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Downtown Macon has opened up its heart and shown the world how hard work and creativity makes a restaurant successful.  This week I explored the back alleys of downtown to find the hidden treasures that await in a little restaurant (located at 574 Mulberry Street) called Tokyo Alley.

Atmosphere
The hidden restaurant uses the back alley location to its advantage by presenting the authenticity of an authentic Asian restaurant located in the background of a metropolitan city ranging from Bangkok to Singapore.  Upon entering the quaint little restaurant, simple lighting techniques and creative decoration transforms the one-room dining hall into an 18th century Geisha house.  The building structure compliments the small space as many patrons sit close together without ever hearing other tables’ conversations, as an echo does not exist in this magical escape from Americana.  Tokyo Alley also offers a hidden room dining area that only fits one table.  The versatility of Tokyo Alley’s atmosphere should allure anyone searching for an exotic getaway as well as the ten-and- up party who looks to fill a room.
Rating:  Creative and Copasetic

Food
As with most traditional Japanese dinners, the night started off with egg drop soup.  The chef decided it was appropriate to thicken the broth to really engrain the taste in your mind.  The mix of chicken broth with green onion always warms my appetite. Following the soup, shumai sausage dumplings definitely ruled the night.  The shumai dumplings are a cornerstone for most Asian cuisines and they did not disappoint.  Crispy on the outside, with the sincere flavoring of pork sausage on the inside, will give anyone’s taste buds an experience that even the most pretentious eaters will appreciate.  It was funny, though, how small the shumai dumpling size was, in comparison to the plate-filling teriyaki steak that followed for the main entre.
I laughed hysterically (to amazement of my fellow guests) as everyone at my table stared at the overbearing size of the steak.  As always, the steak was served medium rare to measure the quality of the beef. The teriyaki marinade was genuine, and the serving was much appreciated, but when someone orders medium rare, that does not mean the steak should come out rare.  I enjoy both, but for preparation purposes a chef must pay attention to what the customer wants.  Otherwise, why ask how someone wants his steak prepared in the first place?  Aside from that, the crunchy vegetable medley and steamed rice blended quite nicely with the steak.  The only suggestion I give is to call for a better presentation.  Appearance matters almost as much as smell.  The little extra attention helps.
Rating:  Plentiful and Affordable

Management
The management at Tokyo Alley run a tight ship.  Do not ask for substitutions from the menu because no exceptions will be made!  Patrons can add to their meals but cannot swap. A good friend of mine learned that during the meal.  This consistency, however, is a good thing for a restaurant to have.  Taking that into account, patrons should know the answer to that question before asking, as the menu at Tokyo Alley is very easy to use and read.  The only caution I give to those who enjoy spirits: the rule is to bring your own beer.  So while Tokyo Alley does not prevent patrons from drinking at their establishment, they do not, however, provide alcohol. The service of the waitress was expeditious, and after some coaxing, quite pleasant and conversational.  The small staff knew every question there was to be had and every desire was met.
Rating:  Top Notch and Slightly Militaristic

Overall

The management has established a very well-run restaurant at Tokyo Alley.  The ambience and treatment of patrons makes other restaurants appear amateur.  The food quality, unfortunately, needs reconsideration.  Not to the degree that ends a chef’s tenure, but enough that those who aspire for greatness on a plate should seek elsewhere.  Overall, the kitchen has it right.  Tokyo Alley provides enough food to leave a person satisfied, but the kitchen needs to search for the same amazement their shumai has in other dishes.  If Tokyo Alley’s management were to allow its kitchen to explore the dreams and possibilities of its very simple menu, Tokyo Alley could easily place itself as a serious restaurant among the heavyweights.
Rating:  An enjoyable one-time experience

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