Carol Godsmark reviews Tokyo Shanghai, Portsmouth

Tokyo Shanghai in Commercial Road, Portsmouth.
Tokyo Shanghai in Commercial Road, Portsmouth.
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Tokyo Shanghai is yet another café with a mixed personality. Is it Japanese? Chinese?

Maxada, at Southsea, opened last year with the same identity crisis, declaring they were merely following Marco Polo’s route from China to Japan. I was not won over, seeking good cooking over new concepts.

Tokyo Shanghai, in Commercial Road, Portsmouth, opened in 2013 and makes no pretence about its inspiration, the menu simply stating bento boxes, sushi, noodle bar selection, sashimi and other familiar headings.

Japanese dishes outweigh the Chinese with yakitori (skewered chicken or other ingredients); katsu curries (breaded and fried meat with curry sauce); donburi (rice bowl dishes); tempura (battered, deep-fried seafood or vegetables) and those other well-known dishes, sushi, sashimi (raw fish) and bento boxes, usually served at lunchtimes but any time here.

Chinese offerings such as the chicken claypot dish come from Szechuan, Singapore and Malaysia, egg, udon and other noodles offered alongside pork, chicken, prawns, beef, mussels, squid and duck. Prices? Mains are about £7.50, bento boxes from £10.80 to £15.80. Six wines and beers are offered.

The look is low-key with black and red banquettes or tables, a few Chinese decorations depicting warriors and a must-have lucky cat join bamboo, a dividing line in the square space. Service is accommodating and helpful. Dishes are explained for the uninitiated.

First, a huge bowl of moreish miso soup crammed with seaweed and tofu. This was followed by ebi (prawns) tempura donburi, a Japanese rice dish. Billed as ‘deep-fried prawns and vegetables on tempura sauce’, the attractive, large red and black bowl contained about 80 per cent tepid rice with a crown of tempura-coated prawns, one slice of carrot and one mushroom equally given a light tempura batter. If the prawns and vegetables had been deep-fried in hotter and cleaner oil, they would have won me over. When hot, the first ones weren’t too bad, but when cooler, that’s when cloying fat really made its presence felt.

Greg and John, those Masterchef large mouths, won’t rightly touch under-cooked chicken. Me? I don’t eat rice that has been whizzed to the table in nanoseconds in a less-than-busy café. It was lukewarm too. The Chinese chef-owner, past chef in London, Dubai and farther east, suggested, when I paid the bill and saw the pile of untouched rice, that I have another type of donburi next time, ‘with sauce’, interpreting this as the reason for leaving it.

I suspect there won’t be a ‘next time’ but Tokyo Shanghai has a pretty enthusiastic following on Facebook and elsewhere. You pays your money and takes your choice. My bill came to £10.80.


Tokyo Shanghai, 229 Commercial Road, Portsmouth, PO1 4BJ (023) 92 82 2291 Open 11am–10 pm every day except Mondays but check on timing as they really do fluctuate, as I found out.

Food: **

Service: ****

Atmosphere: ***

Disabled access: fine

How to get there: the south side of Commercial road is off the Market Way – Lake Road roundabout, the restaurant at the top of the road. Park at Market Way car park and walk back, near on-street parking tricky.