Dining reviewers Jennifer Biggs and Peggy Burch visit a long-established local restaurant once a month and write about it. If you've got an old favorite you think we should try, e-mail us.
Jennifer Biggs: My family has been going to Edo for years -- at least 20 years and possibly longer -- and I'm talking the extended family here, so you know I'm talking about a crowd. Many times they've pulled the shoji screens between two four-seater booths to make them eight-seaters for us, and we've also taken up booths to the right and the left, and sometimes front and back.
We share Love Boats, and we always order extra Sakura sauce and orange slices, and we all -- even knowing better -- call this sentimental favorite Eee-doh's.
Peggy Burch: That's how all of non-Japanese-speaking Memphis pronounces it. (It was nice of you all to add the apostrophe 's' for them, they must have forgotten.) I just learned that Edo is a former name of Tokyo. The pronunciation key says "ed-oh," but Takeo Higashi, the owner and a charming presence at Edo restaurant, seems to be saying "a-doh" with a long 'a'.
Meanwhile, thank you for introducing me to the Love Boat. Such a great range of tastes on that platter. I love the skewered beef and chicken. But I think it's made for at least four diners, right? After we finished, I felt like I would not float on water. Still, it didn't keep me from eating the orange gelatin.
JB: No, that was the Love Boat for two. No joke. You can order it for three for a surcharge, which we sometimes do. There is a lot of food on the Love Boat, but usually people don't order appetizers and the Love Boat.
We like the teriyaki skewers, but my great weakness is the Sakura shrimp. I had lunch today with my aunt, not at Edo, and out of the blue she said, "Nothing in the world tastes as good to me as that Sakura sauce at Eee-doh's."
I've tried to duplicate the recipe and haven't gotten it exactly, but it's a mayonnaise to which butter and either soy sauce or ponzu is added. Whenever I ask at Edo, whatever I suggest -- it could be anything -- is always met with the same response: A laugh, a shake of the head and a "no, no, no." It's extremely rich, and the small serving that comes with the Love Boat is perfect. I tried a full order of the Sakura shrimp once and I wasn't able to eat it. No way.
PB: "Extremely rich" does not overstate the case. It's just a shade paler than egg yolks, a shade darker than egg nog. And now I've forgotten what else is on the platter -- tempura? You're the expert on this dish.
JB: Here's the full meal: You start with soup and salad, both simple and delicious. The soup is a clear broth with fried onions in it and a sprinkle of green onions on top. The salad is just chopped iceberg with a little carrot and a tomato wedge. But the ginger dressing -- sprightly, slightly sweet and spicy -- is so special that I've seen my mother pour her leftover dressing in a Coke bottle to take it home. (The waitress also saw it and brought her some on the house, and in a proper to-go container. And be warned: I feel certain there is a bit of peanut in the dressing, so ask, if you're allergic.)
Then the red lacquered boat containing the main meal comes. You get a generous portion of tempura -- Edo has, hands-down, the lightest tempura batter in town -- containing shrimp and assorted vegetables with a light, soy-based dipping sauce. Two chicken skewers and two of beef, each grilled with onions and green peppers, are midboat. The delectable saucers of Sakura shrimp nestle next to the kabobs, then four wedges of the orange slices round it out. Rice is served on the side.
It's truly too much food for two people, although as I stated above, ordering appetizers ahead of time (reviewing isn't for sissies) guaranteed we wouldn't stand a chance. Excellent gyoza, though ...
PB: I do like the gyoza and shumai there. Straightforward, traditional dumplings. And you and I forgot to get sushi. Maybe because there's no actual sushi bar.
But now I think it's time for you to talk about the orange slices.
JB: A few other things first: The sushi at Edo is good. I'm not an expert who can swear that a piece of fish was never frozen (though some local sushi experts say that there's nothing wrong with frozen fish), but as I've said many times, good sushi depends on the rice preparation, and I think it's great at Edo. Slightly tangy, slightly sweet, appropriately sticky but not all globbed together -- I hate sushi rice that is too sticky!
I want to say a word about lunch, too. The Chicken Tokyo is the poultry version of Sakura shrimp, and in many ways, I prefer it. Grilled chicken is served in a huge fried won ton bowl, covered in the rich sauce. I like the grilled element to the dish, and it's a bargain, served with soup or salad, rice and a few pieces of tempura. If you eat there for lunch, you'll get a creamy dressing on your salad unless you request the ginger dressing.
Now to the oranges. When any of the kids have asked for the orange Jell-O, they get the same giggles from the servers that I've gotten when I ask about the Sakura recipe -- there is gelatin, but no Jell-O in this delight of a light dessert. Oranges are halved and the shells emptied of juice and membrane. The juice and the gelatin -- perhaps a touch of sugar, though little if any -- are mixed and poured in the shells. Each half is sliced in quarters after the gelatin sets. If you like oranges, you'll love these -- even if you hate Jell-O.
Edo Japanese Restaurant
Address: 4792 Summer Ave.
Telephone: (901) 767-7096
Hours: Lunch is Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Dinner is Tuesday through Sunday, 5-9:30 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Reviewer' choices: For lunch, Chicken Tokyo ($6.75); Love Boat dinner for two ($28.50); Gyoza ($4.75).
Poor: Zero stars
Good: One star
Very Good: Two stars
Excellent: Three stars
Extraordinary: Four stars