Kyoto restaurant review

Check out this latest review of Kyoto Japanese Restaurant for an upto date take on this fine restaurant.

Overall 88/100
Food 90/100
Service 88/100
Ambience 85/100

It’s often said you should never bring up religion or politics in polite conversation. With Utah’s ever growing array of excellent sushi restaurants, I’d suggest sushi is an equally polarizing topic. Considering Utah is a landlocked state, I am continually delighted by the availability of great fresh sushi here in good ol’ SLC.

It seems everyone has their own favorite sushi haunt, with people often exhibiting almost religious fervor over their chosen venue. For some it’s the uber-creative Takashi, for others the vast selection of Tsunami tempts, while some prefer the chopstick-laden walls of Ichiban. For me it has to be Kyoto.

I’ll be the first to admit Kyoto is far from cutting edge, nor is the sushi menu as big as some. If your looking for traditional, consistent (and more importantly fresh) sushi however, then look no further. I have touched on consistency in other reviews before. In my experience there are very few restaurants in Utah, which match the levels of Kyoto’s consistent excellence.

Kyoto sits unassumingly on the corner of 1100 East and 1300 South amid a small Japanese landscaped garden. On entering the restaurant, you’re greeted by the host and can be seated at a variety of tables. Kyoto features sunken tables (no shoes please!), standard table seating or for the more sociable, the sushi bar.

Decor is simple, but very effective. Plenty of dark woods and decorative Japanese paintings help to build a calming vibe. Even on very busy weekends, the subtle stylings help to keep the atmosphere relaxing and soothing.

Our most recent trips to Kyoto have seen us sit mainly at the vibrant sushi bar. The sushi bar can be great fun, enabling you to talk with the chefs and diners alike. Perching up at the bar allows you to check directly with the chefs on any daily specials. If there is something extra special you’d like to have made, they are also usually more than happy to create something just for you.

I should also mention you can order any of the entree menu options from the sushi bar, it need not be sushi if you find yourself dining with someone less adventurous.

The following is a brief overview of our most recent visit, starting with the Kyoto sushi menu. Please note this does not include any daily specials, which are also available:

kyoto sushi menu

After filling in our sushi menu and handing it to the chef, we began the meal with a simple bowl of edamame ($3.00):

kyoto edamame

Warmed and lightly salted, edamame (soybeans in the pod) is a perfect little snack to get the palate fired up while waiting for your sushi.

The first item served up was the 8-piece Saba Sashimi :

kyoto saba sashimi

Mackerel isn’t to everyone’s taste, especially in sashimi format, I however, simply cannot get enough. The saba at Kyoto is by far and away the best I have sampled in the state. A super-strong flavored fish with an almost buttery rich quality, saba is perhaps the fishiest of fish on the menu, so not for the feint of heart.

After devouring the saba a little too quickly, we moved onto the Bear Lake Roll (left $7.00) and Alaska Roll (right $6.25):

kyoto bear roll and alaska roll

Neither of these rolls are exceptionally exotic compared to some of the elaborate sushi offerings elsewhere. They are however fresh, tasty and healthy (no deep fried rolls here). Both rolls are favorites of ours; in particular the smelt roe atop the Bear Lake Roll, which adds a pleasing crunch to the texture.

We finished with a little Albacore Nigiri (top $4.50) and Ikura (bottom $4.75):

kyoto albacore nigiri and ikura

The albacore is perfectly seared, taking an already delicious cut of fish to the next level and building a more varied texture and taste. As you may have noticed we are big fans of salmon roe, hence the always pop in your mouth fresh ikura nigiri.

Although we stopped at this point, on other more ravenous evenings, we have been known to sit a while, drink a cold Sapporo or two, and then order a little more. And the Chefs are only happy to oblige. Stay as long or as little as you like.

Whilst I have focused on Kyoto’s sushi offerings, I would be amiss not to mention their standard entrees. From teriyaki to tonkatsu to tempura, everything you would expect is served. Moreover, most of the Kyoto entrees are a bargain coming with soup, salad and rice for a usually great low price. In particular the humungous Prawn Tempura seems to be a constant hit with diners. If sushi isn’t your thing I am happy in recommending the majority of the standard menu, having tried virtually everything here over the years.

With such great food and great consistency, it should be noted that Kyoto can get exceptionally busy at times. As a consequence, reservations are always a good idea if you need a table (we find it normally easy to walk in with no reservation for the sushi bar). In addition, the rear parking lot is typically quite full on busy nights. If you do visit, keep this in mind and allow a little extra time to find parking.

Kyoto does not have a website and is located at 1080 E 1300 S Salt Lake City, UT 84105

About Stuart Melling

My high school English teacher once told me I was the most arrogant young man she had ever met. Food criticism seemed like a natural leap. Stuart is largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words he doesn't understand. Stuart is also a member of the Association of Food Journalists.

Comments

  1. says

    I’m right with you on Kyoto. They offer a very refined experience, giving the impression that the food and service have been polished over years. Things are usually just right.

    I like the scale of the sevings, particularly the sushi rolls. Even the special rolls are in reasonable bit-size pieces. I had a special roll at another establishment that was so overstuffed that I couldn’t fit the pieces in my (large) mouth.

  2. Chris O. says

    It’s sad to partake in the decline of one of Salt Lake’s most venerable, and my traditionally favorite, sushi bars: Kyoto.
    Since back in the day, over ten years ago, when dear old Rocky oversaw the sushi chefs, Kyoto has been, for me, the standard of excellence in sushi. Make no mistake, the restaurant’s tempura is still the best to be found. But their sushi, under the current guidance of Akira, Old Rocky’s protegee, has suffered from a lack of enthusiasm and care. Much the way a seemingly bored Akira treats his guests. Tonight we started with 4 dishes: seaweed and squid salad, baked mussels, mussel shooters and raw oysters. Every dish was drenched in chili spice. Even the oysters. It was as if chili or hot spice is now the fallback flavor in all their sushi recipes. Unfortunately, hot spice mangles the delicate flavor of most fish, and certainly oysters. When I had the temerity to ask about the liberal use of chili spice, I was treated to hastily and resentfully prepared sushi the rest of the evening. Including a broiled fish appetizer that was the consistency of shoe leather. I’ve been going to Kyoto’s for 15 years. Sadly, it’s time to move on. Thanks for the great meals and memories, Kyoto.

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