Koto Japanese Steakhouse recently opened in the building formerly occupied by Bennigans on Erie Blvd East in Syracuse NY. I’ve eaten at Koto’s in Burlington, VT and this location has a long way to go just to reach “average”.
Just to save you some time, if you’re looking for a Japanese Steak House, Teppanyaki or Sushi place near Syracuse, NY or Liverpool, don’t bother with Kotos, go to Ichiban instead.
Now back to the review . . .
While I generally don’t make a big deal over decor, you can really see where they went for the “Morimoto” look but only got 30% there and ended up with “Midnight Madness at the Bowling Alley” They spent a lot of money on a nice sunken Koi pond, which is wasted, since it’s only visible while you’re waiting for a table. It’s a nice touch and expensive to build and maintain and they should have made it a centerpiece.
The center of the dining area contains a large fiber-optic ceiling-display with gradually changing colors, which is actually quite beautiful. In front of it are two large roof support poles with colored lights on top, however one doesn’t seem to change at all (OK with me) while the other one flips colors like a police car. It’s amazingly annoying and really hard to ignore once you’ve noticed it.
The staff is new and is trying hard, and our waitress was very nice, although she wasn’t around a lot because the entire staff has to stop and sing/yell/chant “happy birthday” (just like at the Roadhouse), and they apparently attract a lot of birthdays. It’s also incredibly annoying to try to eat sushi while being interrupted by the wandering “happy birthday” mob. I like birthdays, but would prefer they were celebrated without staff participation.
Now to the food:
I ordered the “Spicy Trio” which includes Spicy Tuna, Salmon and Yellowtail rolls as well as Miso soup. My wife ordered the Avocado Salad and some Fried Rice.
The miso soup was weak and contained little miso. It was made with either water or incredibly weak dashi, and contained no tofu, no scallions and just a few scraps of seaweed.
The sushi smelled “fishy” and left a taste in my mouth that I was unable to kill with the mints supplied at the reception station.
I’ve eaten sushi in places that range from world-class restaurants to fast food places and make it at home for family and friends, but until today I’ve never had sushi that smelled fishy, and desperately hope that the “Spicy Trio” isn’t the destination for fish that isn’t fresh enough to serve without “spicy sauce.” I guess I’ll know by tomorrow if it’s going to make me sick or not.
Sashimi-grade fish is supposed to smell fresh like the ocean not like a fisherman’s tackle-box.
The men’s room looked like it had a long, hard life, and could use a serious cleaning and new fixtures and hardware, which is sad for a brand new restaurant. The chrome was worn off the faucet and the door handle was corroded. There was no hot water, which makes me wonder what they’re washing the dishes and cookware with. Having spent the early part of my life servicing appliances in restaurant kitchens, I can tell you that the kitchen was never any cleaner than the restrooms, and the glimpse of the kitchen I saw through the open door confirms that it’s as true today as it was thirty years ago.
The chances of a second visit are slim unless they make some really huge changes.
Have you been to Koto? What did you think?