One of the most intriguing concepts caused by our “Interesting Times” is what I term restaurant “Teaming.” Here, a restaurant sets up shop inside another restaurant’s location. The two businesses share the kitchen, dining area, food storage areas and, in some cases, even inventory.
Let my dining partner and I take you along and experience the future of dining-out at ChopstiXpress.
At just over three months of age, ChopstiXpress is a very new member of the vibrant downtown Johnson City dining scene. You’ll find ChopstiXpress co-located inside a repurposed building on Commerce Street that is home to the Rum Bar and the popular Go Burrito restaurant.
Once inside, a short climb up the steps finds you in a dining area of minimalist decor used by Go Burrito and ChopstiXpress, with seating for about 20 diners. That’s Go Burrito’s operation in front of you, with ChopstiXpress’ portion there to your right, its squeaky-clean chilled display case showing what’s on offer today. That hallway behind you leads to the restrooms.
House Special Lo Mein
Having called earlier to make sure of their dining mode and hours of operation, my dining partner and I arrived at ChopstiXpress a little before 5 in the afternoon. We were greeted by the very busy Sari who, while doing three things at once, was still able to 1) greet the two of us with a smile and a menu, 2) find us a table with a good view of the restaurant, take our drink orders and 3) let us know what was good to eat that particular day.
My dining partner is still tentative regarding the concept of a sushi bar as her source of food, and immediately gravitated to the “kitchen” side of the menu, ordering the House Special Lo Mein entrée ($12.25). To the entrée’s first course of clear sipping soup, my dining partner added an a la carte pork egg roll ($1.89) and a vegetable spring roll ($1.65) as our appetizer course. We found both the pork egg roll and the veggie spring roll to be crisp and crunchy on the outside with a steamy-hot and delicious interior.
The lo mein entrée was a symphony of flavors and textures starting with chicken, shrimp and marinated beef. Next was a very nice grouping from the plant kingdom composed of broccoli florets, carrot chips gently sculpted and resembling dried flowers, and some slices of flavorful button mushrooms together with a sprinkling of sliced scallion tops, all stir-fried with lo mein noodles in a savory oyster sauce. My dining partner found the result to be “just heavenly.” After a sampling a forkful, I had to agree with her.
Sushi “Golden Combo” with clear “sipping soup” or a salad
For my early supper I availed myself of the skills demonstrated by the ChopstiXpress sushi specialists. My request of Sari to see and sample from her chefs’ skillset brought a suggestion that I order the “Golden Combo” sushi entrée ($12.95). Along with a first course of either salad or the sipping soup (my choice) my meal came from both the basic sushi list (a Crunchy Spicy Crab maki roll) and from the Special sushi list (the Rock ‘n’ Roll maki roll). Each maki was sectioned into eight pieces and skillfully displayed to be a delight for the eyes as well as the palate.
The spicy crab roll got its crunch from finely flaked panko mixed in with spiced crab meat and the toasted sesame seeds dusting the sticky rice exterior. The Rock ‘n’ Roll maki’s insides contained tempura-ed salmon skin, cucumber and scallions, with its outside topped with salmon, avocado, more panko and a squirt of hot and spicy sriracha sauce to hold your attention. My Golden Combo was superb in all respects.
The bottom line
Aside from the varied and excellent supper my dining partner and I enjoyed, our most memorable take-away from dining at ChopstiXpress is how friendly and helpful Sari and her entire staff were. In addition to Sari stopping by on occasion for a friendly word and a smile, we had a chance to converse with members of her kitchen staff, informing us of what ingredients were used in our meals and how each was prepared. One hopes this easy familiarity is yet another intriguing concept caused by our waning “Interesting Times.”
We even had the ChopstiXpress version of “Dinner and a Show” at the next table where a young mother was teaching her two preschool age children how to dine using chopsticks.
A true “gentle education …”