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Published: Thursday, 10/9/2008

Restaurant review: Nagoya Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi ****

A shimmering sun, ancient symbol of Japan, greets patrons above the entrance of Nagoya Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi in Perrysburg s Levis Commons. More suns decorate the walls, adding to the visual sweep and tranquility of the place.

Like the growing number of other upscale Asian eateries in the Toledo area, Nagoya places a premium on setting, atmosphere, and cuisine. It enlivens the eye with architecturally elegant dining rooms, bamboo pillars, and handsome latticework, while also serving food that is at once familiar and unique.

The familiar is easily recognizable at the long sushi bar in one dining room and the hibachi grills in another. There, knife- and spatula-wielding Asian chefs slice and dice the food with acrobatic skill and comedic showmanship.

The unique surfaces in a delicious, incomparable way, namely Wagyu beef, a delicious, extremely expensive variation of Kobe beef that, so far as I can determine, isn t available anywhere else locally.

As with some other restaurants around town, Nagoya prepares traditional Japanese dishes teriyaki, chicken yakitori, sesame tuna, lettuce wraps, bento boxes, nigiri, and sashimi along with filet mignon, chipotle chicken, grilled Chilean sea bass, rack of lamb, and lobster tails.

Prices are what you d expect from an upscale restaurant, with appetizers in the $5 to $15 range, hibachi meals and combos from $17 to $30, and entrees from $25 to Market Price.

Gingerly dipping our taste buds into the menu, we tried the fire-roasted lobster tail batayaki ($15) as an appetizer rather than the $35 entr e. A Japanese twist on a popular Western delicacy, the batayaki featured glistening chunks of grilled lobster meat in a hollowed-out tail shell, served with clear noodles and a lovely sauce of cream and sundried tomato. A similar sauce accompanied the $7 crab egg roll appetizer along with crab, asparagus, and cream cheese.

Lunch for two at one of the hibachi grills provided enough food to feed a family of four. It included combinations of tender steak with scallops, shrimp, and tuna ($12-$14 each) cut into delectable cubes, along with myriad sides: miso soup or a house salad with ginger dressing, lots of vegetables, sauces, and steamed or fried rice. Dinner prices are about twice as much.

I ve read a lot about Kobe and Wagyu beef without ever having had the opportunity to try it. It is beef densely marbled with unsaturated fat and rated far beyond prime.

At Nagoya, Wagyu is available both American-style (taken from Wagyu cattle cross-bred in America) or Japanese (cattle raised on a Kobe ranch in Japan).

As mentioned, the prices are simply mind-boggling: $60 for 8 ounces of American, and $80 for 8 ounces of Japanese. I split the difference by ordering a 5-ounce special of the latter for $50.

So, was it any good? Well, yes, but in an odd way. It was cooked rare, with small portions wrapped around a clump of rice, and the color was more purple than red.

The texture is smooth, almost like rare tuna, and the taste is intensely beefy.

But I missed the texture of a strip or a T-bone and its attendant juiciness. The Wagyu went down easily, served alongside a dollop of blazingly hot wasabi horseradish, but the mouthfeel of a perfectly done grilled steak wasn t there. In other words, give me a brawny prime or choice steak anyday, at half the price.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com



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