Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Kotobuki-21st Street, Norfolk, VA
Kotobuki has been a Ghent sushi favorite for some time. Laine has reviewed a few sushi restaurants recently and we decided to add another victim to the 'sushi wars'. I have dined at Kotobuki a few times previously, but it has probably been a good couple of years. I enjoyed myself then, but wanted to have a more recent memory to judge fairly. Typically, I order the vegetable rolls. Yes, I know, is that really sushi? Well, it is on the menu, so for me that is reality. I love the avocado-cucumber roll and any vegetable roll with cream cheese.
Persuing the menu, I see the avocado roll and the cucumber roll but no combination. No problem, the waitress told me to just write what I wanted. My only mistake was I forgot the write 'with cream cheese', but that is a lesson for next time. Be very clear. Along with the avocado-cucumber roll, I was initially going to order the California roll, which is one of the most common rolls, but then risk took me by the hand and I opted for a special, the Buddha roll, instead. What a great choice. Shiitake mushrooms, radish, sprout, pickle and topped with a heaping amount of a beautifully ripe avocado. It almost looked too pretty to eat, but I managed. I was very happy with both of my rolls. I had asked for a side of their ginger-sesame dressing and she brought me a salad by accident but did not charge me for it and said to just enjoy. The overall service was good. One worry, Laine and I have been happening upon empty restaurants lately and Kotobuki was no exception. We filled the only table during lunch and there were only a few souls at the bar enjoying rolls and such. If memory serves me correctly, lunch was not booming the last times I dined there, but there were more patrons than what we saw today.
Prices are reasonable for what you receive and in line with other sushi places around town. Sushi is never cheap, but we all felt like we got a lot of quality food for our money. It is always fun to see what the sushi art will look like, especially if it is something new, as my Buddha roll proved. One thing to be leery of and Laine will elaborate more...drinks. I am glad I had a thirst for water and nothing more. Do I hear rip off whispering in my ear...
Even after calling Alex and getting pretty good directions, Brianna* and I drove right past Kotobuki without seeing it. 21st Street at noon was wall to wall cars Wednesday. When it is 97 degrees outside with 99% humidity, people want to get where they are going. They do not want to be stuck behind someone going 5 mph while looking for a restaurant. After calling Alex a second time, we spotted Kotobuki behind some trees (oh yeah, and a BIG red sidewalk sign) and walked up to the door at the same time Alex arrived.
Again, we were dining in an empty restaurant, which set me on guard. However, I work with some sushi fans who have raved about Kotobuki, and I was determined to give it a try. My usual order is a Sushi / Sashimi combo when it comes to Japanese dining. This goes for $15.95 on their lunch menu, which is pretty steep in my opinion (Sorry Alex, I've got to disagree with you on this one point). For example, the same meal at recently reviewed Ooka is $11.95 and $11.25 at Shiki, both with soup and salad. Kotobuki serves just Miso soup with their combination. The service was brisk and friendly, and the food came out rather quickly. As soon as my plate arrived and I inventoried the contents, I determined that their $15.95 price was the deal of the century. This combo is fully loaded! Here’s what it contains:
1 California Roll (typical sushi roll, not too exciting)
Sushi-Tuna, Snapper, Shrimp, Yellow Tail
Sashimi-Clam, Octopus, Yellow Tail, Tuna, Salmon, Crab, Tamago, Shrimp
Side dish of extra rice
That is a ton of food. With the exception of the rice, I ate every bit of it. It was excellent. I’d give it 5 stars or fish or whatever rating you would give a Sushi place.
When the check arrived the total was close to $21. Oh Kotobuki, why do you charge $3.25 for a fountain soda? We all know the cost is about 15 cents. Brianna had an Iced Tea that was $2.95. After tipping the server and the Sushi Chef the total was over $25, a bit more that I would normally pay for lunch on a Wednesday afternoon. With the exception of the beverages, I’d say the price is well warranted, but I would not eat there every week because of it (yes, I eat that much Sushi). I am saving Kotobuki for paydays and special occasions.
Lastly, I’ve got to ask, what is that little gnome/bear/thing next to the obligatory restaurant fountain?
Kotobuki is located in Ghent at 721 W 21st Street, Norfolk, VA 23517.