Koto Izakaya Sushi & Robata (Japanese) – Late Night Eats in Richmond

Restaurant: Koto Izakaya Sushi & Robata
Cuisine: Japanese/Sushi/Izakaya/Late Night
Last Visited: March 14, 2012
Richmond, BC (Richmond Central)
#101-8171 Alexandra Road
Transit: Lansdowne Station Northbound
Price Range: 

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 3.5 (based on a la carte and late night menu)
Service: 2.5 
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 3.5
Additional comments:

  • Chinese owned and operated
  • Traditional/fusion rolls
  • Sushi/Sashimi
  • Izakaya/robata menu
  • Extensive menu
  • Made upon order
  • Reasonably priced a la carte
  • Cheap eats for late night
  • Great late night specials
  • Accepts credit card
  • Dine in/Take out
  • Dinner only
  • Mon-Sun 5:30pm-2:30am
  • Free parking

**Recommendations: Late Night Specials: Red Tuna Tataki, BC Salmon Skin Cone, Spicy Salmon Cone, Spicy Tuna Sashimi, and if you go a la carte the Dobin Mushi, Salmon Carpaccio, Fire Cracker Balls and Red Spider Roll.

When it comes to casual late night dining on a week day, finding a restaurant can be difficult. It was 9:30pm and I actually made 6 stops before resorting to Koto Izakaya (everything else was closed/closing at 9pm), and I think it might be one of my go-to places for late night sushi in Richmond now. I’ve come here on a few occasions and the first time was for their regular a la carte menu which ended up being quite good.

It’s definitely a popular local favourite in Richmond for late night eats, and after trying it out a few times I can see why. It’s made upon order, cheap, no fuss, good variety and great value for what you get. It’s not the best, but it’s decent and does the job. I consider it a bang for your buck.

It’s Chinese owned and operated, and although it might not be authentic, it’s generally not bastardized and much better than almost all of the All You Can Eat Sushi places I’ve tried. Yes, there was a time and a place for AYCE sushi, which I really do not care for anymore. It won’t compare to Hapa IzakayaGuuSuika, Kingyo, or any of the fanicier izakaya places in downtown, and in Richmond I would prefer Nan Chuu Japanese Izakaya for traditional izakaya, but for late night eats this is a good choice.

For authentic sushi in Richmond I would suggest Ichiro Japanese or Hachi Sushi. For the more affordable route there is Seto Sushi, Kiriri Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar and Tokyo Joe’s Sushi Factory. As you can see there are a lot of sushi options for Richmond, or in Vancouver in general. What Koto Izakaya Sushi & Robata has on the other ones is basically a good and very affordable late night specials menu with a good variety available from 9pm-2:30am. The offerings are basic and the a la carte menu delivers more in terms of quality and flavour, so that’s worth checking out too – see those items here.

On the table:

**Crab & Tobiko Salad3/6 (Good)

  • $2.99
  • Look at that for $3! Sure it was fake crab, but for $3 I’m not expecting fresh anyway.
  • It was cucumber with crab dressed in Japanese mayo and then topped with tobiko and sesame seeds. It was pretty basic, but still good.
  • It was the ingredients for a California roll without the rice and seaweed.

Tuna Goma 3/6 (Good)

  • $4.50
  • I could have used a lot more goma-ae (sesame) sauce.
  • The sashimi pieces are a bit thin and scrap like and they were coated with a paste like sesame sauce.
  • It was mixed with green onions and on the sweet side with the mirin (rice wine + sugar).
  • I prefer a thinner house ground sesame seed sauce, but I like sesame sauce in general.
  • There were maybe about 6 pieces of tuna and it was pretty good, but my favourite is the one at Tokachi – see their Tuna Gomaae.
  • I also like the Sushi Garden one which comes with plenty of tuna and spinach – see their Tuna Gomaae.

**Red Tuna Tataki 4/6 (Very good)

  • $5.50
  • They didn’t offer many izakaya options on the late night specials menu, but this was one of them.
  • It was a well seared ahi tuna with salad in a sweet soy vinaigrette with a bit of wasabi for a gentle kick.
  • It was nutty with perhaps some sesame oil and a bit tangy from maybe ponzu (citrus) sauce.
  • It’s not a whole lot of well cut tuna, but for the price and portion it was fine and very good.

Toro (Tuna Belly) & Salmon Sashimi Round 1 2.5/6 (Okay-Good)

  • $4.95
  • The first time I ordered this the toro was semi-frozen so I wasn’t very pleased.
  • It was also sliced really thick which isn’t the proper way to showcase toro.
  • The salmon was quite average and it was better than say Samurai.
  • Tokachi offers a stunning Tuna & Salmon Sashimi that I highly recommend – see here.
Toro & Salmon Sashimi Round 2 3/6 (Good)
  • $4.95
  • I came back on another occasion and re-ordered it and the toro was 10x’s better.
  • The toro was cut better and it wasn’t frozen. Maybe they got a fresh shipment that morning, but the quality was high and it was incredibly oily (good thing).
  • Sashimi will always vary depending on the fish, so perhaps they might not be as consistent here.
  • On the other hand, the salmon was the same as round 1 above.

