Christmas or New Year is something I never celebrated since I got to Saudi Arabia in April 2012—until I broke the monotony last 31 December 2014. Out of the blue, I felt the need to go outside the cubbyhole. The first thing that came to mind when I thought of how to celebrate it is to have dinner with whoever is available in my circle, to any of the economic restaurants in the city. I just really felt it is a must to put a lid on the wistfulness enveloping me (and, I believe, the Christian OFWs around the globe) this time of the year. I was so determined that I dragged some buds with me that night. Two (Onel and Ronnie) emerged and Tokyo Restaurant became the option after an hour of deliberation.
Tokyo Restaurant, which is only a twenty-minute drive from our place (Exit 7), is located along Al Orouba Street in Exit 11. It offers only the finest of Japanese cuisine in the city at reasonable prices. The interesting part is, the foods’ tastes are not sacrificed.
The restaurant is the first Japanese restaurant in the concrete jungle of Riyadh and probably the most successful, gleaning from how people flock in. This was actually my and Onel’s second time to be here, and the nth time for Ronnie who also asseverated that reputation. The service crew is predominantly Filipinos so it does not only make us, Filipino guests, feel like we are in the streets of Tokyo but in Manila as well.
The Tokyo Restaurant underwent a major renovation last year. This explains why the place’s simple, hygienic, and modish ambiance is easily noticed. The reception area boasts a glass floor and a display of antique samurai armor paired with an old, framed Japanese letter on the wall. The latter is what balances the hip atmosphere. Once inside, we felt all the more Japan-ish with the paper walls, kanji, paper lanterns, wooden tables and chairs, teppanyaki grills, and, of course, chopsticks.
This Japanese restaurant combines tradition and exceptional presentation to excite guests. The menu has a variety of choices with just the right prices. Makanouchi Bento became an instant favorite because it offers just so much of the major dishes. The reasonable price is a plus factor. Before diving into the main course, each of us had a couple of the palatable, free miso soup.
Makanouchi Bento comprise the basics of bento (fish and chicken teriyaki; shrimp, fish, and vegetable tempura; sashimi; potato balls; omelette; tofu; rice; sauces; and pickles). I adore salmon sashimi. The fish is fresh and it consistently melts in the mouth like a cotton candy. I also became a fan of raw salmon and chicken teriyaki—which is perfection at least for me–because of this bento. The shiny appearance just made me salivate and ask for three extra cups of rice. I could say the tidbits of the dishes are all stellar to a degree.
It is assumed that a New Year celebration with loved ones, in this case, with friends is always special and fun. But I never knew that it can turn out more fun and memorable because of Tokyo Restaurant’s commendable foods, service crew, and the establishment as a whole. They exude that hospitality and affability we all adore back home. Truth be told, I am not fond of eating out in Japanese restaurants because I usually leave with a headache from their sauces loaded with mono sodium glutamate. Tokyo Restaurant seems to be the exception. I did not have a headache the first time. The only thing that is loaded now is my sac. These are what I really liked most from the experience.
In sum, this is by far my most memorable gastronomic adventure in the Middle East and a New Year celebration to cherish. A Cyclopean thanks to Ronnie and Onel for sharing their time and for bearing with me.
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