If you’re hankering for sushi, love hibachi-grilled food or want a quiet, sit-down Japanese dinner, Kyoto Sushi Steakhouse is the place for you.
The restaurant’s sushi bar features about 100 sushi appetizers, maki and special rolls ($4 to $13.75), and a la carte selections ($3.75 to $6.65). It offers a whole ocean of fish choices — rolls with exotic names such as Black Dragon roll (spicy crabmeat, crunchy flakes, eel, avocado, eel sauce, sesame seeds), Funky Roll (crab stick, avocado, cucumber, fried tilapia, masago roe, scallion, eel sauce, spicy mayo) and Spider Roll (fried soft shell crab, lettuce, cucumber, spicy mayo and eel sauce).
We were tempted by this pescatarian paradise but, alas, were there for the hibachi grill. I couldn’t resist one pre-dinner indulgence: the Green River Roll ($12.95), an eight-piece roll of rice, shrimp tempura, eel and cucumber wrapped in soy paper and topped with spicy crabmeat, mayo, wasabi mayo and eel sauce. Fantabulous.
Kyoto is not only about enjoying food grilled in front of you in the hibachi room, where eight 4-foot-wide hibachi grills are each surrounded by eight chairs. You also have the choice of eating in a dining room for sit-down service from the kitchen. It’s the same food but with quite different presentations. One room’s offerings are homestyle and rustic, while the other’s are decorative and sophisticated.
We opted for the on-site cooking show and were seated with six other folks at one of the steaming hot grills. Then, the chef came out and the show began. First, he ignited a small pool of vodka and then added some squirts of cooking oil, sending flames soaring 3 feet above the grill into the hood above him. While the flames were dying, he stacked four layers of raw onion volcano style, squirted some vodka and oil inside and ignited the onion pile to the oohs and aahs of the customers.
After the pyrotechnics, he got down to stir-frying a large pile of white rice and adding eggs, some spices and sauces, working it all together and serving large spatula-sized portions to each diner. Some began eating; some, like us, waited. Then he poured a huge pile of raw veggies on the grill and added sauces and stir-fried the lettuce, carrots, peppers, broccoli, zucchini, and onion.
After identifying who ordered what protein (shrimp, scallops, lobster, steak, filet mignon, chicken, calamari or salmon) and how they liked it cooked, he began grilling everything very quickly. I had ordered the lobster and steak ($32.95), two proteins hard to time so they both finish cooking at once. They came out perfectly. The lobster cooked to a tender and moist state; the steak was right-on medium rare.
My friend went for the filet mignon, chicken and shrimp ($31.95) and, like me, was totally satisfied that each protein was tasty, tender and moist. Again, the chef’s deftly wielded spatula served up bite-size pieces of bird, crustacean and cow, then added generous piles of impeccably al dente veggies. We shared bites and both of us gave the chef two thumbs up.
One suggestion: Upgrade the onion soup, a beef broth with a few small pieces of green onion and one thin mushroom slice floating on the top. Likewise, the salad — an uninspired, small bowl of lettuce, some tiny carrots julienne, some small slices of cucumber and few croutons, all drowned in a Thousand Island-like dressing — could use improvement. Neither the soup nor salad was worth the trouble to make or eat.
Like most Asian menus, Kyoto’s dessert selections are limited: New York cheesecake, chocolate lava cake, ice cream tempura and ice cream. I was intrigued by the mochi ice cream ($3.95), a dainty scoop of ice cream wrapped with either a strawberry- or mango-flavored, soft, sticky rice dough. Quite delicious.