Summer heat in the Rogue Valley sends me escaping to the coast when possible, and once I’m there, an ocean view always makes me hungry for fresh, local seafood.
When a friend who grew up in the Coos Bay-North Bend area recommended Tokyo Bistro, at 525 Newmark Ave., in Coos Bay, as a source for sushi featuring locally caught fish, I knew I had to seek it out.
Newmark Avenue also is Cape Arago Highway, leading to the wild beauty of the cliffs and headlands at Cape Arago State Park, the sandy beach at Sunset Bay State Park and the manicured gardens at Shore Acres State Park.
Tourists looking for bay or ocean views could easily miss Tokyo Bistro, a tidy tan building with charcoal awnings tucked into the historic Empire District. We evidently weren’t the only out-of-towners who had searched out some South Coast sushi. As we pulled up seats at the gleaming granite sushi bar, the chef, as observant as he was friendly, noted the driving map still displayed on my husband’s phone and asked where we were from. He said the internet leads people from all over to the little restaurant, and he confirmed that much of the fresh fish, including salmon, some tuna, shrimp and oysters, were sourced locally.
While we browsed the extensive menu of nigiri, rolls, bento, teriyaki, tempura, ramen and other noodles, the chef touted special rolls listed on a blackboard over the counter. We decided to try one of those creative offerings, a Chasing Dragon roll priced at $12.95. It featured spicy, locally caught tuna and creamy avocado inside, with grilled eel, spicy mayo, tobiko and a confetti of finely sliced green onion on top.
We rounded out our lunch order with a sushi combo that included miso soup, a golden California roll and six pieces of nigiri: three varieties of tuna, glistening salmon, tender snapper and exceptionally sweet shrimp. It was also priced around $12.95.
Chewy bits of seaweed and soft bites of tofu accented the delicately smoky miso soup. The golden California roll takes its name from its topping of brilliant orange tobiko, and the tiny fish eggs added a bright, briny pop of flavor as well as color. Rather than the salad made from mayonnaise-coated shreds of artificial crab usually found in a California roll, this version was stuffed with a whole stick of artificial crab, also known as surimi, along with slices of rich, ripe avocado. I liked these subtle variations in taste and texture from a typical California roll.
The restaurant’s interior also offered a pleasing interplay of typical sushi bar décor accented with a fireplace and a wine rack that covers one wall of the dining room, but it was the combination of high-quality fish and reasonable prices that make Tokyo Bistro worthy of a return visit.
Tokyo Bistro opens at 11 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday and closes at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 9 p.m. other days. It is closed every Monday. Call 541-808-0808 or see www.tokyocoosbay.com.