Casual Dining reviews

Toshi’s Cafe peddles gourmet coffee, sandwiches and sushi in the Adams Farm Shopping Center next to Harris Teeter. This quaint little shop is full of character and has something for everyone.

Small cafe tables and chairs and a cozy-yet-shabby nook with a couch and coffee table covered with the day’s newspapers and local magazines greet you. The entire cafe looks a little dingy with low incandescent lights in the ceiling, rugs that need to be vacuumed and paint-chipped furniture all with a dusty patina.

The menu board is a series of printed photos and handwritten signs taped to one another to fashion a homemade art project hanging from the ceiling. To order, step up to the counter covered with sundries of bags of cookies, lollipops, chocolate and tea. A very attentive employee will ring you up via an iPad app, and you can opt to receive your receipt digitally or not at all. One lone computer station provides entertainment in the form of video games and enough space for a two-player interactive entertainment experience.

The coffee offerings are a carry-over from the owner’s former business, Coffee and Roses Express, from a decade ago. Drip coffee, espresso beverages such as lattes and Americanos share top billing with fruit blended smoothies.

Breakfast is an all-day affair and begins with English muffin, bagel and croissant sandwiches layered with cheese, traditional breakfast meats, salmon, steak or eggs. The breakfast burrito is stuffed with your choice of meat, crispy fried Tater Tots, tomato salsa and cheese. The Ragin’ Cajun has a Cajun seasoned cream cheese, scallions, egg white and bacon on an everything bagel.

As for lunch and dinner, one ramen and three rice bowls pepper the menu alongside American-style sandwiches and wraps. Options such as chicken salad, sliced turkey or BLT come on a toasted croissant, house-made white bread or flavored tortilla wrap.

The bento box is the best bang for your buck with many options to mix and match. You get chicken karaage, a California sushi roll, side salad (with choice of dressing: ranch, ginger or honey mustard) and your choice of side (Tater Tots, carrots, fried asparagus, spicy soba noodles, seafood salad, fruit salad or macaroni salad).

The karaage (pronounced ka-RAH-geh) is very tender and juicy bites lightly fried bits of dark meat chicken. Marinated in sake and soy sauce, the flavors of both come through cleanly with each bite.

California rolls typically contain cucumber, crab or surimi (imitation crab) and avocado. One of the best parts of having made-to-order sushi is the crisp, cool temperature of the vegetables and fish matched with the tangy, sticky rice and the gentle pull of the nori wrapped around its filling. At Toshi’s, the roll is loosely rolled like an amateur’s sushi roll with crab salad (shredded fake crab, shallot, scallion, light mayonnaise to hold it together), avocado and a scant toasted sesame seed garnish. The temperature of the sushi was not up to snuff, and I was disappointed in the lack of texture.

The green lettuce leaf salad was just OK, but I was impressed with the hand-cut julienned carrots. And although I chose the ginger dressing and was less than pleased with its tangy and tart overtones with muted ginger flavor, I was happy to note that the dressing was not overpowering or too sweet like other places that offer this style of dressing. As for the spicy soba noodles, they’re chilled, moderately sauced with hot pepper sauce, sesame and green onions, white pepper, but with no prevalent flavor that can be picked out.

The California roll is just one example of the sushi rolls available, but the most popular and most dynamic roll on the menu is the crab supreme. It’s a California roll that has been deep fried and topped with spicy crab, a sweet soy reduction, green onions and spicy mayonnaise.

It’s the perfect roll for traditional sushi lovers and sushi neophytes alike.

If you’re looking for a refreshing snack, a little pick-me-up or a quick American-style breakfast with a Japanese twist, look no further than Toshi’s Café.

Casual Dining features local restaurants for diners on a budget. It appears the second and fourth Thursday of the month. Contact Nikki Miller-Ka at nicolettemiller.ka@gmail.com.

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