The dining habits of men aren't difficult to figure out: eat while standing, eat alone, but most importantly, eat fast.

The dining habits of men aren't difficult to figure out: eat while standing, eat alone, but most importantly, eat fast.

At Tensuke Express, the principles of male dining are routinely enforced. Located in a cluster of Japanese shops in the Kenny Center, the Express is informal, inexpensive and quick. The menu is largely devoted to noodles, such as the zaru soba ($5.50) - a tangle of chilled noodles served with a dipping sauce, wasabi and green onions. Uncomplicated but rewarding. Fortify it with shrimp tempura ($1.25 each), coated with a fluffy batter that
isn't oily.

Combinations are well represented on the menu. Get a panko-battered pork cutlet, fried to golden brown, paired with white rice ladled with a homemade curry sauce that's piquant but also easy on the palate ($7.25). Also consider the udon noodle soup (udon being Japanese for linguini on steroids) served with barbecued eel over rice ($6.75). For the meat-and-potatoes civilian, eel might sound like a wild culinary adventure. Truth be told, it
has a very mild taste, heightened by the sweet glaze.

Weekdays are for ramen noodle lovers, as three choices are offered. Shoyu ramen ($5.95) features thin cuts of pork, kinked noodles, scallions, nori and a full-bodied stock.

Most portions are satisfying but not belt-loosening. For those who need more, there is more worth exploring, including the fried gyoza (Japanese dumplings, $2.95) or chicken karaage ($2.95), deep-fried pieces of dark meat chicken. Stay away from the sunomono ($2.95), normally a salad with seafood, seaweed and cucumbers in a sweet vinegar. Here, it's mostly seaweed with a few cucumbers and some crabstick.

The express took over Tenkai, a seafood restaurant that never got its footing. It's a small space that's fairly plain, other than the giant aquarium in the center of the room.

A lack of ambience won't matter much to people who are used to standing up while eating.

One thing that makes Tensuke Express such a dynamic experience is the adjoining grocery store, not surprisingly called Tensuke Market. Aside from the various packaged goods from the homeland, sushi is a big draw. A
prepackaged assortment of tuna, salmon and yellowtail nigiri, and tuna maki rolls costs $8.95. (We opted for carryout but were told we could eat the sushi in the Express dining room.)

So, you might say, I can get sushi everywhere from Kroger to Giant Eagle. What makes this so special?

True. Save for designer rolls, there isn't a lot of variation in traditional sushi from place to place. Freshness, portion (as much as you can judge portion without a scale) and price are the biggest areas of consideration. On all
fronts, the market makes a grand impression.

One advantage is the store's made-to-order sushi, prepared in a little cubbyhole to the back of the store. Mark off your selections on a sheet of paper, hand it in and take 15 minutes or so to browse around the store.

Refrigerated cases have a multitude of fresh-filets but also a few off-beat items, such as boiled conch ($4.01 for about two dozen), which have a briny flavor and firm texture not unlike a clam. But it takes real determination
to eat whelk sashimi ($3.95 for five slices), another mollusk that's so taut it's crunchy, and certainly with more intense flavor. Only the boldest of eaters is advised to try the whelk.

But whatever the case - dining in or eating on the run - this little oasis is just the thing for the diner looking for a quick bite.