ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Summertime is sushi time. Japanese restaurants provide a wider array of cool (in both senses of the word) things to eat It’s cold food than any other kind of eatery. It’s light, too. Even the cup of soup is usually a little tepid, making the entire experience refreshing when the heat is on.
That’s something we can all agree on. Here’s something we can’t: which are the best sushi purveyors around town. Even the bad ones (and there are not many of those) have adherents who declare as self-evident that their place is supreme. Kyoto Uptown is one of the good ones, and has an unusually large following.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Lots of sushi bars are Uptown, where lots of sushi eaters live. Kyoto has particular appeal to many of them, because in a time when even sushi bars seem to be slipping into slick formulas, this place still has a personality and a uniquely Uptown look. The menu is above average both in its selection and its goodness. You get not just sushi, tempura, and teriyaki dishes but also some grilled, barbecued, noodle, and vegetarian dishes in significant number.
The menu has all the favorites–that’s necessary for serving those who eat the same few dishes every time they go Japanese. The charm of Kyoto is in the number of dishes here I’ve seen nowhere else (like the grilled or stuffed mushrooms) or are done better here than most places (tuna or beef tataki). The sushi list is pretty comprehensive in scope. The cooked side of the menu is a shade more ambitious than most.
Sara Molony was the first woman to open a sushi bar in New Orleans, as far as I know. That’s noteworthy, because of the old Japanese prohibition (now discredited) against female sushi chefs. She opened the place in 1995 to a quickly enthusiastic audience. In 2009 she opened a second location in Elmwood.
Kyoto occupies an old Uptown storefront, and so feels like a standard New Orleans neighborhood cafe. It’s a bit run down, a quality it shares with all of its restaurant neighbors. (It’s in the middle of a knot of good restaurants.) None of the tables or even the sushi bar itself seem to fit quite right in the space. The regulars consider this part of the charm.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Grilled shimeji/shiitake mushrooms
Grilled beef and asparagus roll
Japanese barbecue mackerel or salmon
Grilled yellowtail neck
Seaweed udon soup
Buckwheat noodles in broth with slices of beef
Baby octopus salad
Sushi and Sashimi
Made to order, in assortments, or special rolls
Steamed and chilled broccoli, snow peas, carrots, sesame oil
Vegetarian tempura dinner
Chicken, beef, or salmon teriyaki
Sukiyaki (sliced beef stew with vegetables)
Black sesame ice cream
Green tea ice cream
Ginger ice cream
FOR BEST RESULTS
Allow enough time to go through the menu of rolls. As in most places, this is mainly a process of eliminating the 90 percent with snow crab as an ingredient. Also as in most places, it helps to engage the friendship of the sushi chefs, and asking what’s especially interesting today.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
If it were me, I’d renovate the premises pretty soon. But that may upset some of the regulars.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment -1
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +2
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Quick, good meal
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted