Marked-Down Maki

Diamonds in the Rough: Koto Japanese Restaurant Sushi & Bar

Beyond Beltway 8, there's high-quality, low-cost sushi to be found.

By Beth Levine July 27, 2017

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Serious sashimi

Image: Beth Levine

we all know that Houston has a plethora of sushi places. I love sushi too, and I also love a great deal. With those two things in mind, a good friend of mine suggested we check out one of her favorite diamonds in the rough, Koto Japanese Restaurant Sushi & Bar, so we headed over there last week. Located in a strip center on Westheimer Road just past Beltway 8, Koto might not look like much form the outside but the interior is actually on the nicer side—there is even a pond with some fish in it. We sat down at a cozy corner table and ordered some of the signature Takara plum wine, which I enjoyed despite the fact it was on the sweeter side.

Then I opened the menu. The regular prices were what I might expect from a happy hour or similar deal. Two pieces of sashimi made with salmon red snapper or sea bass was only $2.50. One rung up on the sashimi price tier were yellowtail and maguro, coming in at only $3 per order. I was a little leery at first. I recently had some very inexpensive sushi at a now-closed ramen place in Rice Village and it was not very good. Urged on by my friend, I forged ahead and ordered the fresh salmon, super white tuna (escolar), sea bass and yellowtail. We munched on some edamame while we waited for our sashimi to arrive. 

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Tamago for two

Image: Beth Levine

I admit I was expecting small slivers or carpaccio-type cuts when the waitress walked over, but to my stomach's happy surprise, these were nice, big chunks of fish—especially the salmon—and easily on par with some of the more upscale sushi joints around town.The salmon and yellowtail came out together and came out fast. I liked it so much I ordered another round of the salmon (so for anyone counting that’s $5 for four chunks of salmon sashimi, so far). The escolar and sea bass, tamago and freshwater eel were also very good, coming in at around $2.75 for two pieces each per order.

While Koto was not very busy (in its defense, it was only Tuesday), it was also not empty and seemed to be filled with regular customers. The service was attentive, the table and surrounding areas very clean and cutely adorned. All in all, we had 20 pieces of assorted sashimi, two pieces of tamago sushi, two pieces of fresh water eel sushi, two glasses of plum wine and our edamame appetizer—all of which totaled roughly $45. Yes, $45. I did a double take when our server placed the bill down—this was better pricing than most of the happy hours I go to with surprisingly good quality, fresh fish for the price.

While the locals and lunch crowd certainly seem to be aware of Koto, I had never heard of it until now. So if you are willing to venture beyond the Beltway, this diamond might just surprise you with some good food, fantastic prices and friendly service. 

Bonus tip: You can even feed the fish in the pond if you want to. I did.

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