Koto’s commitment to creating a uniquely Japanese experience for its diners in Nepal is evident even in its third branch along the Pulchowk road.
A painting of Japanese samurais greets diners before they enter the dining room. An open kitchen lines the side of the restaurant, while wooden tables and chairs fill up the rest of the restaurant space in a quintessentially, orderly, Japanese fashion. Floor seating is also available at the back of the restaurant.
The restaurant offers an array of appetisers and light bites such as yakitori, tofu or sushi. The maki sushi (Rs 590) came with generous slices of smoked salmon and crunchy cucumbers. Packed in authentic Japanese rice, the maki sushi was a delicious, but slightly heavy appetiser for two.
If you’re looking for a lighter start to your Japanese meal, go for the tofu dishes instead. Koto offers a variety of tofu appetisers from fried tofu (Agey) (Rs 250) to cold tofu (Hiyayakko) (Rs 220).
The mixed tempura set (Rs 880) is a hearty main course that came with fried chicken, miso soup, pickles (oshinko) and rice. It was a feast for one, and can even be shared amongst two.
The wings and drumsticks were deep-fried in a well-seasoned batter, making the skin crisp and tasty. Though it was fried to a perfect brown, the meat was still surprisingly moist on the inside. It was a delectable dish that was slightly reminiscent of another Japanese side dish – chicken karaage.
Diners who do not wish to order a full tempura set would be glad to know that the fried chicken is served a la carte as well, at Rs 275.
The star of the set was of course, the tempura. The batter-covered vegetables and seafood stacked on top of each other on an unassuming ceramic plate looked impressive when served. It was equally impressive taste-wise.
The batter was light, crispy and not too greasy and did not overpower the flavour of the seafood and vegetables. The use of fresh, succulent prawns and fish also elevated the tempura set, making it worth the expensive price tag.
The tempura and chicken was served with a bowl of aromatic miso soup that complemented the fried dishes perfectly. Soft tofu pieces and sprigs of chopped spring onion complemented the smooth, salty broth deliciously.
If you’re dining alone or looking for a less filling main, I’d recommend ordering a Donburi (rice bowl). The Katsu Don (pork cutlet and egg, served on rice) is a good option. The rice bowl was packed with fried pork slices mixed with egg. Though the pork was tasty, the lack of sautéed onions in the dish made it slightly bland overall.
Still, the Katsu Don was good for one. Also, priced at Rs 520, it was less expensive than a set meal or bento.
To complete the Japanese dining experience, waiters consistently served Japanese tea throughout the meal, making dining at Koto a delicious and pleasant experience.
All photos: Kenji Kwok
How to get there: Koto in Lalitpur is located on the second floor of Shakya Building in Harihar Bhawan, right opposite to Sajha Central Office.