Sunday, February 8, 2009

Food in Unusual Places: Rolls Done Right at Beijing Tokyo Sushi Bar

For the 50,000 people who work and learn in the techie neighborhood of Kendall Square in Cambridge, there are several places to get a quick lunch. Few places are as quick as Beijing Tokyo, where if you don't have your order in your mind within one second of being asked, they will stare you down and make you feel uncomfortable. It's situated in a food court, connected to the Kendall T-stop and the massive MIT COOP, the bookstore for MIT operated by Barnes and Noble. The restaurant is 80% mall-style Chinese counter with the combos and everything and 20% hidden gem -- the sushi section. In addition to the sushi bar menu, there is a glass counter with colorful rolls, sushi and sashimi that was made "2-3 hours ago," the clerk said in my last 1pm visit. Since they don't keep sushi overnight, there is a discount later in the day, according to reviews. However, the prices during the lunch rush are definitely easy to swallow.

"Is this place okay?" I asked the person next to me in line.
"What do you mean, are you going to die from it?"
"No, it's just unusual to find sushi in a food court."
"I've been here a few times. It's pretty good, actually."
Reassured, I dug in.

For $4.50 on my first visit I had the eel tempura roll. It was delivered in a tightly packed takeout container, with a shiny brown glaze drizzled on top of all of the 8 pieces. The glaze was sweet and tangy, and I feel like it was teriyaki sauce. They also added toasted sesame seeds on top of it, adding visual appeal and crunchiness. Ingredients also included avocado and cucumber which tied everything together nicely. As would be expected with tempura, Japan's delicious style of fried food, if it's chilled, it won't be crispy. So, don't come expecting a crunchy roll. However, do come expecting fresh rice and a yummy flavor combination.

On my second visit, at the tail end of the lunch rush, the food was, as I expected, inexpensive and good. The Rainbow Roll, $8.25, had salmon and yellowtail, red, and white tuna wrapped around the roll. In the center was rice, crab stick, and creamy avocado, like a California roll. Mmm! The fish itself was creamy as well. It was much fresher than I would have imagined from a food court. I really liked the variety, with each piece presenting a different flavor. And, they know how to pull my heartstrings because the pieces were topped with those tiny orange specimens of flying-fish roe.

I learned that good sushi can be had in a food court. I just wish this was a cleaner establishment. They don't wash the tables after people are finished eating, and I didn't see any employees for the actual food court itself. However, it is near where I and thousands of other people spend 8+ hours a day, and it is a great asset to the neighborhood.

Address: 3 Cambridge Center, Cambridge (near Kendall Square t-stop on the Red Line)
Phone: (617) 252-0788
Website: (The information on the website is for their sit-down restaurant nearby on Main St.)
Bei Jing & Toyko on Urbanspoon

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