Exquisite musical notes of Japanese food
Sunil Dhakwa started Koto because he did business with a Japanese and developed an insatiable taste for Japanese food as most people who have indulged in the cuisine find themselves doing, said Pradeep Kr Sharma, the experienced Manger of Koto, one of Kathmandu’s most popular restaurants.
Koto is a stringed musical instrument known for its lightness for sensuous sounds, an apt description of Japanese food which appeals to the taste and to the eye. It’s from Japanese food that Nouvelle Cuisine was taken by French chefs to make their food light and wonderful to look at.
The central essence of the food is clarity, lightness, simplicity and order, all of which you find in Koto. Beginning with the Sushi, which is essentially seaweed, wrapped around vinegar and rice with fish in the middle. We chose the Maki Sushi, which has smoked salmon as the third flavor and however delicate the seaweed, rice and salmon, you get to taste each and you salivate for more.
Sanu Kaji Maharjan, who has worked at Koto so long and looks like a Japanese, brought on the ginger and a Wasabi or horseradish on steroids which you mix with soyasauce and dip the Maki Sushi in. It clears the nostrils and sets your tongue tingling. We ate it with another famous Japanese dish, the Goma-ae, which is spinach liberally sprinkled with sesame, which Sanu Kaji said is a must for diners. And such a cooling must it is.
Shanti Khatri, who was serving us, brought on the Hiyayakko, a cool white bit of tofu which we had with a hot-hot ginger paste dipped in soyasauce. The flavor runs from delicate to the strength of the ginger which increases while you eat and is complemented by a little chopped green onion. Cool hot and memorable — a three-in-one delight.
It’s then that Sanu remembered that whenever I went to Koto we had to have four portions of the Chicken Rouse because I could eat it all day everyday. It’s cold chicken with a little sake in a soyasauce. It’s so gentle that you can taste the chicken. A Weikfield mustard dip changes the flavour to a burn in a moment.
The Chef was an artist and created the batter of our Prawn Tempura into food sculpture that one felt torn between looking at and eating it. So we ate it with soyasauce radish and ginger mixed. Unbelievably all the ingredients balance each other with great delicacy.
Teriyaki is a dish which like other Japanese food is gaining international popularity. It’s meat seasoned with soyasauce and thickened with ingredients that are quietly inviting. Each restaurant has its own Teriyaki sauce; Koto’s is outstanding. The flavour is slightly sweet and you bite through it into the well-done fillet.
What you get around the world today is the Yakitori, which is pieces of chicken barbecued with soyasauce. There is a shine to it and if you add the chilli powder that Shanti recommended, you go tasty, spicy and better.
We finally had the Sukiyaki once known as the national dish of Japan. It comes in a heavy iron skillet or pan and it has chicken that tastes barbecued, tofu, ping noodles, vegetables like Chinese cabbage, spring onions, and Sanu deftly whips a raw egg and pours it into the hot dish. The mixture is wonderful and with different tastes for different parts coming through.
The food at Koto and the service is so good you can’t get enough of it, and sometimes for a moment you’re in Japan.