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Ambitious new sushi restaurant in a 4,000-square-foot space.

Our Review

Katakana and Koko Sushi Bar feels like a restaurant in trouble. Nearly empty on our Saturday night visit, the large exposed-brick dining room with a high sushi bar in the middle is decorated with everything from huge Picasso reproductions to light projections, not to mention leftovers from its Mexican incarnation, such as faux-finish arches and carved sunbursts on the high-backed chairs. The service was erratic: our waitress, though attentive, had to scurry off to get explanations of even the simplest dishes, while the kitchen and sushi crews seemed incapable of preparing more than one item at a time, slowly. Worst of all, much of the food we sampled was mediocre, and some preparations bore little resemblance to their descriptions on the enormous menu. For example, Katakana lamb chops ($24), which were supposed to come with asparagus, mushrooms, potatoes, and "chef's special sauce," arrived scrappy and naked, ringed only by a ribbon of cucumber slices. When we asked about the accompaniments, we got a side of asparagus, peppers and onions, and a bowl of rice. Our big Chicago maki, reputedly stuffed with hamachi, salmon, tuna, eel, tamago, avocado, cucumbers, jalapeños, pickles, and lettuce, was bland--perhaps because several ingredients were missing--and the equally dull white dragon maki had no trace of the promised mango with the white tuna and red tobiko on top. Nigiri, at a pricey $3.75 apiece, combined poorly formed rice balls and flavor-challenged fish. Variations on tempura abound, but judging by our fried oysters and agedashi tofu, real tempura batter--light, lacy, crisp, piping hot--was a foreign concept. Other disappointments included swamp-wet spinach with decent sesame sauce (gomae), rather dry hamachi neck without the usual grated daikon, and chicken yakisoba with lots of dry chicken and little vegetable. Minced-vegetable stuffed squid rings were enjoyable, though not "lightly battered finished with flaming sake." The highlight turned out to be "ceviche dip exotic," a spunky, spicy seafood cocktail served with chips that suggested someone’s heart remains in Mexico.

Anne Spiselman

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Price: $$$

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