Corrections or additions?
This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the February 18, 2004
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Raw fish, in the form of sushi (a cube of fish draped over a molded
block of rice) and sashimi (just plain fish), is a staple of my
husband’s low fat diet. So we are regulars at many of the Japanese
restaurants in town, and seven years ago we made a binge-like
seven-day tour, sampling a different sushi bar every night, starting
with the pioneer of fast-food sushi, Teriyaki Boy, and always ordering
the same selection: salmon, tuna, whitefish, eel, and
hard-to-get-right yellowtail. "You can taste, by the yellowtail, if it
is not quite fresh," says my spouse, and he can tell by the color if
it has been frozen. He spots scrimping when the whitefish has a touch
of fiber and when the pieces aren’t long, so that they almost touch
the plate on both sides.
Since then Princeton has developed such an appetite for sushi that new
restaurants opened. On an icy Monday night we visited one of the new
spots, Tokyo Sushi, on Route 206 in the Village Shopper Mall (opposite
the Montgomery Theater, 609-430-0044), and were one of only two
couples dining. When we returned for lunch on a Monday, a holiday when
some offices were closed, it had 16 people, almost one-third full.
Service was prompt both times.
Tokyo Sushi’s owner, Paul Son, formerly had a place in Edison, and he
knows what he is doing. Tables are placed to allow for private
conversations, and someone with a good eye for color has done the
decor. My husband gave two thumbs up to the sushi, the ambience was
unexpectedly pleasing, and the owners knew how to welcome "newbies" to
Japanese cuisine. When a diner fumbled with the chopsticks, Son was at
his side, offering another set that had been prepared, for ease of
use, with rubber bands.
"Beginner Sushi" (all cooked sushi) is $6.50, and maki rolls (little
bits of fish or vegetables rolled in rice and covered by a thin layer
of seaweed, such as the ubiquitous California roll) are $3 to $5.
Regular sushi and sashimi lunches (five pieces of sushi plus a roll)
are $8.95, and the $9.95 lunch box special has lots of food: four
pieces of California roll (maki), three dumplings (shumai), sauteed
meat with vegetable, pickles, fried rice, and a choice of sashimi,
sushi, chicken or salmon teriyaki, tempura, or a Korean marinated
beef, Beef Bulgoki.
For dinner, the regular sushi dinners (eight pieces plus tuna roll)
start at $16, but you can make a feast on just an appetizer, like
steamed shrimp dumplings ($6), plus a $7.50 salad with shrimp, salmon,
octopus, and crab with sesame dressing. Tokyo Sushi is still building
its sushi audience, but it has the advantage of being the only spot on
206, convenient to patrons of the movie theater, and parking is easy
Another favorite spot, Ajihei Japanese Deli and Restaurant
(609-252-1258), opened below street level on Chambers Street and has
attracted some fanatically loyal fans and a rave review in the New
York Times New Jersey section last December 22. On several weeknight
evenings we have seen Ajihei turn people away or tell them to come
back in an hour. The decor is plain Jane, but the sushi is the draw.
So with taste buds ready I went for a business lunch at Ajihei’s
sister place, Ajihei Too (609-688-8916), on Nassau Street’s
"restaurant row" in the nook next to Thai Village, across from Ivy
Garden, the Chinese restaurant. At 12:30 we felt lucky to get a table
and 10 minutes later all the 20 seats were taken. Engineers from
Princeton University’s E-Quad around the corner constituted half the
The tables are close together, but the place is buzzing, so you don’t
hear everyone else’s chatter. Esthetically it is a definite
improvement over Chambers Street, partly because it is a new and
well-designed building with a huge window, and partly because of the
whimsical graffiti-like wall mural of the wise-guy cartoon character,
But my yellowtail-taste buds were whetted, and I did not notice that
the menu said "Sushi Roll." Sad disappointment when yellowtail maki
roll arrived, for $4.50. Now even the maki roll is not be available,
and raw fish selections are limited to tuna or salmon sashimi. The
kitchen at the Nassau Street spot is just too small, explained our
server. But the $10 lunch was fine – excellent miso soup, a chicken
dish that is similar to teriyaki, and a squid salad. My vegetarian
companion liked her bowl of Udon soup with bean curd ($7.50) and $4
We weren’t in a hurry, which was just as well. We parked a brisk
two-block walk away on Murray Place, though you might be able to snag
a place behind the building or on Olden Street. The entrance-to-exit
time was 12:30 to 1:35, and my main course did not arrive until 1 p.m.
Get there around noon for faster service and to be sure you have a
seat. And if you want real sushi in downtown Princeton in a refined
and calming atmosphere, choose Ichiban (just off Witherspoon Street,
609-683-8323) or Nassau Sushi (behind Thomas Sweet and the bagel shop
on Nassau Street, 609-497-3275).
– Barbara Fox
The 1997 U.S. 1 sushi review is online at
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