106 West Street, Rutland, 802-786-8080
I've written a fair amount about the rich history of ethnic food in Rutland: The city has had a Chinese restaurant for more than 70 years, and Vermont's first pizza was served in Rutland in 1949. Last weekend's Ethnic Food Festival included dishes with roots in the Republic of the Congo and Korea — rare commodities in the Green Mountains, even in this day and age.
I couldn't make it to the festivities, but after an awesome afternoon at Wilson Castle in Proctor, I figured a good meal in nearby Rutland would be the icing on the cake. The menu at Tokyo House was promising. A range of noodle soups from nabeyaki udon to sukiyaki shared menu space with sushi dishes, including one simply called "peanut roll."
The sushi I saw looked promising, but I was starving after walking the castle's historic halls and wanted something more substantial. I started with an appetizer of chicken and vegetable tempura. At first glance, the tiny shards clinging to the chicken looked like panko, but it was indeed a very fine, supremely airy batter. The meat, as well as zucchini, eggplant and yam slices were cooked to optimal doneness, and paired perfectly with the warm soy-based dipping sauce.
Things went downhill from there.
The sukiyaki pot was neither particularly hot nor especially flavorful. The soup tasted like off-brand canned chicken broth with a few bonito flakes thrown in for a subtle briny taste. Cabbage that looked past its prime filled the bowl, along with unseasoned chicken, baby corn and zucchini. I was stoked when I noticed that the pasta therein was glass noodles made from yam (rather than the rice noodles mentioned on the menu). Unfortunately, the strands were overcooked and broke in my chopsticks.
Yakitori is one of my ultimate comfort classics — a favorite since my mistiest early childhood. Though it's certainly not the norm to see it offered as an entrée (even in a Japanese izakaya, you order it by the piece), I chomped at the bit for the opportunity to eat so much of it. I shouldn't have. Though the skewers were packed with delightfully meaty chunks of chicken and colorful slices of green and yellow pepper, they lacked flavor. They were presented on a sizzling iron platter, in a pool of sauce, which literally had no taste. As the sugars caramelized, it gained a slight something, but still nothing to write home about.
Other than the transcendent tempura, my other recommendation of Tokyo House is of the bathroom. Grab a token at the front of the restaurant and head to the toilets, which the whole office building shares. To gain entry, you slip the tiny coin into a baroque-looking contraption attached to the bathroom door. It felt like peeing in an automat window, which, frankly, was sort of awesome. High points to Tokyo House in my unofficial guide porcelaine.