One of Philip’s friends was in town for the holidays last week so we spent a couple of evenings with him. The first evening was spent at The Honest Pint, eating pommes tots and feckin’ awesome bread pudding (that’s really the name in the menu) and the second we decided to head to the North Shore-in the rain-to check out Totto.
I guess there was initially a little confusion about seating because it took a few minutes for anyone to come to our table to take our drink order. Our server was very friendly, though, so all was forgiven. We ordered our drinks and an order of shrimp spring rolls, which were wrapped in rice paper and fried crisp, served with white sauce and an interesting pile of carrot shavings or curls or whatever you want to call them. The spring rolls were quite tasty and fresh tasting and the white sauce was yummy, a little bit sweet. I’ve never had a spring roll served with white sauce but I liked it, although I did get a good laugh, as I always do, at the fact that white sauce is now served everywhere. I guess it’s a big hit with the locals. I hear it’s mainly a Southern thing…..yes, let’s perpetuate the stereotype that everything we eat is fried and laden with mayonnaise. But it tastes good, so what can you do?
The menu is arranged into “grilled” entrées (hibachi-cooked), katzu, which is bread-crumb coated and fried meat or vegetables (both grilled entrées and katzu are served with miso or chicken broth soup and and iceberg salad dressed with creamy ginger dressing), udon noodle soups, and Bento boxes (which showcase one of the grilled items plus soup, salad, rice, tempura, fried beef dumplings, and a California roll). There’s also a sushi menu, of course, but I’m going to break this down for you: I like sushi. I do. I eat it-yes, the cooked kind and the raw kind-but I don’t do it all that often and I don’t feel like I know a whole lot about sushi to be telling you about it. So I skipped the sushi menu. Forgive me, please.
I contemplated the grilled teriyaki chicken but ended up asking for the beef Bento box. Our server suggested that I try the bul-go-gi beef, spiced Korean-style beef that had been cooked with green onions and carrots (and apparently some garlic too, because though the taste wasn’t overwhelming while I was eating it, it was pretty strong afterward!). I asked for fried rice and miso soup, which I have had once, at a restaurant in Myrtle Beach. I hated it then but I was pleasantly surprised by this slightly salty soup with tiny chunks of tofu (I can take it in small doses) and seaweed that gave it a mildly fishy flavor (but not in a bad way). The salad was good….I’m never that impressed by the greens in these salads but this one was at least cut into small chunks as opposed to big, icy cold chunks that you can sometimes get at other restaurants, and the sweet, creamy ginger dressing was very good.
The Bento box was served with a fairly large portion of the beef, which I liked but I have no comparison point (Taco Sherpa does serve bulgogi from time to time so I’ll have to give it a try there sometime) but the owner of the restaurant is Korean so I’m going to assume she knows what she’s talking about. It was just a little spicy-not overwhelming at all. I really liked the fried rice…it had a flavor that I’ve never tasted in a fried rice before. I couldn’t quite taste it but this was some of the best restaurant fried rice I’ve had. Again, I can’t really be a judge of the California roll…honestly, I would never order a California roll off of a sushi menu because I’m not a lover of crab….but it was all right. The fried beef dumplings, made of ground beef fried up in wonton wrappers, were crisp and slightly spicy. I loved the tempura-two pieces of shrimp, a slice of sweet potato (yes, sweet potato-it was good!), zucchini, onion, and red pepper. It was just as good the next day, warmed on a preheated (to 450 degrees) baking stone for 10 minutes (which also works perfectly to crisp up fries, pizza, etc., etc. Try it…it works. I promise!).
Philip couldn’t resist the call of the grilled (hibachi) filet mignon, cooked in garlic butter (alternately he could have requested it cooked in soy sauce), with fried rice. It was also served with a small serving of fried udon noodles (I did not get a picture of these) and a large portion of hibachi-cooked vegetables (onions, green onions, red peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, and zucchini). He ordered his filet medium rare and it was perfectly cooked. It never ceases to amaze me that hibachi chefs can cut a piece of red meat into tiny pieces and manage to perfectly sear the outside while keeping the inside from cooking to a dull grey pallor. That’s talent. The filet was really delicious. The vegetables were also quite good, nicely seasoned, and the fried noodles were soy saucey and sweet.
Our total before tip was about $48. Definitely not a “regular” stop by any means. We did have enough leftovers to eat for lunch the next day, and, like I said…if you know the right reheating tricks, even tempura can be good the second day. Sometimes getting two meals softens the blow of a meal that cost a little bit more than you were anticipating. We enjoyed the food at Totto quite a bit and it was nice to be able to have a hibachi-cooked meal without the fanfare and having to sit with people you don’t know that comes at most hibachi restaurants (I mean, sure, it’s fun from time to time, but Philip and I avoid Ichiban unless we are going with a group because we are really antisocial and don’t want to sit with a bunch of strangers). They also serve a lunch buffet during the week and have an all-you-can-eat sushi special for lunch for $11.95. There is a 1/2 off drink special daily.
Totto is located at 330 Frazier Avenue, Suite 124, Chattanooga, TN 37405. You can call them at 423-508-8898. Check out their website: http://www.tottonooga.com/index.html and like them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Totto-Sushi-Grill/166745636787345.