For Day 3 of the Urban Spoon Random Restaurant Challenge, I was just hoping to get out of Hillsboro Village. To my delight the wheels went round and round and came up Koto. Jackpot!
Even though I work out near the airport, I eat lunch downtown a lot. It's a nice break to the day to walk around a little bit and watch the urbanites in their native habitat, especially woman who don't wear sweats to work like at my place of business. It really only takes about 10 minutes to get to the CBD, so it usually fits within my time constraints.
I turned up 7th Avenue headed toward my normal secret parking spot only to be confronted by the dreaded "Parking Lot Full" sign. I usually keep a couple of borrowed CDs in my car to listen to and to use as an excuse to get my parking validated at the library lot. Because don't we all deserve a little validation every now and then? Unfortunately, I was off cycle and hadn't checked out anything new recently to return, and the library's version of "Burger King Betty" had no interest in my plan to just drop in to pick up something off the hold shelf. Plan B.
The pedestrian mall on Deaderick Street where the MTA buses used to frequent has recently added a good quantity of on-street parking spots. I guess they're still in beta, because while the machine to pay for your temporary parking permit was now operational, nobody has numbered the spaces yet. I just typed in 001 as my spot number, paid my dollar and hoped for the best.
A quick walk around the corner led me to the new location of Koto. The interior is certainly much more attractive than the dingy dining room that they vacated last year. Even though there was a short line when I arrived, I was seated quickly at a table large enough for me to spread out my new glossy copy of the Scene and surreptitiously take my diner's notes. I don't think I could've pulled that off seated at the sushi bar.
Koto's menu suffers from gigantism, but in actuality it's mainly different permutations of the same foods. The easy solution for me is usually the Bento Box lunch special. For $7.25 you get miso soup, salad, your choice of a roll and some sort of teriyaki with a cucumber salad. The same price at Wendy's will buy you a super-size Value Meal and a side order of self-loathing.
My soup came almost immediately. The dashi had a stronger fish flavor than I am used to, but it was a comfortably warm beginning to the meal. The universal Japanese ginger salad dressing was tart without being cloying. I didn't intend to finish the salad but didn't want to leave any dressing behind.
The sushi chefs were in overdrive keeping up with the lunch crowd, and the rolls showed that they were rushing. My tuna was jaggedly cut and bland, and the nori wrapper burst at the seams from an overabundance of rice. I guess you get what you pay for. My special sushi orders during dinner at Koto have always been expertly prepared, so they've earned a pass.
The teriyaki chicken was much better, with tender thigh meat served over peas, carrots, cabbage, squash and mushrooms. Well seasoned, the dish avoided the danger of some teriyakis to be overly sweet or too salty. With a refreshing cucumber salad on the side, it was a pleasantly varied lunch without the inherent overeating dangers of your typical Chinese buffet.
My check was a little slow to arrive, but I chalked that up to the fact that I had seated myself inside the glass aquarium/penalty box of a table near the front door. Service was attentive and polite with the intent of getting diners fed and back to work in time to contribute to the economic recovery. And as a bonus, my car was still there when I got back to Deaderick.
I call that a successful lunch.