With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Farmington Ave Trio

Just a little of ways over the magic line dividing us from our wealthy neighbors to the west, we have found a trio of excellent, relatively new businesses that we reviewed despite being in West Hartford and give each an enthusiastic Sad City recommendation. 

Operating all right next to each other on Farmington Ave. are; Tokyo Sushi, Black Bamboo Chinese, and Harvest Wine & Spirits. With these three all steps from each other, one could spend an entire day in the area and not go wanting.

 Tokyo Sushi: Simply the best value for sushi in the area. While we love Feng, it isn’t for the light in the wallet. Tokyo Sushi on the other hand, can be a weekly stop for even the most modest of earners.

Tokyo serves all the usual suspects one would expect at any sushi place; the spicy tuna, Philadelphia roll, shrimp tempura, a selection of sashimi, a wide selection of non-sushi Japanese dishes and appetizers, and a varying selection of sushi rolls. We have tried most sushi choices on the menu and have yet to come away disappointed in either quality or price.

There are a couple downsides to Tokyo Sushi. The décor is a little weird. The ornate doors with beveled glass seem a little out of place. The fish tank is disgusting. Gross and oversized fish are stuffed into an undecorated tank and swim around in brown water. The worst problem is the significant language barrier that exists with many of the waitstaff. More than once we’ve had an order botched due to a miscommunication.

These are all small prices to pay though for the value Tokyo Sushi provides. Amongst the better of the bargains to be had at Tokyo is the lunch special. Customers get their choice of two sushi rolls, miso soup and a salad for $9. While the soup and the salad are nothing special the value can’t be beat. Did we mention that Tokyo Sushi is currently temporary BYOB? All the better. So before you pop in for the lunch special be sure to stop next door and visit;

(Ed. Note: Tokyo Sushi is no longer BYOB)

Harvest Wine & Spirits: We first heard of Harvest Liquors after our Sad City Guide To Liquor Stores slammed their Farmington Avenue neighbor Cheers. A commenter recommended it so highly, that it was theorized the commenter was the Harvest owner.

We can’t tell you who the anonymous commenter was, but we can tell you that Harvest has hands down the best beer selection we have seen in the area. The beer selection is so wide and varied it is mind-boggling. There are literally hundreds of different beers to choose from. Harvest has a large walk-in cooler which we think is the “Hooker Beer Cave” which is advertised in a window sign. The walk-in is packed with local craft and imported beers. The beer isn’t priced at a great value, but it isn’t particularly over priced either.

Anyway, select yourself a six-pack from the staggering bevy of choices and walk over to Tokyo Sushi to enjoy yourself a nice, well priced sushi lunch.

So you’ve had a great sushi lunch, enjoyed and enjoyed your “byob” six-pack from Harvest. After lingering for a couple of hours at lunch while enjoying your beers and gawking horrified at the giant fish in the dirty tank, you notice you are starting to get hungry again for an early dinner. Perfect, time to walk right next door to Black Bamboo Chinese food.

Black Bamboo: First off the exposed kitchen in Black Bamboo is the cleanest kitchen we’ve ever seen in a Chinese restaurant….by far. It’s nearly sparkling. Like it’s neighbor, Tokyo Sushi, Black Bamboo has an extremely reasonably priced menu. Unlike the language barrier that can hamper service at Tokyo, there is no such problem at Black Bamboo.

Everything we’ve tried on Black Bamboos’ menu is great. Everything. The one downside we would have to point out is that though there are a few seats, the restaurant is set up as more of a take out place so those dining in will be crowded during busy hours. We stopped by for some takeout on Sunday of President’s Day Weekend and all seats were taken the restaurant was crowded with other takeout customers. While this may be a slight drawback, it is also a testament to Black Bamboo’s food. Even with the crowd and without calling ahead we got our takeout in 20 minutes.

So there you have it. A day fully spent having lunch, drinks, and dinner without having to move more than about 150 feet. Hopefully it was a work day!


  1. I would concur with your assessment of Harvest. Best selection, but be prepared to pay for higher quality beer. Sadly, I think that is just a sign of the times in today's beer market.

  2. Sad but it has to be said - Tokyo Sushi has the worst sashimi and nigri I've ever had the misfortune to taste. Ever.

  3. Why does COLIN M always look crazy in print or on tv?

  4. How does Black Bamboo compare to Butterfly? That's our usual standby for Chinese takeout. General Tso's, fried rice, lo mein, those kinds of dishes.

  5. We did our own research tonight on Black Bamboo. Really nice people running the place. General Tso's, lo mein and steamed dumplings were all very good. Tried the veggie and pork fried rice and that was not so good. Prices were very reasonable. We will be back. Told them about your blog, they hadn't heard of it and wondered why it wasn't called "Happy City Hartford"

  6. Sad City, ahead of the curve!!


  7. thank you sad city... you forgot to mention the 700 plus wines -from everyday to esoteric, the great spirit selection, boss tuneage, and weekly free tastings!

  8. I was that 'anonymous' commenter who recommended Harvest! Can people finally believe me that I don't and never have worked for them? Finally you understand its the best liquor store in the area....


  9. Tried, Black Bamboo, the food was no better or worse than Egg Roll Express. Greasy. Got an MSG headache.

  10. Very excited to see you reviewing the Farmington Ave trio. I live one block away and we frequent these guys whenever we can.

    Love Tokyo sushi and don't really mind the decor, to be honest. I wish they wouldn't get their liquor license because of Harvest right next door -- would keep our bills down as Harvest has a pretty good sake selection too.