Whether you want to sushi or not to sushi, you’ll find something tasty at Toshi’s Sushi Bar and Restaurant in Atascadero.
Thanks to the use of simple paper lanterns and bamboo fencing, Toshi’s creatively announces its location in the corner space of a small strip mall on El Camino Real, just north of Traffic Way. Inside, it’s a classic sushi spot: a calm ambiance with about a dozen tables and several seats at the bar.
Owner/chef John Jang opened Toshi’s in 2009 after working at both Hanabi’s in San Luis Obispo and his family’s sushi restaurant in the Sacramento area. That eatery was similar to Toshi’s, so Jang learned the ins and outs of everything from tempura to teriyaki. He also learned his way around seafood from a true expert — his mother worked as a skilled filleter at a fish market for more than 20 years.
That said, sushi aficionados should take note of the Toshi’s specials board. On a recent visit, there were more than 10 selections including Spanish mackerel, conch, giant clam, sea cucumber and even smoked salmon. Jang also makes it a point to offer live seafood such as scallops and uni (sea urchin), but noted that those items are very seasonal.
“For example, the uni are only available for about five months,” he said, adding that they’re reaching the end of that season, so if you’re a fan, get ’em while the getting’s good.
The rest of Toshi’s menu is an extensive mix of both the traditional and decidedly not-so-traditional, especially in the appetizers.
Those include the usual suspects such as edamame (soybeans cooked and served in the pod, just eat the bean inside), gyoza (meat-filled fried dumplings) and tempura shrimp, or you can order a “Heart Attack” appetizer — deep fried jalapeños stuffed with spicy tuna and cream cheese — or “Monkey Brain” — deep fried mushrooms stuffed with crab, tuna and cream cheese.
The sprawling list of almost 50 maki rolls also throws in some fun surprises amid familiar items such as a Rainbow roll (assorted fish atop a crab/avocado-filled California roll), a Caterpillar (crab, eel and avocado) and a spicy tuna roll.
Some of the more entertaining rolls — in terms of both names and taste — are the Geisha (salmon wrapped around crab), Superman (shiitaki mushroom, crab, spicy tuna and avocado), and the Hello Kitty roll (crab, spicy tuna, asparagus and cream cheese).
Of course, traditionalists can always hew to dishes such as sashimi salad, a salmon skin hand roll or tuna tataki. All the typical nigiri sushi choices (fish on top of a pillow of rice) are available as well, or set sail with one of the omakase (chef’s choice) specials — the Love Boat serves enough sushi, sashimi, rolls and miso soup for two, while the Cruise Ship will serve four to six people.
Obviously, a sushi spot will be fish-centric, but non-seafood eaters can also find a lot of things to like at Toshi’s. Among the maki rolls is the Pink Cadillac (fried chicken with avocado), but other options include chicken teriyaki, beef yaki soba (noodles) or Ton Katsu (breaded pork).
Recently, Toshi’s has started to host events such as fundraising evenings for breast cancer awareness and Alzheimer’s, and the restaurant staff is in the process of organizing a blood drive.
As Jang figures, “I love this work,” and he’s “had such a great response” to Toshi’s that he and his team want to give back to the community as best they can.