Grub Scout: Sushi offerings at East Knoxville's Tangerine Japanese Cuisine utterly appealing

Tangerine Japanese Cuisine

East Knoxville - Knoxville

5328 Millertown Pike

865-521-0688

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A colleague recently recommended Tangerine Japanese Cuisine, and after doing some pre-scouting online, I saw enough good buzz to justify The Grub Spouse and me heading out to the Knoxville Center mall neighborhood to check it out. The restaurant sits in an unassuming strip of merchants across Millertown Pike from the mall itself.

We arrived on the early side of the dinner hour, so the place wasn’t quite bustling yet, but that guaranteed us a seat in a booth. The atmosphere has a refined quality but incorporates enough predictable Asian-decor kitsch (numerous Japanese umbrellas, for example) to prevent the dining areas, sushi bar and spirits bar from being defined as upscale.

For those who like to start with small portions, Tangerine offers a familiar selection of Japanese soups, salads, appetizers (spring rolls, dumplings, edamame, etc.) and even a whole section of skewered barbecue items.

Although Tangerine does prepare several varieties each of tempura, katsu, teriyaki and hibachi dinners, their specialty is sushi. And that’s what I had on my mind as I dived into the bulk of the menu.

You can get two-piece a la carte orders of sushi and sashimi that serve up sea swimmers such as tuna, salmon, saba, shrimp, scallop, roe, octopus and squid. Beyond that, the sushi menu delivers a dozen basic rolls, more than 20 specialty rolls and even several large sushi platters designed to feed multiple mouths.

The basic rolls include commonly found creations like California, tuna and salmon rolls. I focused on the more fancy-shmancy roll specialties, finally settling on the Tennessee roll — spicy tuna topped with assorted fish, crabsticks, masago, eel sauce, spicy mayo and tempura flakes. I added an order of yellowtail sashimi, requesting that it be served as an appetizer.

Meanwhile, The Spouse, not being a sushi lover at all, went with a hibachi dinner — chicken, in fact — which came with soup and salad. The Spouse chose the miso soup and the house ginger dressing.

My sushi plate came out first, and I noticed that the sashimi was on the same plate. This told me that the server either had forgotten that I wanted the sashimi first or she thought I had ordered both the sashimi and the roll as one big appetizer. In either case, there was close to a 10-minute interval between the arrival of my meal and The Spouse’s hibachi dinner.

In fact, I have had similar experiences in other Asian restaurants, where customers are served at different times. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but I don’t care for it at all.

At least both meals were quite good. The sushi was fresh, had lots of eye appeal and delivered a pleasing variety of tastes and textures as I worked my way through all eight pieces. The hibachi chicken — served with two pieces of shrimp, seasonal veggies and fried rice—was a plateful of grill-top deliciousness and left The Spouse with a box full of leftovers.

We ordered the tempura cheesecake dessert, and I’m glad we decided to split an order. It was huge — four individual slices of cheesecake, each battered and deep-fried and topped in whipped cream. But it was decadently yummy, and yes, we took some of that home too.

While the service overall was painfully sluggish for the most part (we wound up getting up to fetch our own to-go containers and to request a check), I felt that the menu, at least, had plenty of get-up-and-go.

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Tangerine Japanese Cuisine

Food: 4

Service: 3

Atmosphere: 3.5

Overall: 3.5

Address: 5328 Millertown Pike

Phone: 865-521-0688

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays; 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays

Full bar service

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Bottom Line: Fresh and delicious sushi, prepared artistically? That’s how this East Knoxville Japanese-cuisine eatery rolls.

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