Japanese-style tastes better $50 or less

December 31, 1998|By David Michael Ettlin and Bonnie J. Schupp | David Michael Ettlin and Bonnie J. Schupp,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

David enjoyed the fish, and Bonnie enjoyed the mushrooms.

If that proves anything, it may be that Japanese dining has strange effects on people.

Just back from nearly three weeks in Japan, Bonnie was craving Japanese food, and Kyoto seemed a likely choice -- not the ancient city over there, but the restaurant over here in Severna Park.

Although the name on the front of the restaurant said Kyoto, Bonnie knew we weren't in Japan because no plastic food was displayed in the window. In Japan, such displays are necessary for patrons who don't speak Japanese. To order, you drag a waiter outside and point to what you want, hoping there aren't too many hidden surprises.

With our older daughter, we started with some of that fish stuff -- and David, who generally stays away from seafood, bravely took a lesson in sushi. He found it didn't taste at all fishy. Rather, he said, it was just delicate interesting surprisingly terrific.

We tried kappa maki (cucumber roll), saki maki (salmon) and hamachi (yellowtail), and the trio sampling proved to be a highlight of the meal.

Menu geared for Americans

For the main course, our daughter ordered a filet mignon and salmon combination ($15.95), David picked chicken teriyaki ($11.95), and Bonnie opted for sukiyaki beef ($12.95) -- selections characteristic of a menu geared for American tastes.

Seated around a table grill designed for performance cooking (just like Benihana), we watched our dishes being prepared with dramatic slice-and-dice knife work by our "personal chef" as we finished off the sushi, sipped our tasty miso (bean curd) and Japanese onion soups, and contemplated a pedestrian salad with a "special" house dressing that seemed a few islands short of a thousand.

Grilled at table

The entrees were cooked on the teppanyaki table grill, Japanese hibachi style, with an assortment of vegetables -- including mushrooms that anti-mushroomite Bonnie enjoyed -- and served with two dipping sauces and steamed rice.

The rice lacked the rich, distinctive flavor Bonnie had found in the stickier rice in visits to Tokyo and the prefecture of Kagawa. She asked about the rice, and we were told that rice imported from Japan is very expensive and used only in the sushi.

Bonnie, not a beer drinker, ordered a bottle of Sapporo -- much smoother than the biting flavor she perceives in American beers.

The menu noted that dinners include a "2 Shrimp Sampler." But all of our dinners were two shrimp short.

Still, we had plenty of food and didn't realize we had been short-shrimped until we were out the door.

With the beer ($3.25), two cups of green tea (at $1.50) and a glass of Coke ($1), the tab for the three of us came to just under $60 before tax and tip. In other words, if we had left our daughter at home, it would have been a $50-and-under kind of place.

And, overall, a pretty good one.

David and Bonnie welcome readers' suggestions on Anne Arundel restaurants with a good meal for two, priced under $50 (before tip and taxes). Write to them at P.O. Box 1152, Pasadena 21123.

Kyoto

Kyoto: Park Plaza Shopping Center, 568-C Ritchie Highway, Severna Park. 410-647-4500.

Hours: Noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Prices: Sushi, from $3.50; appetizers, $2.95-$4.95; entrees, $8.95-$25.95

4 Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express

Rating: ***

Ratings: * culinary wasteland

**** culinary heaven

Pub Date: 12/31/98

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