From the outside, Uminoya doesn’t look all that promising, crammed into an ordinary strip mall on a busy stretch of Hooper Avenue in Toms River.
And the menu is weird, with built-in clearance sales on the sushi. The “50 percent off” mark-downs are embedded in the laminated menu, a permanent fixture that seems gimmicky, at best. I mean, do you really want bargain sushi?
But the interior of the restaurant is clean and pretty, with dark-wood tables, chairs and benches that offer a cozy feel to a minimalist setting. Most importantly, the food, on sale or not, is uniformly delicious.
Start with dumplings. For a light appetizer, order shumai, six buttons of light dough filled with minced shrimp, mild and tasting of the sea.
Or, if you want a little more to chew on, get the gyoza, packets of pork seasoned with herbs. These were expertly cooked—juicy inside and crisp and chewy outside.
The appetizer portion of chicken tempura easily could serve as a full lunch, with two strips of chicken breast and a pile of veggies, including broccoli and onion, all dipped into a crackly batter. Tempura can be like Japanese KFC if the batter is heavy and greasy, but at Uminoya, the food is fried with a light touch.
The expansive menu of rolls includes 10 vegetarian choices, including sweet potato and oshinko (pickled daikon radish). The 26 special rolls on the menu are hefty, often drizzled with Japanese mayo and topped with clusters of tobiko, the colorful flying fish roe that adds a zing of salt.
Uminoya’s sushi chefs like to mix the cooked with the raw. Hence, the Uminoya roll, with lobster tempura and eel, or the Route 70 roll, with shrimp tempura and eel. The Christmas roll employs this blend to great effect, with seared pepper tuna mingling with raw salmon and yellowtail tuna. Slivers of mango add crunch and sweetness.
Vegetable udon soup is a cauldron of thick rice noodles and fresh vegetables, including wedges of mushroom and zucchini and julienned carrots, asparagus and cabbage. Be aware, however, that the clear broth is doused in hot pepper oil, so keep your mug of green tea nearby.
Cool off with a dish of mochi, lumps of dense ice cream wrapped in sweet rice dough. At Uminoya, the discs of mochi are sliced into wedges and served with whipped cream.
Uminoya is at 1830 Hooper Ave., Toms River. For more info, call 732-998-8883 or go to uminoyajapaneserestaurant.com.Click here to leave a comment