Tuesday, Aug 21, 2018
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Restaurant Reviews


KotoBuki bounces back with top-notch food

Japanese restaurant hasn't lost luster over past 2 decades

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    Four special rolls: Crazy Boy roll, Toledo roll, calamari tempura roll, and Mt. Fuji roll from KotoBuki.

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    Dolsot Bibimbop from KotoBuki.

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    Ramen Noodles with pork from KotoBuki.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

KotoBuki has been a top-notch Japanese restaurant for more than two decades, and many past meals of sushi there have always left me thinking “that was amazing.”

KotoBuki Japanese Restaurant

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Address: 5577 Monroe St., Sylvania

Phone: 419-882-8711.

Category: Dressy casual.

Menu: Japanese.

Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday- Saturday. Dinner: 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are accepted.

Wheelchair access: Yes.

Average price: $$$

Credit cards: MC, V, D, AE

Website: kotobukitoledo.com.

Ratings: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Outstanding; ★ ★ ★ ★ Very Good; ★ ★ ★ Good; ★ ★ Fair; ★ Poor

Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants.

The Blade pays for critics’ meals.

Still, it’s been a few years since we actually reviewed KotoBuki, so that is our mission today.

Serving raw fish requires attention to freshness, which the chefs at KotoBuki do with a measure of obsession wrapped around a great deal of pride.

MENU: KotoBuki Japanese Restaurant

RELATED CONTENT: Recently reviewed restaurants

Having regularly ordered the Sushi Deluxe ($24.95), which comes with nine pieces of chef-selected sushi and a California or Tuna roll, my dining companions and I decided over two visits to indulge in the menu’s other entrees.

Our first visit was on Tuesday night when there was just one table left open for us. The service was uncharacteristically slow, likely from the large crowd on what is usually a slow night, and the dishes were not the stellar meals we’ve come to expect.

We opted during that first trip for steak, noodles, and three rolls.

For those uncomfortable with the notion of raw fish, KotoBuki offers plenty of dishes that have seen a flame. One dining companion ordered the Steak Teriyaki ($19.95), a generous portion of sliced New York strip served with a medley of vegetables. The meat was cooked medium, as ordered, coated with a teryiaki glaze that was neither too sweet or dense. The recipient’s only complaint was a familiar one: strip steak isn’t the tenderest of cuts, which means your molars get a workout from chewing. If you know that going in, you’re good.

The Yaki Soba ($10.95), pan-fried noodles, were flavorful but not the best dish the restaurant has to offer. It was a little heavy on the oil and wasn’t nearly as pretty as the picture displayed in the menu.

We felt obligated to order the Blade Roll ($16), an oversized serving wrapped with a thick slice of yellowfin tuna that was good if you like the hint of balsamic vinegar splashed on top. The roll is a special but our server said it would be added to the menu permanently

We also had a California Roll ($5.50), and a Plain Fashion Roll ($7.50), which includes avocado, cucumber, spinach, kanpyo (sweet pickled gourd), lettuce, and asparagus. Both are good choices again for those avoiding raw fish.

Now, for the second chance I spoke of; our second visit was amazing.

My companions and I started dinner with our standard and beloved Shumai ($5.50), shrimp-filled potstickers. They are some of the best we’ve enjoyed. We also tried the Grilled Octopus with Miso Sauce ($7.95). My companions, weak of heart or something, were squeamish about the five thinly sliced tentacles, complete with suction cups, but I went full force. Drizzled with a homemade sauce, it was an amazing start to our dinner.

One fellow diner ordered the Ramen Noodles with pork ($12.95). These are not the instant noodles that sustained many through college. This spicy Korean-style ramen with vegetables and egg was an amazing take on the college staple. The noodles and meat were soaked in a delicious broth.

The most exciting and best part of our dinner was the Dolsot Bibimbop ($15.95). This was my first time having this dish, which I have seen prepared on cooking shows with great success and horrendous failure. The Korean dish with rice, sprouts, vegetables, and grilled beef was topped with a fried egg and served with KotoBuki’s special hot sauce on the side. It’s served in a sizzling stone bowl meant to slightly brown or crisp the rice at the bottom. KotoBuki nailed it. It was an amazing combination of tastes. If you try one dish at this restaurant, make it this one.

The restaurant offers a wide selection of “special” rolls. Ranging from modern classics to chef’s specialties. They’re big, bright, and bold.

We chose the Crazy Boy Roll ($7.95), which comes with avocado, crab, and cucumber, deep-fried tempura style; Calamari Tempura Roll ($9.95), a fried calamari, avocado, and cucumber roll with sweet light and delicious sauce; and the Mt. Fuji Roll ($15.95) which has salmon, crab, tuna, avocado, cucumber, and tobiko — a rainbow of flying fish roe.

All three were amazing, with the Mt. Fuji standing out as the winner on the sushi boat.

It’s worth mentioning that lunch specials and dinners come with miso soup and a house salad with a light ginger dressing.

KotoBuki hasn't lost its luster over the past two decades, a notable achievement in a city that has seen sushi restaurants continue to proliferate.

Contact Bill of Fare at: fare@theblade.com.

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