Nocturnal Nights in the O.C.

By Tristan Lim

If you’re looking for delicious and cheap Japanese food to satisfy your hunger at night, you are in luck.

Japanese restaurant Tomikawa is a great social hub for those who enjoy eating sushi and watching the latest football game. Sitting right along Jeffrey Road, Tomikawa has a traditional Japanese and sushi menu.

The Asian restaurant boasts a modern design.

The restaurant has a relatively large sushi bar with two large, flat screen televisions constantly playing sports games and leather seats occupy most of the space in the restaurant. Tables are relatively large and can be put together in order to accommodate large groups. There are also tables located outside the restaurant for parties and other large gatherings. Music consists of the latest and most popular tracks. Sushi chefs are incredibly friendly and can be seen preparing sushi behind the bar.

The menu is a medley of Japanese dishes. The typical two or three item combination is on the menu, allowing customers to select different combinations of food ranging from teriyaki chicken to spicy tuna rolls. The menu contains a variety of sushi-based dishes, but most of them are usually ordered from the bar menu, a small strip of paper containing various combinations of sushi.

The quality and quantity of the food are an inseparable duo at Tomikawa.

“We like to make sure our customers aren’t worried about the quantity of food they get,” explained a server. “We’re very generous with food servings.”

Apart from sushi and appetizers, entrees are served in large, seemingly bowl-shaped plates. Sushi is always served on a rectangular plate and decorated with various sauces, giving the dish an artistic component. The main dish, typically one of the combination options, is served in less than 15 minutes or earlier on a quiet day. In contrast, the sushi takes relatively longer since they are shaped and assembled by the chefs at the sushi bar.

During my first visit to the restaurant, I was astonished to see that my entree arrived rather quickly. I ordered the two item combination with chicken teriyaki and salmon teriyaki. The food tasted delicious and I could not refrain from ordering more.

The atmosphere of the restaurant is typically calm and tranquil on weekdays. On Friday and Saturday nights, however, the seemingly undisturbed atmosphere is suddenly filled with mildly energetic spirits.

Friends, couples, sports fanatics and young adults fill the sushi bar. Tables are combined to accommodate large parties and large groups fill the outdoor restaurant patio.

Prices are fair but increase as the day progresses. During lunch, a normal meal costs around $7.50 to $9.70. In contrast, dinner meals range from $12.50 to $14.75. The quantity in which the food also arrives factors into the cost. The price for sushi is at a stable rate regardless of the time of day, ranging from $7.50 to $10.75.

Happy hour usually lasts between 3 to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The items that qualify for happy hour are appetizers, desserts, alcoholic beverages and numerous items on the sushi bar menu.

“We usually cut the prices of the more common orders people make like salads or certain sushi and some alcoholic drinks,” a server said.

On several occasions, the price of entrees and popular sushi dishes may drop. The restaurant does not accept reservations and functions on a first come, first serve basis.

Customer service is average due to the small amount of servers. At times, they forget to take your order due to the abundance of customers, but a simple wave of the hand gets the attention of the workers.

Tomikawa is a paradise close to home for UC Irvine students who love Japanese food. The ambiance during Friday nights is quite lively, but not to the extent of that of a sports bar or a Dave and Busters.

The abundance of people is the source of the energy during weekends and Friday nights. On certain occasions, there may be multiple spirited groups of people, but they follow the ambiance of mild exuberance.

I typically eat at Tomikawa during family nights on every other Friday or Saturday night. I realized that my family and I stayed over the closing time, but servers and staff were extremely kind and remained in the restaurant until we left.The restaurant closes at 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, but is extremely flexible with time.

Tomikawa is usually my default answer if someone asks for an Asian restaurant near campus. The mildly energetic ambiance during Friday or Saturday nights is the perfect setting for friendly gatherings, and both the quality and quantity of the food are great. If you are looking for a tranquil Japanese restaurant with terrific food and service, Tomikawa is the place to visit.