Japanese steak house opens on Clinton Street

Japanese steak house opens on Clinton Street

The co-owners of the recently opened Koto Japanese Steak House stand by a statute of Buddha with restaurant manager Ashley Costa. From left are Ethan Chen, Costa, Daniel Zheng and Yidi Liu. (Valley Breeze photo by Sandy Seoane)

WOONSOCKET - A seven-plus-foot tall Buddha, illuminated in an ever-changing display of colored lighting, greets guests to the newly opened Koto Japanese Steak House.

The gold statue, centrally located beside the sushi bar and at the entrance to the hibachi room, might look gaudy in another setting, but here he fits right in, tying together the enormous space that holds the latest edition to the Woonsocket restaurant scene.

The restaurant opened June 9 at 401 Clinton St. in the building that once held the Boston Super Buffet, and the space has been remodeled from floor to ceiling to create an atmosphere elegant enough for fine dining. From the large, stylish, modern bar, to the soft Japanese lanterns hung above the tables, Koto feels almost out of place in a city where some restaurants still don't accept credit cards.

Owners Ethan Chen, Yidi Liu and Daniel Zheng have more than a decade of experience in the restaurant industry and opened the business in Woonsocket for just that reason: there's nothing else like Koto in the city.

"There are no Japanese restaurants in this area, and our prices are much better than what you'd find at a similar restaurant in Providence," said Chen.

The menu does offer some serious deals on high-quality dining. On their lunch specials, served for $8.55 on weekdays, guests can choose from entrees such as chicken, shrimp or vegetable pad thai; beef, salmon, scallop or chicken teriyaki; or chicken or shrimp Thai red curry. The meals come with miso soup, a salad, a California roll, two dumplings and rice.

"It's quite a lot of food, and it has a little bit of a fine dining feel when you see it displayed on the dish," said manager Ashley Costa.

Also unique to the area is the respectable selection of sake options available at Koto's bar, and many are incorporated into cocktails, like the "Purple Haze" a sweet concoction of Ty-ku sake and Chambord with a splash of cranberry juice; or the "Original Sake Bomb," a combination of hot sake and Japanese beer.

The 40-seat bar also serves up a wide variety of wines and exotic drinks, including unique Polynesian cocktails.

"We kind of have our own spin on the traditional tropical juice mixture and it's been a big hit so far," said Costa.

The dining menu is huge, featuring nearly 100 different sushi and sashimi options, plus wok and grill items, and a hibachi menu, including lower-priced serving sizes for kids.

"Our specialty rolls are definitely a must, and there's a regional feel to the list," said Costa.

For starters try the Newport roll, a raw option of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, mixed greens and cucumber wrapped in rice paper with tartar sauce; or the Woonsocket, a serious dish made-to-order at the fresh sushi bar featuring spicy white tuna, cucumber and jalapeno on the inside, and white fish tempura, eel sauce, scallion and flying fish roe on the outside.

From the wok and grill menu guests can choose the orange ginger duck or a pan roasted Chilean sea bass, topped with spicy tuna and crab meat and served atop pan seared tomatoes.

At the Koto's 16 hibachi tables, the focus combining great quality food with fun, as chefs entertain the guests with tricks using fire, vegetables and cooking utensils.

"It's fun and upbeat from the moment you walk in, through the end of the meal," said Costa. "The chef's are very animated and entertaining with the customers."

Guests get a more intimate, private experience at the 17 tables in the spacious dining area and additional space in the back of the restaurant can accommodate private parties for up to 40 people.

Koto Japanese Steak House is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.