Though the phrase “all-you-can-eat sushi” may immediately conjure visions of hours of gastrointestinal distress, a recent tip on such a deal at Roseville’s Kyoto Sushi and Hibachi was too intriguing to pass up. After all, sushi can be pricey — a signature roll at Masu can top out at $16 — and there is something about the all-you-can-eat mystique that makes you want to test your luck. Maybe it’s the excitement from the unknown: How good can this stuff really be? Is it fresh? Is the restaurant going to serve the sushi I like, or rather an amalgamation of funky combinations no one in his right mind would sample? Will it be served up buffet-style? Dim sum-style? Will I get sick? Should I really have dragged my pregnant friend here?
But perhaps the most important question is: Is it worth the money? And surprisingly, we found that the $25 / person for an all-you-can-eat sushi (and more) dinner at Kyoto offered a fairly good value. Trust us, this isn’t Masu- or Origami-quality fare we’re talking about, but considering all you get for that $25, it’s not a bad deal. And no, we experienced no ill side effects from dinner. Let’s break it down:
The all-you-can-eat offer at Kyoto didn’t tempt me much at first, until I learned that it isn’t limited to sushi. Nope, in addition to sashimi, nigiri, and a variety of rolls, you also can choose among a variety of appetizers, fried rice and udon noodles, tempura and other deep-fried proteins, teriyaki, udon (above) and ramen soups, donburi dishes, and ice cream. So come hungry and pace yourself. The meal is not served as buffet — rather, you get a large menu upon being seated and a server takes your order, stopping by frequently as dishes are devoured to take your next request.
You won’t find anything out of the ordinary among the apps, but the generously sized bowl of edamame was cooked and seasoned well and the miso soup tasted appropriately umami-ish. Priced at $4.25 and $1.50, respectively, on the regular dinner menu, ordering the two already puts you at $5.75, and you haven’t even touched a grain of rice yet.
Sushi, sashimi, and rolls
Our trio of sashimi — mackerel, escolar, and unagi — at first made us doubt the safety of eating at Kyoto, with the mackerel tasting particularly iffy. Lesson learned: Stick to the rolls at an all-you-can-eat establishment. Valued at $1.50 / each at the dinner menu, that’s another $4.50 toward our tally.
But where you really get your money’s worth is with the rolls, which, while not blow-your-socks-off amazing, were perfectly satisfying. The shrimp tempura roll (value: $6.99) maintained a pleasant crunch, though the batter could have used a pinch more salt to balance its sweetness, and the B.C. roll (value: $8.99), which combined salmon, avocado, and cucumber, tasted fresh and flavorful. All of the spice in the spicy tuna roll (value: $5.99) came from the drizzle of mayo rather than the interior of the roll, but it proved to be the favorite of the bunch for its fine texture and chewy rice. With the three totaling $22, we’ve already surpassed our $25 threshold, and there’s still plenty more to eat.
Chicken fried rice (value: $8.95) may be more familiar on Chinese restaurant menus, but we’re glad it’s on Kyoto’s — the tender, bite-sized pieces of chicken packed a lot of flavor, and the rice offered a rich savoriness that was easy to enjoy. We kept eating it long past the point it would have been prudent to stop. The beef ramen soup (value: $9.95, below) came with a seafood stock reminiscent of clam chowder, but somehow it worked, even though some pieces of beef were a bit too fatty for our liking. It’s no sublime Masu noodle bowl with duck breast, but it’ll scratch the itch for ramen. An order of shu mai pork dumplings (value: $4.25) didn’t disappoint with its sweet glaze.
Not counting the two cups of green tea and red bean ice cream, the total bill would have come to $55.50 if we had ordered off the regular dinner menu. Divided by two for our pair of diners, that’s $27.75 / person before tax and tip.
Kyoto’s all-you-can-eat deal isn’t worth it if you only have room for a roll or two, but if you’re seriously hungry — or aren’t but want to try a variety of dishes — it’s a better bet than ordering off the traditional menu. Even better, visit during lunch, when the all-you-can-eat option is priced at $15 / person, albeit with a slightly reduced menu. While not the best choice if you’re looking for the best sushi this area has to offer, Kyoto appeals to groups (no arguing over who pays what for eating how many pieces of three shared rolls) and those ready to gorge on the gamut of items on the menu. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to wear elastic-waist pants outside the house, a visit to Kyoto may be your ticket.
Kyoto Sushi and Hibachi, 2100 Snelling Ave N, Roseville MN 55113; 651.636.5888