RIYADH: Tokyo restaurant, the first Japanese restaurant to open in Saudi Arabia, has hosted generations of Saudis, who have enjoyed the authentic tastes of Japan for over three decades.
Opening its doors in 1985 at the Orouba branch in Riyadh, Tokyo quickly became a staple for authentic Japanese cuisine and a generational favorite for many locals in the Kingdom.
Amal Al-Baiyoudh, a 59-year-old Riyadh native, remembers the first time she visited Tokyo in 1987. She told Arab News: “There are certain things in life that stick with you, and visiting this restaurant for the first time so many years ago was one of them. Tasting different foods, seeing interesting designs was all so different for me. I remember it to this day.
“I didn’t go to many restaurants before, but I distinctly remember this one because it was so new and different, and the food was so delicious.”
What truly sets Tokyo apart from any other Japanese restaurant is the freshness, consistency, and quality of its sushi. Since opening over 35 years ago, the restaurant has maintained the same recipes, which is one of the reasons it has been able to hold the attention of different generations of Saudis.
Ohoud Al-Jabr, a 25-year-old marketing and communications manager, has been having dinner with her family at Tokyo for the past three years.
“Tokyo remains my favorite sushi restaurant no matter how many sushi restaurants have recently opened.”
As they enter the restaurant, guests are greeted with dimmed lighting, a calming waterfall and music, which come together to capture the essence of Japanese culture. The staff are welcoming and well-versed on different dishes on the menu; they can easily guide guests who have not experienced Japanese food before.
“The ambiance is truly inviting, quiet, yet very friendly. Tokyo has a unique variety of options and knows how to be on top of the market by creating innovative dishes and exclusive boxes,” Al-Jabr told Arab News.
Tokyo has two locations, both in Riyadh. The first branch is on Al-Orouba Road in Al-Sulaimania, while the second is in Al-Ghadir.
The Orouba branch recently went through a renovation and introduced many new additions, such as a new tea bar that offers five authentic Japanese teas; two teppanyaki live cooking stations; a cocktail bar; and a private dining room for events.
We tried some of Tokyo’s famous dishes, and we highly recommend starting off with a refreshing passion fruit mojito, which packs a punch of fresh citrus and gives the meal a lively start. We then recommend moving onto the appetizers with the classic miso soup and the must-try crispy crab salad. The salad comes with a mix of greens, tomatoes, corn and homemade dressing and is covered with a crunchy pile of fried crab.
The Sultan Maki and Saad Maki are two exclusive signature rolls of the restaurant. Both rolls are equally delicious and cannot be passed up when visiting Tokyo. The Saad Maki is a sweet potato, mint and crab roll topped with fried shrimp and coated in a special sauce — an unlikely combination but one that ultimately achieves a unique flavor.
The Sultan Maki roll, on the other hand, is a classic presentation of the spicy salmon roll. The roll comes with avocado and chili sauce and is topped with sesame seeds. It is simple, flavorful and light.
For the main course, we recommend ordering the Tokyo steak, made with premium Wagyu beef and served alongside a honey and peanut sauce. To experience the lightness and tenderness of the Wagyu beef, request that it be cooked medium to medium-well. The meat, mushroom gohan and creamy truffle butter make for a combination of juicy and rich flavors that will leave guests coming back for more.
Tokyo is not only a family favorite; it is also a family business. Tokyo is owned and managed by family company Foods Gate and run by CEO Saad Al-Drees and his brothers. It has remained a family brand since Tokyo’s opening.
Foods Gate shared with Arab News that it is in the process of training 21 Saudi chefs in the art of sushi-making for Tokyo.