Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kyoto Sushi Bar: Revisited

Before anyone starts to cry foul (or, more appropriately for our blog, maybe fowl?), this is not so much of a review as it is an honest effort to keep you, our dear readers, up-to-date on our more interesting dining experiences.

Andy and I are complete and utter sushi nuts. We love the good stuff. We love the baroque stuff. We love the semi-good stuff from the cooler case at Sendiks. We even like my sad-excuse for homemade sushi that I force on my relatives every year at Christmas... but that's another show.

About the only thing we don't like about sushi is how quickly our bills begin to rack up at the finer institutions around town. Which is why, when I first went to Kyoto (the sushi bar, not the city in Japan) about two years ago, it was an absolute revelation: all-you-can-eat sushi on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights, and the quality... was really pretty good!

But, ripe fruit soon spoils, right? Well, sometimes. But in the case of Kyoto, I'm happy to report, after a number of Eating Milwaukee outings over the past couple of months, we have nothing but raves about the place.

Sure, more authentic sushi can be found elsewhere. Sure, some of the combinations are kinda weird (teriyaki chicken maki, er, what?). Sure, the service can be kind of slow sometimes, and my inkling is that it keeps the lightweights from ordering so much sushi. But, for those of us die-hards who have been conditioning for such a dare, Kyoto still delivers the one-two punch of quantity and quality that beats my monthly sushi craving into submission. 

Let's go to the highlight reel, shall we?

Some variety of maki topped with mango sauce. The sweet/tart mango plays a nice jazz-chord with the salty crunch of the tempura, so I'll let this one go with a, "Eh. I liked it."

 The "Sunshine Roll." I'm going to write the exact description from Kyoto's take-out menu, so pardon the tense-shifts, missing pronouns and adverbs, and bizarre syntax. I think it's kind of charming.

Grilled salmon, avocado, and cream cheese inside. Fresh salmon, crunchy, and spicy sauce on top.

The salmon inside was cooked. I guess I wasn't jumping out of my boxers for grilled salmon maki, but it was fun. In a grilled-salmon kind of way.

Shrimp tempura roll. Enough said:

 Spicy tuna roll. This is one where I actually was sort of underwhelmed, only because the texture of the tuna vaguely resembles that of strawberry preserves. I think the chefs' chop is so fine that when they mix it with the chili sauce, the tuna loses any sense of integrity it once had, and simply becomes spicy mush. Next!

Philly Maki. I'm ashamed to say, I absolutely loved this one. Cold-smoked raw salmon, avocado, and cream cheese. Absolutely to die for.

 And this is the part of the show where it becomes obvious that Kyoto is not aiming for authenticity: the eel nigiri isn't so much broiled as it is deep fried. Whatever. The end bits of the eel are crispy, the filet as a whole is perfectly done, and it's piping hot when it comes to your plate. Traditional? Absolutely not. Authentic? Ehhh, questionable. Delicious? Hold on to your hat, because this is a fantastic twist on the classic...

 Miso soup! We've missed you! No, we actually haven't, but you came with dinner, and like a friend-of-a -friend you're not fond of but tolerate to keep from offending, we ate the soup, anyway.

Oh, my deep-fried oyster maki. Still my favorite, after all these years. There's something so holy about a crunchy, soft, creamy oyster in vinegared rice, with avocado and sweet eel sauce.

The legendary snow white roll. So good, we ordered a minimum of two of them. On two different occasions. Here's the menu text:

Shrimp tempura, avocado, and cream cheese inside. Spicy crabmeat and tobiko on top.

I can't offer a reason why this one is so delicious, but it must have something to do with the perfect alignment of flavor and texture. Still fancier than true maki, but a treat nonetheless.

This is either the Magic Maki or some fourth-grader's science fair project. I'm going with the Magic Maki:

Shrimp tempura, crabmeat, eel, cream cheese, cucumber, and avocado

 Oh! One of my absolute favorites! Spartan, but nearly perfect in its simplicity. I give you, the spicy shrimp roll (spicy minced shrimp with asparagus)

Our nigiri sushi lineup: Yellowtail, Red Snapper, Tako, Eel, and Tobiko.

 Add this under the "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" column: tobiko sushi. Delicious, but one is enough for a single visit.

Four Seaweed salad, three soy burger dinner, two tofu dog platter and one pasta with meatless balls! 

It tastes the same. If you close your eyes.

I have to admit, this picture, now that I'm looking at it in my browser window, gives the seaweed a decidedly more yellow tint that it actually was: a bright, vibrant emerald green. The flavor echoed that brightness: crisp, fresh, a little spicy from red pepper flake, and nutty from sesame oil. You can order as many seaweed salads with your meal as you want (remember, it's AYCE!), so give it a try! And you don't even have to put up with snotty waiters who don't like alternative-lifestyle bohemians!

My arch-nemesis, the Spider Roll! Will I ever get past the idea of eating an entire crab, soft-shell and all, and just learn to enjoy the damn sushi already? Tune in next week, same fat time, same fat channel!

It is interesting to note that Kyoto has remodeled since our visit in 2009, resulting in a much, much more chic and open feel. The lighting fixtures scream Downtown, but the acoustic tile ceiling still sheepishly mutters, "strip mall in Greenfield, ho hum." No worries. The sushi was still a massive value, and for the amazing total of $55 for two people (and that also included two sodas), we consumed about $125 (market) worth of sushi. Which will always tip the scales in these days of fighting my cat for his own food and stealing ketchup packets from McDonalds to make spaghetti because I can't afford Chef Boyardee.

In short, Kyoto is still flippin' sweet. 


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