My kids love Japanese food. My son will eat his weight in sushi, and my daughter is all about udon. Seeking a Japanese food fix for the whole family, we landed at Koto Japanese Steakhouse. Not only does the South Burlington restaurant serve our favorites, it also offers teppanyaki, Japanese-style meat and veggies grilled on the table in front of you. Cooking becomes entertainment when the chefs wow the crowd with their knife and spatula skills.
At 5 p.m. — rush hour — Koto was a peaceful retreat from traffic-packed Route 7. Friendly staff greeted us in the lobby, along with a gurgling pond stocked with koi fish. For the first time in 10 years of dining out with my kids, I was kind of disappointed that we didn't have to wait for a table.
The restaurant is spacious, with a sushi bar, a number of conventional dining tables, a bar and a room where diners can sit on traditional tatami mats. The six large teppanyaki tables are popular, and diners are expected to share them with other parties. As we perused our menus, a family of four sat down with us.
Koto's menu covers the range of Japanese fare, from albacore sushi to yakitori (skewered chicken), and we took advantage of the large selection. For entrees, we ordered yellowtail and tuna sushi, udon, and steak and chicken teppanyaki. The adult hibachi meals are pricey but come with soup, salad, and fried rice or noodles, along with awesome entertainment. My husband and I shared steak teppanyaki and, after all that sushi, it was plenty of food.
The soup and salad were unmemorable, but the sushi was fresh and, to this Californian, surprisingly good. It was the kids' turn to be surprised when our chef arrived and began preparing food, just inches from their plates. They sat transfixed as he spun his knives and spatulas, sliced, diced and grilled, joking as he cooked. He launched pieces of zucchini into our open mouths, and made a steaming volcano out of a stack of onions. The kids jumped when he made flames leap high, their eyes bulged when he spun an egg on a spatula and tossed it up and down half a dozen times.
The last time I had teppanyaki I was in California. The most memorable thing about it: Kobe Bryant was sitting at the next table. At Koto, I sat with Linda and Dave from Grand Isle. I have to say, both the food and the company were far more impressive.