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Toyo Japanese Bistro

In a blue collar neighborhood better known for its furniture warehouses than its cuisine, Toyo Sushi Bar has just been added to an intriguing lineup of ethnic eateries along Piner Road including Red Rose (southern BBQ); Royal China (upscale Chinese) and El Sombrero #2 (dive tacos).

Decidedly white-tablecloth, Toyo’s opening menu features yellowtail collar, quail eggs and monk fish pate (among more straightforward fare). Staking its claim into serious sushi, owners Lisa and David Lin have hired a Japanese chef to handle the sashimi and nigiri crowd while the kitchen cranks out tempura and teriyaki.

Just a few days old, the experienced local restaurateurs already have a handle on things. Presentation of everything from California rolls to simple Bento boxes are camera-ready–adding to carefully-cultivated vibe of the spot.

Worth trying: Toyo does its own version of the ubiquitous martini shrimp poppers (the new Crab Rangoon) served in a margarita glass; Dragon Eggs ($8.75) are quail eggs stuffed into crispy prawns with sweet chili sauce; and David recommends the Black and Blue–a seared piece of Ahi drizzled with “special sauce” (you’re on your own here).

The restaurant also features a broiled yellowtail collar, one of the most succulent parts of the fish, with ponzu sauce and scallions; baby octopus with daikon and seaweed; Saba Shioyaki (salted mackerel), along with family faves like Chicken Katsu (fried chicken Japanese-style); tempura and teriyaki. The lunch bento is a great deal at $11.95, with large portions of teriyaki, rice, a well-crafted California roll, salad and miso.

So here’s where things get serious: The sushi. Rolls run an entire page, with the usual suspects–Californian, Alaskan, Rock & Roll, etc. at the usual prices. The Summer Cooler ($12.95) includes spicy cooked prawns, red snapper, shiso and lemon slices. Honestly, I’ve been burned by too many mayo-and-mango roll disasters, and tend to stick with the simple stuff. The Ankimo ($4.75) is tops, with three small disks of monk fish pate on a shiso leaf. The bistro has a serviceable by-the-glass wine list along with several types of sake, sake cocktails and beers.

Located within the Piner & Marlow Shopping Center, parking spots are usually plentiful. The food is seriously good in such an unassuming Northwest Santa Rosa spot. And hey, who can complain when you can trip-link your Maguro with a massage, milkshake, taco and quick visit to the dentist?

Toyo Japanese Bistro, 3082 Marlow Road (the former Wharf Seafood Bar), Santa Rosa, 707.527.8871.

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