Japanese food paradise

. June 18, 2019.
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Tougen is a foodie destination

To satisfy a sushi craving in Toledo, there have been two basic options— finer dining or grocery store rolls. An evening at one of the area’s upscale Japanese options is worth a splurge, and the grocery store options aren’t bad, but a happy medium would make us, well, happy.

A Japanese eatery housed in the Quarry Side Shops near the Sylvania Meijer, Tougen does one better. Open since the end of 2018, the casual spot has earned itself a following for extremely fresh, surprisingly inexpensive and exceptionally executed fare.

On a roll

During a recent visit, Jonathan Ng, Tougen’s purveyor explains the name translates to “peach garden,” but, with a smile adds, “I normally just tell people it means ‘paradise.’” Appropriate, especially if your vision of paradise is a bowl of ramen with fresh sashimi in a diner-esque atmosphere.

Tougen is affordable by focusing on the basics— food made fresh-to-order with quality ingredients. No frills, no fluff— just good Japanese food.

The black pepper tuna appetizer featured thin slices of raw tuna bathing in a sweet soy-based sauce. At $5.50, the dish stunned our table, a foreshadowing of other apps that followed— shrimp shumai ($4.95), a steamed dumpling dim sum classics and lightly coated then flash fried calamari ($7.95).

Anxious for more raw fish, we continued with two rolls— Tuna Avocado ($5.50) and Yellowtail Scallion ($5.95)— both fresh and exquisite. Admittedly, not the most beautiful rolls, but who cares? The freshness of the generous slices of fish made the aesthetic more or less irrelevant. Consistently unpretentious, while offering quality dining, the Tougen recipe would boost most chefs’ egos.

Jonathan Ng

Jonathan Ng

Full course

Our party split over Tougen’s six-page menu of sushi favorites— nigiri, sashimi, specialty rolls, and full-dinner options. But Tougen offers more than raw fish. A robatayaki (Japanese barbecue) menu offers palette-pleasing chicken ($4) and beef skewers ($4.95). More curious diners may opt for whole squid ($12.95). Japanese favorites like tempura, teriyaki, and hibachi are familiar meals.

If you’re looking to try something new, Tougen offers hard-to-find Japanese cuisine highlights, donburi (a simmered rice bowl), udon, ramen and curry bowls. “Ramen and udon is a really simple thing, at some places it’s not really authentic” Jonathan confided. “I have a number of customers who come just for the ramen. I make the broth, which is so important.”

Tougen also offers omurice, a buzz-worthy western influenced dish inspired by the Japanese drama, Midnight Diner. Before visiting Tougen, omurice seemingly existed only on the internet, so, wildly excited to try the dish of fried rice stuffed in a thin egg omelet, my $14.95 order included chicken katsu (Japenese-style fried chicken) creating a mountain of comfort food served with a smile made of ketchup. Despite an honest attempt to finish the plate, this truly hedonistic feast may be best suited for a drunks, or someone recovering from a long night out.

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Back to basics

Tougen’s passion for Japanese cuisine and service is noteworthy. Born in Baltimore, Jonathan grew up in Singapore and began learning how to create Japanese cuisine at age 15.

“I’ve never been to Japan,” he told us with a big laugh. “I’m Chinese, but I can’t cook Chinese food without a lot of complaints. But, I do my research and try to make everything as authentic as possible.”

Tougen proves that covering the basics, with quality ingredients and masterful execution, are exactly what is needed to get to paradise.

Tougen Japenese Restaurant
11am-2:30pm & 5-9:30pm, Monday-Thursday.
11am-2:30pm & 5-10:30pm, Friday-Saturday. 1-8pm, Sunday.
7414 Central Ave. | 419-720-1098
facebook.com/tougentoledo