Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published September 18th 2011
You might think sushi is hard to totally mess up – it's just seaweed, sticky rice, and some kind of filling. On the other hand, there's plenty of mediocre sushi in Melbourne, with slightly dry rice, meagre portions of filling and ingredients that are bland and tasteless. Squeezed between a decrepit hobby shop and a small convenience store (at 260 Lonsdale Street), Tokui Sushi presents an unassuming front. Despite this, though, it offers some of the best sushi in Melbourne.
The layout is very simple: a counter at the front, tables down the side, and a pot of green tea next to a stack of polystyrene cups. The green tea won't be winning any awards, so unless you like your tea lukewarm to cold, stick with water. Surprisingly, the closeness of the tables to the wall creates a kind of cosy atmosphere. Sit up the back with a couple of friends and chat, or have an easy lunch with your romantic partner. The sushi-making process is clearly visible, since the kitchen is separated from the seating area by glass, and it's quite entertaining to watch if you haven't seen it before. If you've got a friend who has somehow managed to avoid sushi, bring them here.
It's in the sushi rolls themselves that Tokui Sushi really shines. What they do best is tamago: egg and avocado sushi. Too often in other sushi places the egg is too salty, too sweet, too dry, or the avocado is underripe and disgusting. Tokui Sushi makes none of these mistakes. Somehow their tamago is perfect: just the right amount of sweetness and texture to the egg so that it goes well with the creamy avocado. They don't skimp on the ingredients, either. One benefit of the egg being slightly sweet is that you can add soy sauce to reach your preferred level of saltiness. If the egg's too salty, you can't make it sweeter; if it's overpoweringly sweet, you can't mask that with a gallon of soy sauce. Don't risk the egg rolls at other sushi places – go to Tokui Sushi if you want it done right.
The other rolls are also delicious – vegetarian sushi with a hearty stick of pickled daikon, tuna sushi that's not smothered in mayonnaise, and so on. Perhaps other sushi places can do sushi as good as that, but it'd be hard to do much better. The best word to describe most of Tokui Sushi's offerings is 'reliable'. You'll never encounter an undercooked ingredient or a disappointing roll here.
Tokui Sushi's practical selling point, though, is its price. At the moment, sushi rolls (and bear in mind that these are above-average-size sushi rolls) are two dollars each – significantly cheaper than almost all the competition. A place this good and this inexpensive can't stay under the radar for long. Get in there before it becomes crowded and packed during lunch hours – or there'll be no egg rolls left for you.