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The Spice of Wilmington Life:

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Tokyo 101
Lunch Bunch
Mayfaire Town Center
880 Town Center Drive
(910) 399-3101

ASIAN FLAIR: (top) Jalapeños get a nice heaping of yumminess when stuffed with crab meat, shrimp, cheese and a sweet and spicy sauce. (above) Hibachi items are served both during lunch and at dinner at Tokyo 101. Photos by Lauren Hodges.

As the lunch bunch pulled into the parking lot of Tokyo 101 at Mayfaire Center, I was reminded of my intern days at the magazine. Just four years ago, the brick building next to the movie theater had been the home of Wow! Cafe and Wingery, and the lunch bunch had gone in to sample the fare (with a side of bleu cheese dressing for everything, nonetheless). As we entered, the memories faded; this was clearly a whole new ball game. The interior of Tokyo 101 was streamlined Eastern chic, complete with sleek wood details, mood lighting and pink orchids leaning into view. The mini plasma screens were gone from each booth. The smell of fried rice wafted from the kitchen, instantly locating the appetite that had been buried somewhere in my mid-morning work routine.

Shea, Sue, Jeff, Kris, Jen and I ordered drinks and browsed the menu, which consisted mainly of bento boxes and hibachi specials. The bento box, for those unfamiliar with Japanese dining, is a wise order when reserving a fond likeness toward tasting “a little bit of everything.” The dinner version at Tokyo 101 comes with soup, salad, gyoza (dumplings), fried or steamed rice, vegetables, a California sushi roll, and a shrimp and veggie tempura. At lunch, they pretty much serve the same, minus a few options.

As we dove into plates of edamame (walking Jeff through his first taste of the adored bean), we sipped our drinks and made our choices. Half of us ordered a hibachi plate, while the other half went with bento boxes. I intended to fill up at least halfway on appetizers. A wooden boat arrived first—an impressive sushi spread, stuffed with seafood and decorated with enticing little drizzles. It was only a sample of three different rolls but between the six of us, there was plenty left over to take back to the office. The Godzilla unanimously won our hearts: tuna, cream cheese, avocado, cucumber and a spicy sauce, rolled maki style (seaweed on the outside).

Next, more appetizers arrived. Dumplings, fried pork rolls and a wonderful, unique first course I can’t say is replicated at any other sushi stop in town. They were shaped like oyster shells—really large ones—and contained a mixture of shrimp and crab meat, topped with spicy orange and white sauces. When Sue told me they were fried jalapeños, I stopped chewing.

“I never eat jalapeños,” I said, thinking of the countless times I refused to touch a slice of Papa John’s pizza because that requisite pepper had been resting on it.

“You do now,” Shea responded. She was right. Apparently, I will eat just about anything when stuffed with seafood and fried. I took another one from the plate. The perfect sweetness from the seafood accentuated the slight spice emitted from the pepper; it wasn’t overpowering. Rather, it lit up on the finish before dissipating quickly.

As amazing as that little lesson-in-life had been, I instantly regretted eating so much of the first two courses once my entrée arrived. If Tokyo 101 knows anything, it’s how to keep customers full. There was so much food! A heaping pile of fried rice filled half the plate, as a serving of sizzling onions, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and zucchini fought the hibachi shrimp for the remaining space. I knew I was going to hate myself in an hour. Still, the smell was too tempting. And in the end, it was totally worth the eventual desire to nap at my desk. The shrimp popped with every bite, perfectly grilled on the hibachi. I ate slowly to memorize the ingredients and attempt a duplication of it at home.

From what I could tell, the bento boxes also were a hit with Sue, Shea and Jeff. The scallops came in nice portions (not the rinky-dink kind that barely rounds out the tip of a finger), and with more food than we knew what to do with. Sue ordered her box with the tempura vegetable, while Shea and Jeff opted for pork-fried dumplings, and they all ordered the korokke. Though korokke seemed like an odd menu item—something comparable to a French croquette—as it turns out, it’s actually popular in South Korea. Made of mashed up potato and ground beef, it’s deep fried, with a warm, soft center, which pairs nicely against the tanginess of the Worcestershire drizzle on top. Thus, Tokyo 101 obviously extends beyond one nationality of Asian cuisine and runs the gamut to please its diners. It works; we left pleased. Unfortunately, we also left without sake, because (according to Shea) it was too early in the day to enjoy. There will be a next time, however.

Once we were back at the office, we handed off the leftovers to Susie, our grateful office manager, and trumped back to our desks to bask in our food comas. Aside from being beautifully decorated and tasty, Tokyo 101 had officially broken the old Asian food stereotype of being hungry 15 minutes later—as well as my aversion to jalapeños.

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