern

    Situated right next to Giordano’s on Davis Street, the owners of Todoroki have turned what previously was a empty, barren space into a venerable temple of rolls and raw fish. Elegant dark wood-panelled flooring, wooden railings and (surprise!) wooden furniture greet you upon entering. With paper lanterns adorning the restaurant’s ceiling and lighting up the interior, it’s clear that the owners spared no expense in highlighting just about every single Japanese stereotype in the book when it came to decorating this place.

    As of its opening on Jan. 18, Todoroki – which, according to the restaurant's Facebook page, is an onomatopoeia suggesting the roar of thunder – infuses a wide variety of Japanese favorites into our already gastronomically diverse neighborhood. With everything from tempura to teriyaki, an assortment of specialty or more traditional sushi rolls and even six hibachi (think Japanese-style grills) stations, while not anything particularly revolutionary, you're certainly spoilt for choice in terms of eating options at Todoroki.

    Giant Unagi Roll. Photo courtesy of author

    For those who dream of gouging their own weight in sushi, Todoroki’s claim to fame would definitely be its sushi buffet option (lunch: $16.95, dinner: $22.95), although in this case, I would use the term “buffet” loosely. When the next order is contingent upon finishing all the sushi on one’s plate, unless you’ve just placed first in the Chicago marathon, I would definitely advise against ordering swathes of sushi at one go. Don't leave any sushi hanging around at the end of your meal either; Todoroki charges a fee for every piece of sushi wasted. Nevertheless, for the price you pay and the amounts of sushi one could potentially consume, I feel the sushi buffet is definitely worth the money.

    Deep within the recesses of Todoroki’s menu lies the rather intriguing sounding “Sex on the Beach” roll. Essentially a dish that combines rice, mango, shrimp tempura, cucumber, cream cheese and lobster salad into a gargantuan roll, it promised an interesting blend of Eastern and Western flavors. Ordering it with high hopes, I rather disappointingly found my Sex on the Beach to be an abomination of what a sushi roll should be. While it did come nicely packaged and presented, the roll starkly reminded me of Derek Zoolander, all looks and no substance, all killer no filler. Just as the colors purple and orange clash, its rather haphazard concoction of flavors left me reeling and sorely confused on just what sort of taste it was going for. At $14.95 per roll, blowing my money away on really bad Sex on the Beach turned out to be my worst decision of the night. 

    That’s not to say that Todoroki is without its redeeming factors. Getting a spot at the hibachi stations – where one orders a combination of various seafoods and meats to go along with grilled vegetables and fried rice – promises a night of great entertainment and good food. Chefs behind the grill love to keep guests on their feet and even have a few tricks up their sleeves to spice up the dining experience. If you get the chance, definitely ask for the onion ring volcano, where the chef lines up a triangle tower of onion rings and squirts sake (Japanese rice wine) in the middle, lighting up the grill like Mount Krakatoa. Just for good measure, food from the grill will also be playfully lobbed at you to catch with your mouth. If you’re looking to impress that prospective girlfriend with your impeccable mouth-eye coordination, this is definitely the place.

    Sex on the Beach. Photo courtesy of author
    Todoroki’s more traditional rolls were also of good stock. Personally, I’m a sucker for good unagi (eel) and the restaurant’s Giant Unagi Roll was excellent. With generous portions of soft, well-grilled unagi hidden among sticky rice and cucumbers shards and decked in lovely, thick sweet soy sauce, I found it to be hugely satisfying. 

    Price-wise, this place is definitely not for those on a tight budget. If you’re not looking to go for the sushi buffet, expect an ordinary sushi roll to set you back around $7 each. Lunch prices are also cheaper for both the sushi buffet and the hibachi, so head down earlier to take advantage of that. Make sure to bring your Wildcard to enjoy the Wildcard Advantage discount. 

    At the end of the day, while certain rolls on Todoroki’s menu were hit and miss, I loved the restaurant’s fun atmosphere and found it perfect for celebrating birthdays or having dinner in large groups. Considering the average price of sushi available in Evanston, the sushi buffet option is definitely value-for-money and simply too good to pass on for sushi lovers like me. Oh, and did I mention the restaurant’s B.Y.O.B. policy? When I return, it’ll definitely be on an empty stomach and with a few bottles of champagne in tow.


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