When I first had a good look at Tomodachi, located between Sizzler and the random Chinese restaurant on the corner of Middle on Hesperian, I could have sworn it was not there. I’ve lived in Hayward for many years and have never seen Tomodachi. My sister, in response to the suggestion of having dinner there, insisted that we were thinking of the Sizzler, just as I did. I’m not sure why it blends into that long-lived Toys R Us shopping center, but it sort of just gets lost in the mess to me.
Which is why I need to post about it. This place should not be overlooked. It should be bursting with business on every night. In my opinion, Hayward has a deficiency in the way of good Japanese restaurants. I do not claim to have patronized them all (if you know a good one, tell me!), but the ones I have attended were less than impressive (save Naked Fish, which was decent). Tomodachi has taken the lead by a mile so far.
Provided the information that my Grandparents used to occasionally dine here, I thought there must be no semblance to the Japanese food that I’m used to eating (they most often prefer “down home American” and do not typically eat any sort of ethnic food – including Mexican and Pizza). I figured the decor would be “run-down diner”, and that the food would be a disgrace to our Pacific neighbors. Needless to say I was wrong, wrong, wrong and the place was great.
The facility is quite large. The dining area is open and classy with sturdy tables, dark wood chairs, casual but fun string lights around the windows, and a variety of seating choices. This is one of the things that’s so fun about Tomodachi. Like the plain Americans we are, we have the choice to sit in a standard table or booth. Nice, but no big deal. If we’re feeling more sassy, we may choose to eat at the sushi counter or in a raised floor area where the table is standard height, but we sit on the raised floor and our feet dangle into a space below the raised floor (it’s almost like the traditional Tatami seating, but far more comfortable). If we’re feeling particularly traditional (and/or masochistic), we may also sit in one of the Tatami rooms which are individual rooms separated by nifty sliding rice paper doors where shoes are removed and the seats are the tatami floor mats with a low table at which to eat (in my experience, eating here mostly leaves me in a state of constant wonder as to where the heck to put my pesky legs).
My family chose to sit in the more comfortable version of the traditional seating and dangled our shoe-less footsies down into the open well beneath our table.
We then had a gander at the menu which provided many options. There is a wide range of Japanese fare on offer at Tomodachi, no doubt something for all levels of Japanese-food-eaters. Hence why my Grandparents could dine here – I have no doubt that they weren’t looking at the sushi menu. There are appetizers (and you receive the complementary equivalent to chips and salsa – edamame), soups, salads, tempura, grilled meats, sushi, sashimi, donburi, bento boxes, nabemono, and dessert. Quite a lot to choose from.
I had a difficult time deciding, but eventually ordered the Redwood roll: spicy salmon inside with tuna sashimi topping, while the boyfriend ordered two rolls which I believe were Godzilla and Super Dynamite. We also had orders of grilled chicken, chicken skewers, and a bento box with chicken teriyaki and California rolls. Aside from looking great, as Japanese restaurants are wont to do, the food got pretty good reviews from our table as well. All three of the rolls were excellent and the chicken received all thumbs up from across the table.
The service was great. Apparently the owner is actually Chinese (faithfully detected by Mom’s half Japanese boyfriend), but it certainly doesn’t matter to me who it is making me great food. The staff was very friendly and polite, nothing took too long or was delivered incorrectly, and I can’t wait to return! Thank goodness for good Japanese in Hayward!