EMPIRE — I always find going to new places to be exciting.

After spending a month and a half dining out at the various food vendors at the Wednesday Farmers' Market in downtown Coos Bay, sports editor John Gunther felt like trying something else new.

So, he chose Tokyo Bistro as our next lunch site. Back when we were only eating on Mondays, Tokyo Bistro wasn't an option because they aren't open on Mondays.

I believe the last time I was in the building was for lunch when it was still the Empire Cafe.

Neither of us had been to Tokyo Bistro before, so it only made sense that we give it a try.

Since neither of us are big sushi fans (although I've heard from folks they do sushi well), we decided to eat off the special lunch menu, which was rather extensive.

The options included Bento boxes, sushi and sashimi lunches, teriyaki rice bowls, tempura choices and a trio of noodle dishes.

John and I had checked out their menu online, so we had an inkling of what we wanted even before we walked in the door.

I really like Bento boxes, and Tokyo Bistro has 11 choices to round out your meal. The first two spots are taken up by salad and rice, then the rest is up to you. I chose the teriyaki chicken and the tempura vegetables.

Other Bento selections include tempura prawns, California Roll and Creamy Fried Roll, beef teriyaki and stir-fry veggies.

I noticed something different right away when my lunch arrived — the tempura veggies were sliced shoe-string style before being lightly battered. I really like this idea. I can't tell you how many times I've bitten into a large chunk, or whole vegetable (mushrooms) and found it to be piping hot.

This way, it couldn't be too hot, and I think it actually lessens the amount of batter you get as well. Wins all around as far as I'm concerned.

John also noted a few differences at Toyko Bistro, the first being the granite table tops in the dining room. Always a nice touch.

John was intrigued by the Hawaiian chicken yakisoba, one of the three noddle selections on the lunch menu.

"It's different from anything else we've had and well-made and tasty," John said. "Plus, it gave me the challenge of trying to use chopsticks."

He didn't think he did so well with the chopsticks, but he finished the meal with them. I didn't even try — I've done the rice with chopsticks thing before, it wasn't pretty and we didn't have two hours for lunch.

The Bento boxes are $9.95, the sushi lunches start at $9.95, the teriyaki rice bowls start at $7.95, the tempura dishes start at $6.95 and the noodle lunches start at $9.95.

The bill for our two lunches, an iced tea and a soft drink came out to $23.35.

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