published Friday, September 28th, 2012

Food, service, location make Totto Sushi a hit

The North Shore roll, front, and the UTC Crunch Ball are two of the house-special sushi rolls served at Totto Sushi Bar and Grill on Frazier Avenue.
The North Shore roll, front, and the UTC Crunch Ball are two of the house-special sushi rolls served at Totto Sushi Bar and Grill on Frazier Avenue.
Photo by Luis Carrasco.

IF YOU GO

Where: Totto Sushi Bar and Grill, 330 Frazier Ave., Suite 124.

Phone: 423-508-8898.

Website: www.tottonooga.com.

Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon-3 p.m. Saturday. Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Price range: $2 (house salad)-$32.95 (deluxe sashimi combination of up to 24 pieces).

My wife and I have lived on the Southside for a few years now, and our go-to sushi place was always Hiroshi's on Main Street. It wasn't fantastic, but it was convenient and would satisfy the urge for sushi that would invariably arise a few times a month.

Since it closed, we have been on the lookout for a new place and have tried several other restaurants in the area. They all have been OK but nothing that we would gladly go out of our way to enjoy.

Although Totto Sushi Bar and Grill opened in May, we hadn't visited the North Shore restaurant until earlier this month. We liked what we tried and went back to make sure it hadn't been a fluke.

THE MENU

There are three menus available during dinner: the regular dinner menu, which features grilled dishes and appetizers; and two sushi menus, one listing traditional dishes and the other the house's special rolls. There is also a lunch menu that includes a sushi buffet for $11.95.

Not only are there several menus, the number of items on each one is large and the selection varied. Listing them all would be exhaustive, so I'll limit myself to a few items. If you have time, visit the restaurant's website, www.tottonooga.com. All the menus are available there, so you can arrive at the restaurant well prepared.

Appetizers (priced from $6 to $8) include steamed or fried dumplings, tempura shrimp or vegetables, Korean-style grilled pork or beef, a variety of salads, both vegetable and fish, and soups.

Grilled entrees include different kinds of steak, chicken, seafood and tofu. They all come with soup, salad, vegetables and white rice (there is an extra $1.50 charge for fried rice) and range in price from $11 for the Vegetable Lovers plate to $28 for the two-tail Lobster Dinner. There are also combination platters that range from chicken and steak for $17 to shrimp, scallop and lobster for $31.

Bento boxes are also available, with prices ranging from $15 for chicken to $30 for lobster. They are served with soup, salad, white rice, grilled vegetables, tempura, dumplings and a California roll.

The sushi menus offer dozens of options. They range from simple rolls ($5.25 for tuna, $4.95 for salmon) and sashimi (starting at $7.95 for tuna and up to $11.95 for a nine-piece combo) to more specialized sushi-nigiri at market price (tuna belly, sea urchin, giant clam) and house favorites (Hulk roll, Frazier Fire roll, Sensual Pleasant roll, Steak roll) that offer unique combinations of ingredients at an average price of $10.

Drink specials include 50 percent off every day on a nice selection of beer as well as 50 percent off house wine and sake on Saturday and Sunday.

It can be overwhelming to have so many choices, but if you take your time and ask a few questions you will be on your way to a great meal.

THE ORDER

The order, for a group of five hungry people, was a spicy tuna roll, Totto roll (crab, cucumber, avocado, fried shrimp, fresh salmon/tuna on top, koma and eel sauce), chicken and steak grilled combo, squid salad, UTC Crunch Ball (cream cheese, crab and avocado, which is cut and deep-fried), Tennessee Crunch roll (crab and cream cheese with masago on top), Las Vegas roll (salmon and cream cheese deep-fried with eel sauce and spicy mayo on top), North Shore roll (spicy crab, cucumber, avocado, fried shrimp, spicy tuna and fried eel with spicy mayo and eel sauce on top) and a beef bento box.

Here you may stop and ask two questions: One, even for a group of five, did we bite off more than we could chew? And two, why does the photo that accompanies this article not show most of the dishes we ordered?

As the food arrived, it all looked so appetizing that we started eating. It wasn't until I was more than a few bites into my bento box that I realized I had forgotten to take a photograph. That's a good indicator of how great everything was.

The salads that came with the grilled dish and the bento box were mainly iceberg lettuce, but the ginger dressing, which I find overpowering at most other restaurants, was very good. The soup, a chicken vegetable broth, was warm and mildly spicy.

The beef and chicken were OK, nothing out of the ordinary, but the fish was fresh and all the rolls were delicious. The only hiccup was that the person who ordered the squid salad had expected the squid to be cooked, which had been her experience at other Japanese restaurants, and she wasn't a fan of it raw. Others at the table had no such problem, and their food soon disappeared as well.

THE SERVICE

The service was excellent. Our server was very nice and friendly, answered questions and made sure we had everything we needed. One of the sushi chefs came out and asked how our meal was.

THE SPACE

Totto sushi is cozy. Decorated in warm tones, with low lighting and soft music playing, the place has a relaxing ambiance. Even with several tables occupied, the noise level was never annoying. It also has a back patio that overlooks Coolidge Park.

THE VERDICT

Good food, good service, good location. I can safely declare this my new favorite sushi place. There is so much left to try that I can't wait to go back and sample different rolls. It can never be as convenient as Hiroshi's for us, but it is definitely better, and we'll gladly make the trip to the North Shore to enjoy great sushi.

about Luis Carrasco...

Luis F. Carrasco joined the Times Free Press in 2007 as managing editor for Noticias Libres, a Spanish-language weekly covering East Tennessee and Northwest Georgia, before transitioning in 2010 to the Times Free Press webdesk. He has previously worked as an assistant city editor at the El Paso Times, where he also was a pop culture columnist and blogger, and was the founding managing editor for El Diario de El Paso, a Spanish-language daily published ...

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