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Delicious Sushi, Odd Service at Toraya Arlington

Mr. Swank and I used to frequent Kayuga II in Arlington, and then it changed hands to Mi Da Mi, and then it suddenly closed. Friends have raved about Toraya, so that's become our sushi go-to because it's very convenient to our abode.
However: Why on earth does it take them more than an hour to prepare takeout sushi? Every time we call for takeout, the hassled-sounding person on the other end asks us if we're "sure" we want to do takeout, and then says that the wait will be at least an hour to pick up. Why offer takeout if it's such a pain? On a recent night, a friend and I opted for takeout and waited 70 minutes. Then we arrived to pick it up, and stood in the exceptionally cramped dining room for another 10 minutes while the waitress ignored us. Finally she spotted us (or, rather, we flagged her down by waving wildly), and we got our food.
I do enjoy the sushi here, and the specials look unique (we've never dined in -- it's always been too crowded). My question is: Why offer takeout if you hate doing it/can't handle the volume/etc?

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  1. Sushi Chef = Crowded Restaurant (which nights are you ordering?) = Bottleneck.... takeout sushi is no less laborious than sit-down sushi. And with sit-down, a customer is there glaring at you..

    1. I've only been there for Saturday lunches and thinks are slow and I've certainly been ignored. But with a single sushi chef and a single server, it isn't surprising. They are swamped but offer a good product for a fair price. It isn't so different from places I've been to in Japan. There are fast places that cater to business folk at lunch but generally waits can be long.

      1. I've only dined at Toraya once and didn't find it worth the wait for the product. You can do better at other places nearby without the wait and poor service. I love Genki Ya in Cambridge. They are a little bit more expensive but have some great sushi/sashimi. They do a great take out deal online where you can get 2 sushi rolls, miso soup, small house salad (with their awesome dressing) for just over 9$. That deal is cash only, take-out only. I've also dined in and found their food to be great but a little pricey. I also like Hana Sushi in North Cambridge. Quality sushi at fair prices. Usually no wait and they have 2 sushi chefs on busy nights. Sato 2 in Stoneham does a surprisingly good job on sushi too.

        6 Replies
        1. re: AaronInBoston

          Toraya and Genki Ya are so different I don't think it's proper to compare them. Toraya has traditional nigiri sushi and sashimi, and a small selection of cooked Japanese appetizers, all done at a high level of a simple style and at a fairly low price. There are other traditional forms of more elaborate and expensive Japanese raw fish, but that's not what Toraya does. Genki Ya specializes in elaborate maki rolls and partially cooked fish dishes like their Genki Ichiban, many with a health twist like their use of brown rice. They also have nigiri sushi and sashimi on their menu, but it is horrible. I haven't had maki rolls at Toraya, and so can't speak to them. I don't mean to imply that one genre is better than the other, but just that I prefer one, and that's the genre at which Toraya excels. Personally, I can't stand Genki Ya, but they do seem to have an extensive menu with creative combinations. I can see how someone could love one but dislike the other, and I just think they shouldn't be directly compared since they are so different. I haven't been to Hana Sushi or Sato 2.

          1. re: lipoff

            Perfect explanation and I agree 100%. To each their own, but Genki Ya is not my cup of tea. Sushi rice is a very critical issue for my enjoyment of sushi. Sushi chefs apprentice for years just to get the rice right. Brown rice in sushi for me is just wrong (health aspects be damned).

            1. re: lipoff

              I think that above mentioned Hana Sushi in North Cambridge is a far comparision to Toraya. Similiar in price and offerings. The sushi might be better at Toraya, but Hana is larger and parking is easier.

              1. re: viperlush

                Hard to say parking is hard at Toraya. They have a lot in back, there is a MASSIVE and usually empty stretch of spots on mass ave in front of the high school, and the surrounding neighborhoods are like the rest of Arlington, wide open.

                1. re: marcreichman

                  Seriously that half block walk if you have to park around the corner, is brutal.

                  1. re: marcreichman

                    Not saying that the parking is hard, I forgot about the lot. Just that as a Cambridge resident, my default thinking is that anything in Cambridge as easier for parking because of all the residential parking. I usually disregard meters/pay lots.

            2. You're right on all counts - but until they decide to expand into larger space and add another sushi chef, I am willing to accept the wait or order takeout at off-peak times vs. any of the other takeout options I am aware of nearby - it's just that much better (love the perfect chirashi they provide!)

              I sometimes even hope the quirky service may reduce the number of times we show up and there are no tables and a line out the door (which only requires about 4 people ahead of you in the cramped quarters) as was the case for lunch today at 12:45 - we still end up there just about every week and always enjoy the freshness (never a SINGLE lapse in this area for us - and that is RARE to me), kind / warm service, and fair prices - just not the most efficient dining experience around.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rlh

                rlh very eloquently stated exactly my position

              2. I've never had an experience at Toyara which indicates that they hate doing take out. We have gone there enough to understand there is one chef resulting in longer preparation time for take out and plan accordingly.

                1. swank, i get the sense that you live in the lex-arl corrridor, but if you are closer to winch. and want back way/shortcut directions to Sushi Island, email me via my member page. It takes us 10 minutes to get there from near gingerbrd muffin.

                  1. I went there for lunch today after a long absence, not sure why but the food is really outstanding and the lunch menu is quite varied and really reasonable priced. Parking in front on the street or in back makes it easy to find a spot.
                    I had the bento box Sashimi and it was really really good. Appetizers galore, the fish was, of course, really really fresh, salad was nice. Look at the nice molded rice in the picture! Not sure what that stuff on top of the rice was but it was interesting. What a nice lunch this was and 90% of the customers was Japanese (I assume). They had some interesting specials on the board. I was tempted by the grilled octopus.

                    http://thedailylunch-woburn.blogspot....

                     
                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Ferrari328

                      Holy cow, that's gorgeous.

                      1. re: Ferrari328

                        GORGEOUS picture -- I love that sashimi bento box, I almost always order it at lunch. The "top-notch sushi chef" who is behind the counter is in fact the owner as well. He has owned Toraya for 11 1/2 years, if memory serves, and only last summer took his first vacation since buying the place. Dedication.

                        1. re: GretchenS

                          God, I got back here via e-mail reply to this thread. You guys are making me miss Toraya SO MUCH. I haven't found sushi even close here yet. My wife always got a Chicken Katsu bento, and I would get Chirashi. It was our little Saturday lunch date.

                          Hope everyone is well.

                      2. I like Toraya but favor Sushi Island even more but my favorite things at Toraya are the Chirashi and the Beef Tongue appetizer. Both are done very well and it's unusual to find any restaurant serving beef tongue.