I’m not going to lie to you. When I drove by what used to be Tinker’s Barbecue just down the street from my house in either late June or early July (I don’t remember which) and saw a sign saying that “Kioto Japanese Restaurant” was coming soon, I snorted a little. And yes, I know that should be spelled “Kyoto” but that isn’t how they spell it. Anyway…..I guess I’m a little snobby about little hole-in-the-wall restaurants and my policy is that I usually don’t even try them until someone I know tells me they’re good. So, when my assistant told me last week that she and her husband had dinner at Kioto and loved both the food and the prices, I decided to give it a shot, hoping that a new blog post was in the works (FYI, there have been several planned posts that got derailed because the food was not bloggable. Despite all the positive that you read on here, I don’t love every restaurant I try, but if you’ll read my post “Keepin’ it Light, People“, my mission is not to hurt anyone’s business, so my policy is, if I don’t have anything nice to say, I don’t say anything at all!).
So anyway…..last night we went with some friends and had dinner there. And it was good! I’ll go back.
When you walk in to Kioto, I won’t lie, there’s not a whole lot in the way of “atmosphere”. Tables and chairs. That’s pretty much it. If the food is good, though, I don’t really care about the atmosphere, unless it’s a bad atmosphere (for example, I’m not really a fan of the typical “sports bar” atmosphere. No offense to those who are). The server who seated us was extremely friendly, and I wish I had caught her name. She took our drink order before she left the table, then gave us a few minutes to peruse the menu.
As far as what they’re serving, Kioto is somewhere between Typhoon of Tokyo and Ichiban/Kanpai. They serve the soup and salad like the more expensive restaurants, but the prices are definitely closer to Typhoon prices. They pretty much immediately brought out the little cups of chicken broth, which, I’m not going to lie, tasted like it was made from bouillon cubes. Pretty quickly after that came the iceberg salad, and they brought out squeeze bottles of ginger dressing and “white sauce” (which was actually more pinkish-orange than white, but was very tasty). They also brought ranch dressing out for my friend’s 8-year-old to put on her salad. Again, I wasn’t a huge fan of the ginger dressing. I love the ginger dressing at Ichiban, but this was somewhat overpoweringly ginger-y. I ate it off of the top layer of my salad and then used the white sauce for the rest of my salad.
The menu included items such as grilled vegetables, sesame chicken, shrimp, and scallops. All menu items were served with zucchini and onions (lunch entrees are served with carrots instead of zucchini). Unfortunately, there was not a lot of diversity to our order, so I don’t have very many pictures to show. We all ordered the filet mignon dinner, which, at $9.95, is a huge bargain over what you would pay at a full-service hibachi restaurant. My friend even changed the doneness of her meat from medium to medium-rare just to be funny since the rest of us ordered ours medium-rare. Soooo, I can only tell you about the filet. But that’s okay.
The food came out pretty quickly, and the meat was done very nicely, which is always impressive because it’s hard enough to get a whole cut of steak perfectly medium-rare, much less meat that is cut into chunks. There was a ton of rice, and the meals automatically come with fried rice (as in, you don’t have to pay extra like you do at the more expensive hibachi restaurants). There were peas and a little bit of corn in the rice (I’m not sure I’ve ever had fried rice with corn in it, but I don’t know. Maybe I have. It was fine, though), and onions and zucchini served on the side. The vegetables were cooked very well-the zucchini was tender without being soggy, and the onions were cooked just to the point that they weren’t quite caramelized but they also were not crispy, which was definitely a deal-maker for me, because, if you’ve read some of my posts, you know that onions that are raw or undercooked make me want to cry, and not because of the fumes. I just can’t deal.
Here’s the thing. This was a ton of food. I kind of wish I had just skipped the soup and the salad and saved that stomach space for the entree. It’s not that the soup and salad were bad, but they just weren’t anything to write home about. The main dish, though, was very tasty, and I could have finished it if I hadn’t ended up with a stomachache. I definitely overdid it, which is not something that I do very often, but it does seem easy to do at a hibachi restaurant for some reason. I also ingested copious amounts of the white sauce. At the end of the meal, we were brought a fortune cookie, which always makes me laugh-a Chinese cookie at a Japanese restaurant? Did you know, though, that fortune cookies were actually created right here in the US of A? So really, it’s an American cookie masquerading as a Chinese cookie being served at a Japanese restaurant. But I digress. Anyway, my fortune told me not to oversleep today-that it was going to be a productive day. What? Clearly Confucious did not know that today was Saturday, and I ignored the advice and slept all the way till 8:30 this morning (that’s late, right?). Anyway….
Including the tip, two filet mignon dinners (we drank water) cost us about $27.00. If we had gone to Ichiban, that would have been more like $50 or so. Now, I’m definitely not saying that we’ll be going to Kioto in place of Ichiban. Ichiban, in my opinion, is the gold standard for Hibachi restaurants, but it’s a special occasion sort of place, and we don’t go very often because, honestly, it’s a little weird to sit with people you don’t know. Kioto is a little more expensive than Typhoon, but it’s also infinitely closer to us (less than two miles away!) and we will definitely go back. If you want a show and the atmosphere, spend the money and go to Ichiban. If you just want some tasty hibachi food, save your cash and check out Kioto.
Kioto is located at 8719 Hixson Pike, Hixson, TN 37343 (near the Dallas Bay Bi-Lo). You can call them at 423-521-8444 or 423-521-8445. They are open Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. You can call ahead and pick up at their walk-up window. Kioto does not currently have a Facebook page or website. However, they did have take-out menus, so I’ll share it with you!