Yamato may seem to be just another suburban Japanese storefront; it's not.
"Amazing sushi," comments a woman at a nearby table. "You've got to order the yellowtail with jalapeño."
We do. And, at the suggestion of our ebullient waitress, we go for another sushi bar special, orange clam.
One half of a giant clam shell holds live clam and scallop sashimi, the other half, the same shellfish, cooked, in ponzu sauce; the overall experience is like eating the ocean breeze.
I've had yellowtail with jalapeño in more places than I want to count; the version here - mild fish, subtly piquant peppers - ranks among my favorites. A sashimi appetizer - eight pieces of assorted fish - is pristine.
The temperature and texture of both rice and fish are optimal in the maki rolls I sample - a sumptuous salmon-avocado roll and a harmonious "lawn" roll fashioned of scallop, white tuna, scallion, tempura flakes, spicy mayonnaise and wasabi-infused roe. A sushi "deluxe" platter is just right.
Gyoza (described on the menu as "baked" but actually sauteed) are delicate and savory. Even the shui mai (shrimp dumplings) rise above the pasty cliche.
A hearty chicken curry shows off the kitchen chef's skills. So, too, does shoga-yaki, chicken in a lively ginger sauce. And I'm wild about the unaju, succulent strips of eel in barbecue sauce over rice.
Chicken yakitori, skewered white meat pieces with peppers, is overcooked and dry. So is the chicken in the yaki udon, a noodle stir-fry. Batter-fried banana with ice cream is just plain dull. Why can't most Japanese restaurants do justice to dessert?
There's not a hint of attitude or pretension here. You're greeted as a welcome guest the first time, a valued regular the next. Who wouldn't want to return?