SGV 'Hounds ... a quick quixotic question for you.
How the hell does Tokyo Lobby stay in business after all these decades?
I mean, seriously, this place was probably out-of-date when Members Only jackets and Guess Jeans were still hip, and Z Cavarrici pants were still in their incubation stage of popularity
Even with all the construction mess going on in that plaza for the upcoming 168 Market, Tokyo Lobby still has a line for dinner on weekends.
To answer you in a roundabout manner, when we first visited New York Chinatown in the mid-1980s, I had no idea of where to eat. So my wife and I started peering into the various restaurants until we came to a place called Kam Bo Rice Shoppe on Bayard St. which was absolutely packed with Chinese diners. So following the maxim that you can't miss with that kind of credential, that's where we decided to eat. Much to our chagrin we learned it was packed because the portions were huge and the prices were low and not because the food was any good.
I should add that I was first introduced to Tokyo Lobby by one of my Hong Kong friends who I would describe as a "value shopper."
First of all, wait there is going to be a 168 Market there?1 Finally some new competition in the Temple City area!
Now to answer your question it could be the reason is that it caters to a certain type of diner. Considering it has been there for decades it has an established clientele of those who don't know better about Japanese food.
The kind of diner it caters too is probably the same one that dines at Gin Sushi. Don't worry though I predict with the coming of 168 Market that plaza is going to go full Chinese.
For me, it would be nostalgia or comfort. When I first started working in SGV back in the early '90's, Tokyo Lobby was my introduction to Asian cuisine. In fact, I think it was the first place I tried sushi and sashimi (I know, I know. I was straight out of college, broke, and totally naive about what the area had to offer). My office was within a mile of it for about 8 years, and I was probably in there at least 2-3 times a month for the cheap lunch deals. Would I go back now? Hell no, but I there will always be a place in my heart (if not my stomach) for Tokyo Lobby.