Spicy Tuna Sashimi  3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • $4.95
  • This was quite good, but very Chinese and Korean in style.
  • It was a very thick sauce and they didn’t fully coat the tuna, but there was enough sauce.
  • I think it was a Chinese soybean chili paste, but it also reminded me of Korean Gochujang (red chili) paste which is very similar.
  • It was a sweet and spicy paste and maybe more sweet than spicy. It was flavourful and not hot and I would enjoy it alone.

**Hand Cones4/6 (Very good)

  • All Hand Cones $1.99 each
  • I rarely order cones, but I was very impressed with their cones.
  • It was a good category to select from on the late night menu.
  • **BC Salmon Skin Cone – 4/6 (Very good)
    • $1.99
    • It came with 4 grilled strips of salmon and they did a great job with the salmon.
    • The place is called Koto Izakaya Sushi & Robata, so it actually makes me want to come back just for their robata (grilled) menu.
    • The salmon skin was very crispy and smoky and it was also stuffed with crunchy cucumber, tobiko and a bit of sweet Japanese mayo.
    • There was a good amount of filling which is the important part, and the rice was moist and flavoured, but the seawewd a bit chewy as opposed to crisp.

  • **Spicy Salmon Cone 4/6 (Very good)
    • $1.99
    • I was equally impressed with the spicy salmon cone that had salmon all the way to the bottom of the cone.
    • There was a lot of salmon sashimi and it was well marinated in that same sweet and spicy chili bean paste they used in the spicy tuna.
    • The sauce tastes a bit like spicy miso paste and it’s more sweet than spicy.
    • Again, the rice was moist and well flavoured, but the seaweed chewy and it should be crisp.
    • I would order this again.

Maki/Rolls3/6 (Good)

  • All maki/rolls $2.99 each
  • The maki sushi rolls are the basics and nothing to rave about, but good value and decent.
  • I would recommend trying out their creative rolls offered on their a la carte menu which are quite impressive – see here.
  • Spicy Tuna Roll3/6 (Good)
    • $2.99
    • There isn’t much to say, even for me.
    • It was good and I could taste tuna which was marinated in that Chinese soy bean chili paste which was more sweet than spicy again.
    • The seaweed was a bit chewy, but the rice well flavoured.
  • Negitoro Roll (Tuna Belly & Green Onions)3/6 (Good)
    • $2.99
    • There isn’t a whole lot of toro, but it’s decent and it was good.
    • The seaweed was a bit chewy, but the rice well flavoured.
    • Seto Sushi and Kiriri Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar offer excellent Negitoro rolls that I would also recommend trying.

California Roll2.5/6 (Okay-Good)

  • $2.99
  • Not much to say about this. It was what it was.
  • The seaweed was a bit chewy, but the rice well flavoured.
  • It was ripe avocado, fake crab (expected) and the roll was loosely assembled as you can see, but for $2.99 I’m not going to be picky.

Negitoro (Tuna Belly & Green Onions) Roll3/6 (Good)

  • $2.99
  • I ordered the negitoro roll on another occasion and although I wouldn’t mind a bit less rice, there isn’t much to complain about.
  • The seaweed was a bit chewy, but the rice well flavoured.

Nigiri/Sushi 3/6 (Good)

  • All nigiri/sushi $.99
  • Tamago Nigiri – 2.5/6 (Okay-Good)
    • It’s the “tell all” item for a Japanese restaurant – a layered Japanese omelette. It shows the skill of a sushi chef.
    • It was a bit bland and I couldn’t taste the dashi, but at least it wasn’t burnt.
    • I could see the layers which is good, but I also don’t think they made the layers, which isn’t very good.
    • The rice was well flavoured and the seaweed on the chewy side.
    • For an excellent tamago I recommend trying the one at Zakkushi Charcoal Grill – see their Dashimaki Tamago.
  • Tobiko Nigiri3/6 (Good)
    • It was filled well with tobiko, but the rice was on the dry side which is interesting because it was fine in everything else.
    • The rice was well flavoured though and the seaweed on the chewy side again.

Chicken Ramen2.5/6 (Okay-Good)

  • $5.50 (Choice of udon or ramen, chicken, beef, vegetable or tonkatsu)
  • It’s not a ramen restaurant and I didn’t expect anything close to authentic Japanese ramen, but for $5.50 this was fine.
  • It was a big bowl, served piping hot, and the noodles were a bit powdery, but at least it wasn’t the instant Chinese ramen noodles.
  • The broth was a sweet soy based chicken broth that was light and not too salty, but it’s more like a chicken udon broth than ramen broth.
  • It was boneless chicken thighs and some Napa cabbage and again for the price it’s fine.
  • It’s no Ramen Santouka, Benkei, Motomachi Shokudo, Q-Go Ramen, or even Kintaro, but I didn’t expect it and in this case it was value over quality and authenticity, but not bad and edible.

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