I was skeptical when I saw the former Bar-B-Cutie building being remodeled into a Japanese restaurant. For one, I am a devoted Asakusa fan and there’s little room in my heart for more sushi affection, and two, it is such a weird location. I’ve seen several restaurants come and go since I moved here, so I wasn’t very hopeful about Koto.
I decided to give it a try right after it opened and was blown away by the transformation of the interior space. It’s like walking into an alternate universe. It used have a bright and cheery chain restaurant feel, and now it is decked out in dark woods and Asian decor. Part of the space has been sectioned off for hibachi, which I haven’t tried yet. When sushi is an option, it’s the option I always choose.
I love popping into Koto for lunch. Because it’s so close to my office, it’s the perfect spot for lunch meetings. Prices are more than fair. I can get in and out for under $10, and that includes soup, salad, and two rolls. I’ve been a couple times for dinner, as well, and was thoroughly impressed by the sushi selection, service, and prices.
Last weekend, Jon’s dad came to town and took us to dinner. We opted for Koto and had a wonderful experience. We started with soup. I am partial to the clear soup ($1.50), which contains chicken broth with mushrooms. green onions and tempura crunch. Jon loves Miso ($2), made with soy bean based soup, tofu, green onions and seaweed. Jon’s dad chose Kani soup ($2), made with chicken broth, crab, tofu, green onions, and seaweed. Next, we sampled the Beef Negamaki ($5.95). I have had it once before based on a recommendation from a friend and really liked it. It’s made with thinly sliced beef drenched teriyaki sauce, wrapped in scallion and served warm. I am typically not a beef eater, but this beef is so thin and so tender, it seems to melt in your mouth. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest adding it to your must-try list.
We ordered two rounds of rolls. First up: Dynamite ($12.95), Fire Island ($11.95), and Black Diamond ($10.95).
The Dynamite Roll is made with spicy salmon and avocado, and topped with flaming tuna, white tuna, salmon, strip bass, caviar, onion, and chef’s special sauce. I love rolls that incorporate a wide variety of fish and seafood. Each bite offers something different. And anytime a roll contains spicy salmon, it’s a no brainer for me. It’s just spicy enough to get the blood pumping, but not spicy enough to make the experience unpleasant.
Fire Island is a different story… it’s almost too spicy, but I loved every bite of it. It’s made with spicy tuna, jalapeno and tempura crunch, topped with salmon, spicy sauce and caviar. The name suits it well, so if you can’t handle spicy food, steer clear of this one. Jon and I love spicy food, so this one goes down as a top choice for us. The combination of spicy and crunchy is right up our alley.
Perhaps the most unique roll on the menu, the Black Diamond is made with crab meat, avocado and shrimp tempura, rolled and deep fried and topped with green onion, caviar, eel sauce and spicy panzu sauce. I don’t know about you, but deep frying a sushi roll seems sacrilegious, but let me tell you, it’s absolutely delicious. The light tempura breading provides an unparalleled crunch and texture. I was concerned that eating a warm sushi roll would turn my stomach, but I enjoyed it immensely. All the flavors combine to propel this to the top of our list.
For round two, we ordered the Manhattan roll ($9.95) and finished it off with two lighter rolls, an Avocado ($3.50) and an Oshinko ($3.50), or Japanese Pickle.
The Manhattan roll contains shrimp tempura, eel, caviar, avocado, and wasabi mayo sauce. It is lighter than the first three rolls and presented a nice combination of flavors and textures. I am a big fan of eel, so I enjoyed its flavor mixed throughout. Of course, we love the crunch, and this roll has a lot of it.
The Avocado Roll and the Oshinko roll are very light and provided a refreshing ending to our meal.
I encourage you give Koto a try, if you haven’t already. Prices are fair, sushi is exceptional, and the ambiance is intimate and appropriate.