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Yoshimatsu: cutesy, healthy and authentic

DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Staff member Victor Mendez and general manager Masanori Suto prepare a meal yesterday at the Yoshimatsu Japanese restaurant. Yoshimatsu has recently changed locations to 2745 N. Campbell Avenue.
By Oril Ben-Dor
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 2, 2003

Yoshimatsu Restaurant
2660 N. Campbell Ave.

It takes serious decorative strategy to pull off kitschy and cute without venturing into cheesy and overdone. Yoshimatsu, a Japanese restaurant on Campbell, has got the style.

It's not surprising, since the owner recently abandoned her previous life as a fashion designer in Tokyo to embrace a healthier lifestyle. The hectic days Yoshimi Tashima saw in Tokyo gave in to fast food eating. When she was diagnosed with cancer she attributed her poor health to a poor diet. Tashima walked from the runway to the kitchen and created Yoshimatsu, a "Healthy Japanese Eatery."

Yoshimatsu proudly advertises that the ingredients from tofu and soybeans to the carrots and eggs are all organic. She praises shitake mushrooms for treating diabetes, lowering cholesterol levels and even diminishing cancers ÷ to name a few of the mushroom's merits.


ealth and healing aside, the food tastes great. Though it took a few minutes to sift through the extensive menu, which features labels like popular, spicy, vegetarian and vegan menu items, with a little help from the cashier and a deep breath, I ordered dinner.

The food took upwards of 20 minutes to arrive, while for a casual cafeteria-style place may have seemed like too long of a time, signs and the staff warn customers ahead of time that at busy times, diners should expect a bit of a wait. Once my meal was ready, it was worth the extra time.

I tried the gyoza (dumplings for $3.50) veggie style ÷ they also offer pork filling. I chose to have them pan fried as opposed to boiled or fried. It seems having options is a theme at Yoshimatsu. The six-piece dish only whet my appetite for the feast to come.

The Chicken Katsu curry and rice ($6.50), labeled as a popular and spicy item, was a generous portion with a thick, rich curry sauce. The breaded chicken and curry combined didn't strike me as tasting spicy as indicated on the menu, but I could see why it would be popular.

Japanese tradition, according to Tashima's notes on the menu, suggests eating 30 different types of food a day in order to stay healthy. For this reason, Yoshimatsu plays up the bento box. The bento box looks like a nicer version of a TV dinner ÷ that is, it holds different types of food in different mini-compartments. I tried the Yoshimatsu Bento ($10.50) and enjoyed chicken yakitori, two salads, miso soup, california rolls and even a generous helping of tempura (lightly battered and fried shrimp and veggies). A huge meal in itself, the bento box definitely impressed me.

The surprise of the evening was the Okonomiyaki, which the menu said was a Japanese "pizza." The pizza, made of flour, cabbage, ginger, shiitake soup, green onions and eggs, plus your choice of veggies, shrimp, pork or octopus ($5.95-8.50), struck my taste buds so positively that I neglected the other plates and repeatedly returned my chop sticks to this full-flavored omelet-meets-pizza. Interestingly, none of the okonomiyaki dishes had the music note symbol next to it to indicate it was a popular menu item. The population's missing out! Yoshimatsu has a devoted following, with customers coming to shop in the small market near the front that offers Japanese treats and toys or to chow on their favorite menu items.

"Yoshimi's food is so authentic. It's just like my host family used to make," gushed Michelle Martini, a interdisciplinary studies junior who studied in Japan for over a year. Martini, a vegetarian for 10 years, appreciates the wide variety of vegetarian dishes and claims Yoshimatsu as her local favorite for Japanese food.

So plop down in one of the cozy wooden booths or grab a seat at the high table smack in the center. Listen for your name, pick up your food and dig in. Maybe even get some green tea ice cream for later. You'll find the fare totomo oishi: that's very tasty.

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