2012-07-11 / Restaurant of the Week

T.J. ASIAN BISTRO

T.J. Asian Bistro is an oasis of fine Japanese cuisine conveniently located on Skillman Avenue in the historic district of Woodside, just one block from the 7 train. On a recent evening, T.J.’s petite dining room was packed with locals enjoying owner Danny Zhang’s “art on a plate”. The clean, minimalist décor allows the food to take center stage, and trust me, this food is amazing!

T.J.Asian Bistro starts with incredibly fresh ingredients and every single dish is prepared on the spot. Danny and the other skilled sushi chefs are in full view at the sushi bar, which boasts slabs of the freshest tuna, salmon, fluke, octopus and more. Danny chooses his own fish from market every day, with a discerning eye and nose. “Preparation and presentation are key,” he says.

The menu features a wide selection of sushi, sashimi and inventive rolls that are pure works of art. Almost too pretty to eat, all dishes come to you on glistening white, oversized plates artfully decorated with gorgeous designs and sculptures. “The food is great and the staff knows what I want,” say Agnes and Arthur, who live nearby and eat at T.J. at least once a week. Her favorite is “uni”. Indeed this sea urchin was delicious and came to us on a sampling platter that included mouth-watering tuna, sashimi, salmon and white tuna, all of which melt on the tongue. White fluke is rolled up to hold a dollop of three kinds of caviar, making a luxurious meal. The uni was served inside a carved out cucumber with an umbrella on top! Even the wasabi is of the highest quality, and only the tiniest amount is needed.

My dining companion ordered some fine, chilled sake and you’ll find over a dozen varieties here. Wine and beer are also available and I enjoyed my plum wine. Start with hot appetizers such as a bowl of addictive edamame, crispy calamari, or shumai, which are tender, steamed dumplings filled with shrimp ($4.25). Gyoza are delightful pan-fried dumplings filled with beef, shrimp or vegetables ($4.50). Barbecued squid is a real delicacy, served with a delicious sauce, or share a plate of vegetable or shrimp tempura, which is impossibly light and crunchy. If you’re having a hot meal for dinner, you can order sushi or sashimi as a cold appetizer. Tuna tartare and jalapeno yellowtail tuna are great dishes to whet your appetite. Our seafood ceviche was dazzling to behold and delicious to eat, made with tiny dice of fresh tuna, salmon, white tuna, avocado, pineapple, and tomato marinated in a citrusy sauce that we devoured in minutes.

T.J. Asian Bistro makes dozens of rolls and special rolls such as the “Hawaiian”, composed of spicy tuna and crab, and the “Rainbow Maki” made with crabmeat and cucumber inside with tuna, salmon, fluke and avocado on the outside, creating a rainbow of flavors and textures. T.J.’s “2007” roll is named for the year that this restaurant opened and is a house favorite made with fresh lobster salad and crunchy salmon. We shared a “Kimono roll” which is a signature dish that we declared was the best thing we had ever eaten…period! Words cannot adequately describe the combination of spicy tuna, salmon, crunchy eel, yellowtail, cucumber and tempura flakes that make this dish so unique and incredibly delicious. What’s more, it was presented with a butterfly design made from sauces and garnished with a sprig of baby’s breath to punctuate the lightness and beauty of this dish which costs just $12. I urge you to order this T.J.Special roll next time you visit. All rolls can be made with brown rice upon request, and there are rolls called “naruto” which are wrapped in paper-thin cucumber, made without rice.

Hot entrées include “katsu” of deep fried chicken breast, pork tonkatsu or shrimp katsu, all served with rice and choice of miso soup or salad for about $10.50. Teriyaki is made with very tender beef, chicken, salmon, shrimp, tofu or tuna and is served as a complete meal with rice and soup or salad. Tempura is a favorite for kids and adults alike and is available as an entrée. Dinner Bento boxes cost around $15.50 and come with miso soup, salad, rice, shumai dumplings, California roll and your choice of two hot entrée items such as teriyaki, katsu or negimaki.

T.J. Asian Bistro does a brisk take-out business and will happily deliver lunch Bento boxes or dinners to your home or office. Visit their Web site for menus and special meals. Desserts here are more American, but made with an emphasis on lightness and presentation. Our red velvet cake was a pretty little three-layered-disc of moist cake and light cream filling. Chocolate mousse, fried bananas, red bean and green tea ice cream are also available.

Visit T.J. Asian Bistro on your way home or make a special night of a meal here. Take the 7 train to 52nd Street and walk one block to Skillman Avenue. Part of the pleasure of the food here is the dining-in experience. The staff is amazingly friendly and helpful and the presentation of the food is eye-popping. Though I just discovered T.J. Asian Bistro for the first time, it won’t be my last time here, where the food and service is excellent and the prices are within reach to all. Arigato!

50-19 Skillman Avenue  Woodside
718.205.2088

www.tjsushi.com

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