Open Tab: Tomo Japanese Street Food revels in its simplicity


Jake Epstein/The Daily Northwestern

The beef set bento box at Tomo Japanese Street Food.The dish is made to order and is served with a bowl of miso soup.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

Upon entering Tomo Japanese Street Food, you get the feeling that you’re far beyond the confines of downtown Evanston.

On a corner not too far from South Campus, the Japanese eatery opened its doors at 1726 Sherman Ave. last April.

The lunch service proved peaceful and efficient ― the perfect break from the imminent stress of finals season. The staff is small in size, much like the establishment itself, but they make up for it with their warmth and attentiveness. Two individuals behind the counter greeted customers and ushered them to sit wherever they’d like.

After picking a seat, you can take in the soothing tones of music and the colorful decor, as you’re immediately handed a glass of water. The ordering process is especially simple: scan the online menu, select the items to order and pay in one stop.

The menu offers a variety of Japanese barbecue, noodles, rice bowls, house specials, bento boxes and small plates.

Diners can peruse the selections for a long stretch, since the ambiance makes for quite the relaxed approach. I finally settled upon a $18.95 beef set bento box and a $7.95 plate of shishito peppers.

While waiting for my food, I watched the whole process unravel in a kitchen situated right in front of the restaurant’s patrons. Every step of your meal preparation unfolds right before your eyes, making you feel as if you’re a guest in someone’s home.

Mere minutes after ordering, the first plate arrived.

A warm miso soup, resplendent in its simplicity, comes with every bento box. The soup consisted of a nice mix of seaweed and tofu and was not overpowered by a single flavor. It was elegant in its straightforwardness and kicked off the meal on the right foot.

As if on cue, the bento box and shishito peppers arrived just as I finished the soup.

The shishito peppers were the true highlight of the meal, arriving in sizzles of glory. The dish combined a sweet sauce with the kick of heat brought forth by the peppers to transcend each ingredient into a perfectly tied union.

With four corners of the bento box piled high with an assortment of items, Tomo certainly gives its customers a nice bang for their buck.

First came the rice, which by itself was not spectacular. However, it was completely enhanced when dipped in soy sauce.

Next up were the gyoza. Three dumplings were served hot with a vegetable filling and topped with scallions. They were crunchy and had a nice flaky touch that made them a delight to devour.

The box also came with a side salad, consisting of a cabbage base topped with creamy corn. This was a light, refreshing palate cleanser seasoned with a hint of dill for good measure.

Now for the main event.

The beef was buried underneath a bed of seared vegetables that looked like cabbage, carrots and onions. For a moment, I was concerned they served me a vegetable bento box, but after moments of digging, I discovered what gave the dish its namesake. The meat was juicy, tender and seasoned to perfection. The vegetables complemented it beautifully, as the beef and vegetables enhanced one another thoroughly.

My only issue was that the ratio of meat to vegetables appeared a tad skewed and left me longing for more.

Tomo certainly did not disappoint, as it granted grand respite from the doldrums of dining hall cuisine in a no-frills eatery. If you’re craving an escape from the typical Evanston eating scene, look no further than this spot just minutes from campus.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jakeepste1n

Related Stories:

Open Tab: Cinnaholic spices up Evanston’s dessert scene with signature and customizable rolls

Open Tab: Soban Korea’s dishes brighten up a cold Evanston winter

Tomo Japanese Street Food reborn with small setting and casual food