“I love Nanny’s food better than anything else in the whole wide world.”
“My Neighbor Totoro” (1988)
It turns out that residents of Ann Arbor might just love sushi at Totoro more than anything else in the whole wide city. For the second year in a row, the Japanese restaurant, nestled between Ama Bistro and The Getup Vintage, has been voted “Best Sushi” in Ann Arbor. It’s safe to say Totoro is on a “roll,” and — much like a bowl of their delectable miso soup — it won’t be cooling down anytime soon.
Take it from LSA junior Jumana Ibrahim, who’s tried every single sushi roll on the menu over the past year: Totoro can’t be beat. Freshman year, sequestered in her dorm room during the pandemic, she and her roommate were desperate for an excuse to get fresh air — and sushi. So they walked into Totoro for the first time, and Ibrahim hasn’t gotten sushi anywhere else since.
A year later, over the span of 14 sushi runs, Ibrahim and her roommate have now tasted all 53 of Totoro’s regular and special rolls. She has a note on her phone, recording each of their visits with a score out of 10 for every roll — the Fire Island and Michigan rolls scored the highest in case you need recommendations — and started posting her sushi adventures on TikTok.
“We just got attached to it because it’s one of the first places we went to in Ann Arbor when we came to school,” Ibrahim said. “It always tastes fresh and the atmosphere inside is so busy and fun.”
Upon stepping inside the restaurant, warm light washes over the sushi chefs, hard at work behind the counter, rolling your sushi up right before your eyes. Various memorabilia from the Japanese anime movie “My Neighbor Totoro” — the restaurant’s namesake — grin at customers from around the booths. Manager Sue Kim told The Michigan Daily the restaurant has changed ownership a couple of times since they opened in 2003, so the reason the restaurant was named after the giant chinchilla-like creature has been forgotten by the current staff.
Still, Kim said it is the regular customers, like Ibrahim, who make Totoro a quintessential Ann Arbor eatery. Week after week, Kim said she sees the same sushi fanatics come back for a taste of Japanese cuisine. According to Kim, that makes Totoro feel less like a traditional restaurant and more like a constant gathering of friends.
“A lot of our customers say our sushi is the best in Ann Arbor,” Kim said. “We are very friendly and they are very friendly. I think that is the reason people keep coming back.”
Daily News Editor Roni Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.