Last Friday at 5:00 PM, Tomo Sushi & Hibachi opened its doors to the public. We attended what they referred to as a “soft opening.” In hindsight, it was their official opening. Their grand opening is scheduled for Monday, February 11th.
Typically, a soft opening refers to an invitation only event that takes place after everything is in place and the establishment is ready to test its system on friends, family and members of the press before opening the doors to the public. A soft opening is the restaurant industry's version of a dress rehearsal; invaluable information is gleaned and potential problems are addressed. Tomo was officially open to the public, Friday, January 11.
Tomo is cavernous — five floors of public space to accommodate large parties easily. The menu is extensive; it's a mixture of sushi and sashimi complemented by Asian grilled entrées. Tomo boasts ten hibachi tables; six on the lower level and four on the first floor. The first floor has a long sushi bar. Full kitchens are in the lower level and first floor. All five floors: lower level, first floor, mezzanine level, second floor and third floor private, VIP level (which can be reserved for private events) have well-stocked bars. Once you tour the place you won't be surprised to learn they spent 7 million in renovations and build-out. Curious to find out what the cocktails, wine and beer list would look like in a place with five bars.
We opted for two seats at the sushi bar, which we selected ourselves after taking a walk through all five floors. It was clear that Tomo was experiencing some opening-night jitters. Exactly the situation managers and chefs hope to avoid with a soft opening.
Surprisingly, having a bar on each of five levels is no guarantee of a cocktail menu according to our young server, Vladimir. Although, to be fair, they are happy and ready to make any cocktail you desire. For my part, I went easy and instead of ordering the Kamikaze my heart desired, opted for a Belvedere Vodka and tonic with lemon and lime. They delivered.
Wine lovers will rejoice since Tomo has an extensive wine list that includes over 125 bottles; 26 sparking wines (a favorite choice among the VIP set) and at least 10 Cabinets (pretty sure they mean cabernet), 18 Pinots (Grigio and Noir), 8 Riesling, 8 Sauvignon Blanc, 8 Chardonnay, 8 Merlot, 9 Shirat-Syrah, Malbec-Zin, as well as, about 20 assorted reds and red blends, and whites. It's an impressive, eclectic mix.
Which brings me to the minuscule beer offering. I say "offering" because they only offer one beer. If you’re going to offer only one beer in a beer-loving town, it should at least be a selection that complements the food. I am happy to report they pass with flying colors with their choice. They offer Sapporo and ensure that you have your fill by serving it in a hefty, 16-ounce bottle. Remarkably, the Japanese consume more beer with sushi than sake.
While we enjoyed our beverages, we watched the three sushi chefs prepare some beautiful plates. And while they had some difficulty figuring out where certain ingredients are stored, they were certainly up to the task at hand. The rolls on their capacious menu sound amazing. We decided on two: The Volcano Maki, made with shrimp, crab meat, avocado, kampyo (dried gourd), topped with with toasted salmon. It was terrific. I’ve had rolls with most of these ingredients before and I attribute most of the wonderful flavor and desirable texture of this roll to the kampyo and toasted salmon. We will order this again. The Dynamite Roll, although not the smashing success the Volcano Maki was, was also very good. It's made with crab, avocado and wrapped with seaweed and salmon, then deep-fried and served with spicy mayo.
As we strolled to our car on an unseasonably mild, mid-January evening, we noticed a person walking the streets, passing out promotional literature and informing passers-by that Tomo is now open for business. He tried to give us a flier as we walked to our car. When we told him that we'd just left Tomo, he expressed — in an almost apologetic manner — that they will work to get better every day. We wish them well and will be back in due time.
Tomo is open seven days a week, 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM. The lounge is open until 2:30 AM.
Tomo Sushi Bar & Hibachi Restaurant
1293 W 9th St
Cleveland OH 44113