- 400 Locust St., Suite 238, Skywalk level, Des Moines, IA, 50309
- Overall User Rating:
- (3 ratings)
- 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday
When it comes to weekday lunches, Japanese cuisine may rank among the best if you want to get work done in the afternoon. Often, this cuisine offers plenty of flavor, but not a lot of fire, and portions are rarely thunderous. That means you won’t spend the afternoon regretting too much spice or longing for a nap. And yet, you’ll also get something truly enjoyable to eat — a reward for the stretches of hard work that bookend that midday break.
At least, that’s what I found at Junko Japanese Café, a pleasant little lunch spot on the skywalk.
Atmosphere: Wooden blinds partially shield the room from the impersonality of the skywalk outside, yet let energy come through. Inside the dining room, mustard and melon colored walls, geometric paper lanterns and a few Samurai swords decorate the tastefully minimal and comforting refuge.
Junko, by the way, is pronounced June-koh — it’s a proper name for a woman in Japan.
Menu: Choose from sushi, udon noodle dishes, fried rice and bento boxes (compartmentalized lunch boxes consisting of a main dish, sushi and some sides). Combinations seem to be the best deal going — a beef-noodle dish with a shrimp crunch sushi roll, for instance, costs a very reasonable $9.99. Combination sushi platters run from $7.99 to $13.99. Light eaters can enjoy a few nigiri (fish atop rice, ranging in price from $2.25 to $3.75) and a bowl of miso soup ($1), and get out of there for well under $10.
Food Finds: The freshly made beef and noodle combo brought slithery noodles and plenty of tender yet pleasantly chewy beef with peas, corn, green onions and delightful salty-sweet flavorings. Alongside, the “Shrimp Crunch Roll” was an exquisite play in textures — smooth avocado, soft rice, crunchy cucumber and a topping of panko crumbs, with plenty of rich shrimp to flavor-charge the treat.
The sushi here ranged from so-so to respectable; best was the sweet, flaky eel and a bright red snapper, with the yellow tail and salmon coming in merely as also-rans. While the fried rice brought great flavors from a delicately sweet, faintly spicy seasoning, the good-stuff-to-filler ratio was not quite in the diner’s favor. More chicken, eggs and veggies, and less rice, please.
One caveat: Although the order-at-the-counter service was helpful and congenial, on this day our food took a good 20-some minutes to reach us in a half-full dining room. This is not necessarily fast food — but thankfully, it doesn’t taste like it, either.