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Just Opened By: P. Bell

Koto Japanese Steak House
700 Eastgate South Dr. Cincinnati, OH 45245 (513) 752-3826

Eastgate’s main shopping square has a new Japanese Hibachi restaurant. Literally across the street from the not-to-busy “Fuji Japanese Steak House” is the new “Koto Japanese Steak House”. Walking in, the interior space is impressively decorated. Cool dark colors, shiny granite, black & gold print fabrics and rich woods create a smart & inviting space. A floor to ceiling rock wall fountain trickles in the entry. A big liquor bar morphs into a big sushi bar. Of course there are the ubiquitous hibachi grills for the diners who choose to be flame kissed while oohing and ahhing at the shrimp juggling hibachi chefs. I’ve been a bit bored by that sort of schtick for a decade or so now, a simple comfortable booth suits me just fine.
An Asian foodie cohort and I stopped by during lunch time. The lunch menu was devoid of any noodles though. Bento box lunches, rice dishes, salads, sushi and hibachi pretty much summed it up. Most items ran between $8-13. Both of us are Asian noodle fans and none were offered on the menu so we had to order off the dinner menu.
Udon noodles are offered three ways in either soup or stir fried versions. We opted for the seafood udon ($13). The smoky stir fried noodles come with shrimp, scallop, “crab stick”, whitefish, fish cake and vegetables. The shrimp were quite fine, the scallops were decent, even if there were only two. We never discovered any whitefish and the fish cake must have been the thick slivers of the unidentifiable (to us) seafood flavored pieces. The imitation “crab stick” was somehow deleted from our order. Overall, the udon dish was decent. The seared seafood and smoky noodles had an enticing aroma and was quickly devoured.
Since we were sharing, several starters were ordered; rocket shrimp ($6) shrimp wrapped in spring roll paper, agedashi tofu ($5) tofu cubes fried with fish flakes and shumai ($5) small fried dumplings filled with minced shrimp. All were served with their own sauces and each had merit. However, we were both a bit disappointed with the fact that the rocket shrimp were not de-veined. After a mention to our oh-so attentive server they were removed from the bill. I’ll admit, with a bit more attention with the knife to rid these buggers of their big black veins, they would have been the table’s favorite. Fried crisp, the big shrimp were cooked perfectly. The accompanying sauce was sweet & spicy. We both chose to use it on the tofu and dumplings even though their soy based sauces were interesting.
Several other starters sounded worth trying; Rising Sun Fries (Japanese style sweet potato fries $4), Beef Negimaki (pan seared beef and scallion wrap with teriyaki sauce $6) and Mt Fuji Onion Rings (tempura battered with Japanese BBQ $4). There are also 17 sushi rolls, nine tempuras and of course hibachi ($15-30 dinner/ $8-13 lunch) if you’re into that sort of thing.
Is it good? Sure, it was decent. I appreciate the fast & friendly removal of the de-veined shrimp dish too. My question is... why Eastgate? The other hibachi place next door does little business from what I see. Will this one somehow do much more? Granted the shrimp dish I had at Fuji was nearly inedible it was so tough. But still. Most people probably fall for the fire show hibachi grill. If they don’t go to the one there is now, why would they go to the new one. Sizzling Wok is next door, even though they only serve hardcore-Americanized everyday Chinese, they aren’t exactly packed either. Yet, the Sizzling Wok on Beechmont stays busy, even though they have a ridiculously rude owner & snobby staff and serve the same old Americanized Chinese crap.
Time will tell if the Eastgate residents will embrace Koto over the next door competition or if the folks just aren’t interested in a $20+ per person dinner/flame show. Koto may have (well, does have) better quality (much better) than Fuji but still, just down the way you have “Golden Corral” and a Chinese buffet to deal with. They may serve bottom dollar processed crap, but they sell it by the boat load. Wall to wall, packed to the gills every night and day. What does that tell you about the Eastgate diner’s preferences? Good luck Koto, you have a serious struggle to steal folks from the fast food joints and cheap buffets. Fuji has never seemed to get a handle on it, neither has Sizzling Wok. Never say never but odds are odds.




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