Teharu isn't just a sushi bar -- it's an experience. There are few other places in the Valley where you can score five plates of food for under a ten-spot, but that's exactly what we did at Teharu. On our visit the place was packed, and the vibe was decidedly young. We added our name to wait list and took in our surroundings.
It's pretty cruel to make guests wait at scattered benches along the front windows within arm's reach of Vegas rolls and seaweed salad, but that's the price you'll pay to eat here on a weekend. While waiting, we checked out the photos lining the walls. Each one showed a table of bloated but happy guests posing with stacked piles of plates, some as much as four feet tall.
We didn't have to imagine what was on those plates. Every few seconds another delicacy rolled by. Spicy tuna ($1.50). Hawaiian Roll ($2). Tamago ($1.50). Luckily, a hostess came and seated our party of four before the drool could ooze from our mouths.
Each table sports a price list based on the colors of the plates. $7 sushi? You won't find that here. Cheesecake was the most expensive thing we spotted, at a whopping three bucks a slice. Oh, no! Better break out your piggy bank. Most dishes are $1.50-2.00 for a four-piece roll.
Time to load up.
Eating here requires a little skill, or at least the wherewithal to ask everyone else at your table to "Go fish!" every time you want a dish. As the sushi chefs complete and plate a roll, they carry it over to the line and start setting plates on the conveyor belt.
Then it's every man for himself as each person at the table starts calling out what they want. "Edamame, please!" I yelled to my friend Noelle, who plucked the green pods off the belt headed South. "Vegas Roll, the one in the back!" she replied. "No, all the way in the back!" The funniest part of the experience is when odd items roll by: a pudding cup, fruit, even a lone can of V8. It made for great tableside discussion.
The dance continued as we loaded plates of gyoza, ebi, sizzling salmon, tempura roll and more onto our table. Five plates later our bill was exactly ten bucks, plus tax. If you're expecting gourmet eats, go elsewhere. But for the money, the quality at Teharu is astounding. Vegas rolls were fresh, with a crisp outer shell and deliciously creamy interior. The ebi had a trace of fishy taste, but it was so mild in comparison to even the "fresh" shrimp at our regular grocery store that it was easy to forgive.
Edamame and gyoza were standard, but pleasing to the sushi-phobe in our foursome. On the other side of the table, we heard no complaints about the sizzling salmon and delicious Haru poppers, tempura-style stuffed hot peppers that were the best we'd ever had. Ten bucks for lunch and a show? Yeah, we'll be back.