WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
For a long time, Little Tokyo was the only sushi bar in Mandeville (or Covington, too, for that matter). Having a lock on the market didn’t prevent it from becoming one of the best places for sushi and Japanese basics in the entire metro area. Now, even with much more competition, Little Tokyo remains very busy, for the best of reasons: it’s still excellent.
The sushi chefs here are not only skillful–they’re fun. The regulars joke around with them a lot, and newcomers are included in the chumminess. Meanwhile, the chefs cut sushi from a bigger selection of fish than seems possible in such a small restaurant. The proportions, temperature, moisture content, and everything else is just about perfect. Even the more involved rolls–which in most sushi places are more for effect than flavor–are delicious.
This is a franchise of the Little Tokyo in Metairie, opened in 1997. It began with the style and standards of the original place, but over the years has added to it, so that it’s now may be the best of the restaurants under the Little Tokyo banner.
The sushi bar and dining room are crammed into a converted residential cottage. It doesn’t look at all like a sushi bar, inside or out. At standard dining times, it’s always a full house, and the brisk take-out business makes the area around the front door sometimes logjammed. The restaurant is a little hard to find. The best instruction is that it’s about two blocks behind the K-Mart on the old US 190, at the only traffic signal along that road.
Lettuce wrap (for two; shrimp, mushrooms and vegetables)
Baked mussels with creamy smelt roe sauce
Seafood and vegetable tempura
Yaki tori (broiled, skewered chicken teriyaki)
»Hamachi kama (broiled yellowtail)
Cucumber with seafood salad
Scallop or snowcrab with avocado
Angel roll (spicy tuna and snow crab inside, escolar, avocado, wasabi tobiko outside)
Baked salmon roll
Boston hand roll (shrimp, snow crab, avocado, »seaweed paper, no rice)
Box sushi (salmon, yellowtail, tuna, and/or eel)
»Burning man roll (spicy tuna inside, pepper tuna, avocado, green onion, hot sauce outside)
»Cajun pepper tuna sushi / sashimi:
Calamari crunchy roll:
»Chef special roll (yellowtail, salmon, tuna, asparagus, avocado, seaweed paper)
Cowboy roll (beef, lettuce, avocado and snow crab)
Dancing tuna roll (spicy salmon, sliced tuna, avocado)
»Devil roll (salmon, tuna, yellowtail, cucumber, Japanese yellow mustard)
Dynamite roll (salmon , tuna, wasabi)
»Fresh salmon roll
»Jazz roll (BBQ eel, avocado, spicy tuna)
Lettuce wrap roll (shrimp, snow crab, avocado, lettuce wrap–no rice)
»Louisiana roll (spicy crawfish and avocado)
Mandeville roll (whitefish, snow crab, asparagus, smelt roe, seaweed; whole roll fried)
Manhattan roll (fried soft shell crab, BBQ eel, snow crab, avocado, smelt roe)
»Old school roll (scallop, tuna, salmon, yellowtail)
»Rainbow roll (California roll inside, tuna, salmon, yellowtail outside)
Rice paper roll (tuna, salmon, crab stick, carrot, lettuce, asparagus, cucumber, avocado, rice paper, chili sauce)
Scallop and asparagus roll
Smoked salmon roll
»Special eel roll (BBQ eel, cucumber, avocado, smelt roe, sesame, eel sauce)
Spicy tuna roll
Tiger roll (yellowtail, tuna, smelt roe, BBQ eel, salmon, avocado)
»Tropical roll (coconut, avocodo, mango)
Tuna tataki (sliced seared tuna with ponzu)
Tempura udon (shrimp and vegetable tempura)
»Nabeyaki udon (seafood noodle)
Yaki udon (pan fried udon noodles with seafood)
FOR BEST RESULTS
Strike up a light, smiling conversation with the sushi chefs. Avoid most of the noon hour and early dinner, when the place is busiest.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Only a move to a bigger place could make this place significantly better, but I’d be wary that it would change the dynamics to much.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Consistency +2
- Value +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +1
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open some holidays
- Open all afternoon
- Quick, good meal
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Mandeville’s first sushi bar is still its best. A franchise of the original Little Tokyo on the south end of the Causeway, this is a tiny restaurant crammed into a cottage on the old highway that used to be US 190 (at the corner of Sharp Road). It is so popular that, even with the advent of other sushi bars in the area, you can’t always be assured of immediate seating.
With good reason. The sushi bar here is staffed by a chummy (and occasionally hilarious) bunch of chefs. The fish is vividly fresh, served at the perfect temperature, and presented simply but with expertise. The Mandeville Little Tokyo has been ahead of the current game of inventing new, offbeat rolls, and although I think most of the new combinations here and elsewhere are more showy than good, they have been able to surprise me with some new deliciousness on my every visit. I’ve reached the point where almost nothing in my orders is on the official sushi sheet.
The menu here is a bit different from those of the other Little Tokyos. The selection of elaborate non-sushi dishes is minimal, although if you come here with a hunger for teriyakis, tempuras, or noodle dishes, you’ll leave satisfied.