It seems like May is the month of holiday weekends, what with the Tag der Arbeit (Labor Day) on May 1st, Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) last Thursday, and now Pfingstmontag (Whit Monday) this Monday. I love having a long weekend, but it's kind of a pain when the grocery store closes because these days I can't be bothered to plan ahead for meals. This was the case on Thursday, so we decided to avoid the hassle of planning on Wednesday and went out for dinner on Thursday night.
A coworker of mine recommended Tokio Dining to me ages ago, but with Kicho just down the road from us, we hadn't gotten around to it. However, she promised they have the best katsudon that she's had outside of Japan, and so it's long been on the top of our list for a visit.
Though it was supposed to rain on Thursday, it turned out to be rather sunny most of the day. We took advantage of our good fortune and decided to walk to Tokio Dining, which is conveniently located next to the Schlossgarten at Mineralbäder. The restaurant sits just off of a small side street, and is easily recognizable with its large sign and pink curbside.
The interior of the restaurant is just as unusual. Although the white and yellow walls and dark leather chairs are rather ordinary, the dark slatted ceiling curves like the hull of a boat, and if you look closely at the placemats and décor, you'll find rabbits everywhere. When we first sat at our table, I mistook the ceramic rabbit sitting on the edge for a piece of spring décor until I noticed the rabbits in the restaurant's logo on the paper placemat and chopsticks. When I looked closely, I noticed the chopstick rests, various photos and paintings on the walls, and even the coffee-table books on the benches were all either from or of Japan, making the atmosphere feel almost as if we'd stepped just ever so slightly into the East.
Tokio Dining's menu is rather extensive with quite a large selection of sushi, plus various appetizers, ramen, udon, and other Japanese dishes. On this occasion, I began with a refreshing Lemon-Melisse-Minz-Schorle, a kind of fizzy mint lemonade. In fact, they had a few different kinds of schorle that seemed rather popular with the other guests around us as well.
As an appetizer, we decided to try the Harumaki. I make a lot of Japanese recipes at home following the recipes of Nami on Just One Cookbook. I once tried her harumaki recipe, which was involved but so worth the effort. Because her harumaki is fried, I expected the same of Tokio Dining's. When the rolls came out fresh in rice paper, we thought there'd been a mistake and almost sent the dish back. However, our server assured us that their version was very good. She was right -- the rolls were stuffed with crisp lettuce, buttery avocado, crunchy peppers and daikon radish, and some of the freshest salmon that I've had in a while. They came with Japanese mayo and a tart sauce that complemented the roll nicely.
Though my coworker had recommended the Katsudon, I was too excited when I saw the okonomiyaki not to order it. Okonomiyaki is a kind of Japanese pancake stuffed with various ingredients, but most usually cabbage. The first and only time I've eaten it was in Hiroshima where the style was to add sautéed noodles to the mix. At Tokio Dining, the style was more traditional with cabbage and my choice of fried shrimp, topped with the pancake, pickled ginger, sliced green onion, dried fish flakes, Japanese mayo, and okonomiyaki sauce. The combination of crispy cabbage, soft and warm pancake, and tart and creamy sauces was out of this world, and I actually ate slowly to savor every bite!
On the other side of the table, Matt ordered the Shoyu-ramen with pork. The bowl also came with traditional toppings, including a boiled egg, seaweed, green onion, pickled ginger, and corn. The soy-based broth was rich and almost creamy, but best of all, the noodle were authentic Japanese-style noodles -- firm but with a fresh, springy bite -- which we've had trouble finding in our area. This was by far the best ramen we've eaten in Stuttgart, and it came very close to the amazing ramen we had in Little Tokyo in Düsseldorf last month. I think we'll have to return for another taste-test for sure!
We were too full after our meal to order dessert, but I'm sure we'll be back again soon. As Matt said when we walked out the door, "I guess we've found our new ramen restaurant". I also saw a lot of great sushi coming out of the kitchen and am very eager to try some. Their gyoza looked pretty yummy as well. It seems they even offer a takeaway service for pick-up.
Tokio Dining is located in Steubenstraße 12 just a blog from the Mineralbäder U-bahn station and behind the mineral baths. They're open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch from noon until 14:30, and for dinner Monday to Sunday from 18:00 until 22:30 (21:30 on Sundays).
Have you been to Tokio Dining? What's your favorite dish?