Wondering what if …

Photo By David Robert

Have you ever had an experience that, although it turned out OK, could have been so much better? Like a delightful vacation that starts with the airline losing your luggage. Or a great date with someone you like, who just happens to have bad breath.

Or, in our case, a lunch at Kyoto Restaurant.

RN&R staff members Kelley Lang and Carli Cutchin joined me on a recent Tuesday afternoon for lunch at Kyoto. Its decor is understated in a very classy way, with a black, white and gray interior. The servers are all dressed formally in black and white, indicating this is no fast-food joint.

The menu is huge, with 18 lunch specials, dozens of regular entrees and a full-service sushi bar (where you can get all-you-can-eat on Tuesdays and Thursdays for dinner, and on Saturdays for both lunch and dinner). We all decided on lunch specials. I went with the ten don, deep fried prawns and vegetables over rice ($7.55), while Kelley chose the tori shogayaki, sliced chicken sautéed in ginger sauce ($5.95) and Carli decided on the tori teriyaki, broiled chicken breast with teriyaki sauce ($6.95). These meals all included a chicken wing and yakitori (chicken on a stick), fried rice (in the case of Carli and Kelley) and a choice of salad or soup of the day. We also decided to split the unakyu (eel roll, $5) and the San Francisco Roll, which consists of tempura shrimp, avocado and onion topped with sauce and sesame seeds ($6.50).

Our server brought Kelley’s salad, along with miso soup for Carli and me. Our soups were typically good miso, and Kelley enjoyed her simple salad—iceberg lettuce with carrots and tangy rice vinegar dressing.

Shortly thereafter, our sushi came. And that’s where the problems started.

The sushi’s taste and quality were excellent. The ingredients were fresh, and the tastiness rivaled any of the sushi I’ve had in town. The problem was that the rolls were too big. While it was possible, albeit a bit awkward, to eat the pieces of the unakyu roll, it was impossible to eat the San Francisco Roll pieces without getting a fork and cutting them up. They were enormous. Since sushi pieces are meant to be eaten with chopsticks in one bite, this caused some messy problems.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed the sushi and eagerly waited for our main courses. Unfortunately, this led to the second problem. Our eagerness turned into frustration when the wait dragged on and on. It took between 20 and 30 minutes for our dishes to arrive, without any explanation from our server.

Thankfully, Carli and Kelley were delighted once the meals arrived. Carli’s chicken was delicious—the sauce had an understated tanginess to it, and the breast was perfectly cooked. And after tasting Kelley’s chicken in the ginger sauce, I was jealous that I didn’t order it. It was magnificent—one of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever had in an Asian food restaurant.

But the problem was with my meal. The tempura shrimp and veggies were jammed into a bowl with the rice underneath, and there was no way for me to get to the rice without major deconstruction. Second, while my two shrimp and some of the larger vegetables (mushrooms, a green bean and a piece of what appeared to be zucchini) were easy to eat, the onion and carrot slivers that made up the bulk of the vegetables had fused into one enormous, unappetizing mass.

While we all left Kyoto restaurant full and satisfied, we were also a bit frustrated at Kyoto’s missteps—the oversized sushi pieces, our long wait and my tempura vegetable glob. It was one of those experiences that, although it turned out OK, could have been so much better.