Sunday, March 3, 2013

Tokyo Delve's: The Ultimate Party Sushi Bar

The neon-lit, over-the-top jukebox entryway practically says it all: this is no ordinary sushi bar…it’s a loud, rowdy and rockin’ restaurant that some might call obnoxious; most consider it fun. Love it or hate it, this sushi bar has been a hip and happening hangout with a party atmosphere since 1986.

Welcome to Tokyo Delve’s of North Hollywood, a long-standing landmark on Lankershim Boulevard, where loud noise is the norm and drunken debauchery never seems to stop. As soon as you walk in, you are greeted by the staff with an almost overzealous welcome.

The in-house DJ and manager leads the raucous revelry with a microphone: “When I say Sake, you say Bomb!...Sake!” And the crowd shouts out “Bomb!” in unison. This is repeated a few times before carousers finally pound the tables with their fists, not letting up until those mini shot glasses of sake drop into their beer glasses from a precarious perch of chopsticks—the customary Sake Bomb move. Then they practically douse themselves with the famous clear liquid of fermented rice.

If you want more easy access and a munificent flow of alcohol, why not indulge in the one-gallon keg of beer that gets placed on your table for $35.99? Other choices include sake cocktails such as Banzai Melon, Tsunami, even Lemon Beer. The atmosphere is so chock-full of merriment, you’re tempted to experiment with as many of these colorful concoctions as possible, and just worry about their effect the next morning.

Although Tokyo Delve’s features a sushi bar, its ample dining area is perfectly suited for big parties, especially those celebrating an occasion, be it a birthday or bachelor’s party. Don’t be surprised to see patrons start dancing on chairs here. At this party sushi bar, buffoonery is encouraged, music—from ‘80s pop and rock to trance—never stops pumping from the speakers, and throngs of people don’t seem to cease pouring in, some of them already draped with feather boas and sashes, or bedecked in rhinestone-encrusted tiaras, depending on the nature of the celebration. On weekend nights, expect crazy crowds and even wilder chaos, forewarns the waiter and host, who also dances with the patrons and leads the clapping and mad moves.

For a restaurant that scores so high for its entertainment value, most want to ask, What about the food?

Well, the Americanized menu here isn’t just fun, it’s actually quite simple to understand with its glossy pages of photos, and the prices are reasonable for the most part. There’s the serpentine roll known as The Dragon Roll, made to look dragonlike with eyes consisting of octopus tentacle-suckers and pointy, plastic green foliage. The eel sauce on it is sweet, as most would agree is how Americans like it; the selling point on this one, in my opinion, is that the crab inside is decidedly real (despite all the hijinks, they take their no-fake-crab policy quite seriously).

A personal favorite of mine is the Dynamite Roll, which is made to look just like a stick of dynamite, with a piece of yamagobo sticking out to resemble the fuse. It’s rolled in yellow soy paper and is fully packed with pan-fried scallops and mushrooms, as well as creamy masago-mayonnaise. In the mood for real flames? Try the Fire Ball for only $8.50, an appetizer with spicy salmon and avocado wrapped in red snapper, and then seared with ponzu and spicy sauce on top. It’s an undulating flame that snuffs out quickly, but one that’s displayed for effect using a foil liner and a dash of rum—whoosh!—watch as the fire dances on your plate, each flame finger licking the appetizer bites as if to keep them warm.

Although I’m informed that the enormous Rock N’ Roll for $12.50 is the most popular roll ordered, perhaps because jalapenos, spicy sauce, and fried onions smothering shrimp tempura and albacore sounds very tempting, I opted for the pretty one wrapped in pink soy paper, the one that’s prettily named the Pink Panther Roll for $6.95. The four-piece order, named after the fictive feline, rules with its prime ingredient—Atlantic King Salmon, along with shrimp, avocado and smelt fish eggs. And because I like it creamy, I ask for a side of their famous masago-mayonnaise in which to dip these half-heart-shaped bites, more little touches that remind me why I love Tokyo Delve’s.

Tokyo Delve’s is open from 6 p.m. to midnight every night except Sundays. If you're planning a party at the sushi bar on weekends, it’s definitely a smart choice to make reservations.

Tokyo Delve’s Sushi Bar
5239 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood

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