After one splendid afternoon in which I discovered the marvellous wonders of e-Spot and turned snooker into a game of "whack the ball with the stick," it was time to join the swarm of Richmondites seeking dinner on a Friday evening. Joining me on this adventure were Adam and Puzzlefighter. Puzzlefighter suggested that we hit up Koto Izakaya, but upon arriving there, we discovered that he had really meant to take us to nearby Manzo. Unfortunately, there was a huge lineup at Manzo, and we had no choice but to head back to Koto Izakaya.
Koto Izakaya is a moderately small Chinese-operated restaurant serving sushi, sashimi, and a variety of izakaya-style dishes. Inside, there is a clear attempt to maximize the use of every inch of space. It was essentially the restaurant equivalent of the Crystal Mall parking lot. The three of us were seated at a table really meant for two. When I suggested that I should be the only one sitting on my end of the table because of my blogging equipment, Puzzlefighter was quick to suggest that I should therefore pay half of the total bill. To his dismay, I politely declined.
It turns out that space wasn't the only thing that Koto was running out of. They ran out of so many of the menu items that Puzzlefighter had a hard time ordering. We made do with what was available.
Salmon Sashimi - A
Hamachi Sashimi - B+
Toro Sashimi - A-
Tuna Sashimi - B+
Our first dish, the Assorted Sashimi, was a success. The Salmon Sashimi was very fresh and buttery and had an excellent soft texture. Each piece was sliced to just the right thickness. The Hamachi Sashimi was also pleasantly soft, but was the recipient of some unclean cutting. Both the Toro Sashimi and Tuna Sashimi had wonderfully melty textures, although the Tuna Sashimi showed slight hints of fishiness.
Imperial Roll - B
Puzzlefighter was against the idea of ordering special rolls, but I insisted on ordering one anyways despite the somewhat lofty price tags on the special rolls. The Imperial Roll consisted of unagi, cucumber, tobiko, tuna, salmon, and spicy unagi sauce. The flavour of the unagi was prominent, though some parts of the unagi ended up being grilled to a crisp. Although the ingredients themselves were fresh, the spicy unagi sauce mix didn't exactly work for me, as the chili sauce clashed against the sweeter unagi and unagi sauce.
Ikura Nigiri - B
Tai Nigiri - B-
Saba Nigiri - C-
The Ikura Nigiri came with a generous helping of juicy ikura, but the sushi rice underneath had a bizarre texture. It was not only dry, but also very sticky. The tai was sliced thick, but it was not too chewy. However, little could have prepared me for the disastrous Saba Nigiri. Not only was it tougher than a well-done steak that had been flattened by a rolling pin, but it was also salty enough to leave me feeling salty. Apparently, the other piece of Saba Nigiri was more reasonable texture-wise.
Fresh Oysters - B+
Our next item, the Fresh Oysters, fared much better. The small kusshi oysters had a pleasantly soft, jelly-like texture and were dressed with tangy ponzu. An even lighter application of ponzu would have helped bring out the delicate flavour of the oysters more.
Miso Soup - B+
After finishing our first round, we went for a second round, hoping that their cooked food would be consistently on point, as is often the case with Chinese-operated restaurants. Our order of Tonkatsu came with a Miso Soup, which contained tofu and green onion. It was served at a comfortably hot temperature, and there was nothing particularly amiss about it.
Tonkatsu - C
The Tonkatsu itself looked very promising when it arrived and was accompanied by a small bowl of salad as well as some steamed rice. Unfortunately, when we bit into the breaded pork cutlet, we were dismayed to find that the batter was very thick and hard. Once we got past that, we also found that the pork was sliced very thin and yielded little flavour. I began praying on the inside, hoping that our robata would be prepared better.
Pork Toro Robata - B+
The robata was indeed better. The Pork Toro Robata was tender and had a prominent smoky flavour. It tasted fresh out of the grill. The sweetness of the sauce went well with the pork toro, and all this was nicely balanced by the zing from a generous helping of sliced green onions on top.
Lamb Chop - B
Our final item, the Lamb Chop, came with a good amount of black pepper. It was adequately soft, but a touch too dry on the inside.
Despite the restaurant being very busy, the service remained friendly during our visit. The quality of the food ranged from terrific to terrible. The salmon sashimi was some of the freshest I have had in a long time, but it was a shot in the dark for many of the other items. There did not seem to be a category of dishes that performed clearly better than the others. However, the reasonable prices appeared to be enough to supply the restaurant with a constant stream of diners. By the time the late night specials menu came out, there were so many diners in the waiting area by the front entrance that it was a challenge to squeeze myself out of the restaurant.