Photos and review by Rebecca Noble
As I watched the trim man across the table from me put away $31 worth of wasabi-dipped sushi in a matter of minutes, it became clear why Yoshimatsu Healthy Japanese Eatery has won the title of Tucson Weekly’s “Best Japanese” every year since 2004.
Situated in an humble building at 2660 N. Campbell Ave., Yoshimatsu boasts an expansive, mostly MSG-free and organic menu sure to offer something for anyone, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
Yoshimatsu’s freshly prepared sushi can make even a native Tucsonan forget that this restaurant is in the middle of a desert. While I ordered vegetarian sushi, my company ordered three different seafood rolls and never once questioned the freshness, something that is not taken for granted in the land-locked Sonoran Desert.
The vegetarian tempura asparagus roll ($6.50) did not disappoint. The sticky white rice was cool and moist, complemented by a dollop of avocado and the crunch of tempura asparagus carefully tucked in a thin piece of seaweed. Together, the flavors melded into a gentle and refreshing taste that entertained the taste buds.
As someone who enjoys simpler fried-rice dishes with gentle nuances, the vegetable fried rice ($7.95) left me wanting, in this case, less. The strips of pickled ginger that peppered the sauce saturated grains with a spicy kick were unique, but more than I signed up for.
Similar to the fried rice entree, the atmosphere and service could use some improvement. While waiting 20 minutes for our AWOL server to refill our empty water glasses, one notices that the interior decorations somehow straddle the line between stereotypical Japanese decor and, oddly enough, a beach cabana. Meanwhile, the small lights that run the perimeter of the restaurant force patrons to confront the visual paradox of being too harsh and too dark at the same time.
Ultimately, dining comes down to the quality of food. For a well-prepared, affordable meal at a casual venue, imperfect service and interior design are forgivable. Yoshimatsu Healthy Japanese Eatery is sure to leave you waddling back to your car with a satisfied smile.