The Food and Wine Hedonist

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Ann Arbor Eats – Kuroshio

Did I miss something?  For all of 2012 up until the presidential election in November, all we ever heard was how the economy was in the toilet.  If you believed the candidates, media, and surveys it sounded like there was no hope for a speedy recovery and we’d all have to eat dog food because that’s all we could afford.  Now all of a sudden we get three new restaurants opening up in Ann Arbor in the past week or so.  And we’re not talking about a shitty Arby’s or Panda Express opening up in a strip mall.  We’re talking about three restaurants where a dinner with drinks for two can easily go north of a hundred bucks.  The three are Isalita (Mexican street food-inspired), Vellum (contemporary American), and Kuroshio (Asian fusion).  Of the three, the one that I was least excited about was Kuroshio.  So of course, that’s the first one we visited.

It’s not like I don’t like Asian fusion.  I do, but the concept seems so 15 years ago.  And the last thing that this town needs is another Asian restaurant.  There’s a weird thing going in Ann Arbor where everywhere you turn is a Korean, Indian, Japanese – you name it – eatery.  But there aren’t any true, outright French places here.  If you exclude pizza places, there are only four or five nicer Italian places here.  And outside of Mani, none of them are what I’d truly describe as special.  It’s like there’s some white guilt here for having Euro-centric cuisines.  Seriously, are there any other cities that have more Korean restaurants than Italian?  Outside of Korea?

We went out with the Blood Sucking Lawyers and, since it was last minute, we couldn’t get into the other two places.  But, for reasons you’ll soon see, we were able to get a table pretty easily at Kuroshio.

The Space

It stands in the space formerly occupied by Champion House, a Japanese steak and sushi place that had been here for twenty years.  Apparently, the owners just up and left in the middle of the night without notifying the landlords, leaving a bunch of food and equipment there.  In comes a new family and they completely redid the place.

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annarbor.com

And it’s gorgeous.  There are waterfalls, modern furniture, textured bars, lots of windows.  It’s really is visually striking.

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annarbor.com

The Drinks

D’oh!!!  As of last Saturday, they didn’t have their liquor license yet.  That’s probably why it was easy to get a table.  (Thanks for letting us know when we made the reservation.)  I suppose they intentionally withheld that information as they guessed it would be a deal-breaker for us and we wouldn’t eat there.  And they guessed right.   It’s not like we’re a bunch of lushes or anything like that, we just wanted to have a couple of cocktails with friends.   OK, we’re probably a bunch of lushes.  But apparently we weren’t the only ones that would’ve not eaten there without the booze.

The Food

We decided to have a couple appetizers and a few sushi rolls anyway because I was so hungry that I was ready to eat my arm.   The waitress was really nice, too, so we felt a little bad about ditching her.  Things started off well with the Yellowtail Carpaccio which was not only beautiful, but delicious.

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Sliced pieces of yellowtail with mango and jalapeno, served with ponzu and plum sauce

The second app we had was the Spicy Tuna Avocado, which was dragged down by a thick, mayo-like sauce.

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Layers of cucumber, avocado, and diced spicy tuna

The rolls we ordered were:

- Godzilla – crab, tuna, salmon, cucumber, avocado (sorry, no pic)

- Jade – which just occured to me is like the sushi version of the appetizer.

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Snow crab, mango, avocado, cucumber, topped with yellowtail, jalapeno, and ponzu drizzle

- Red Dragon – shrimp tempura, cream cheese, jalapeno, topped with spicy tuna and tempura flakes (sorry, no pic)

The Godzilla roll had wayyyy too much rice.  The others were just ok.  Now take a look at some of the other items on their menu:

- Gyoza ($10)

- Shrimp cocktail ($12)

- Garden Salad ($10)

- Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce ($10)

- Pineapple BBQ Chicken ($19)

- Rack of Lamb ($33)

- Three different steaks ($26-32)

- Vegetable Stir-fry ($18)

- Jumbo Scallops – 4 of them in Oyster Sauce  ($30)

The Verdict

It’s a beautiful place, but it’s hard to judge the quality of the food with so little we ate.  But I think they’re expecting people to happily fork over a ton of money for that atmosphere.  I’m sorry, but $18 for a vegetable stir-fry and $10 for a garden salad?!?!  That’s just plain ridiculous. The economy hasn’t made that much of a recovery.

And what exactly are they fusing?  Up and down the menu I saw things that are clearly Chinese, Japanese, or American.  But I didn’t see anything that combined cuisines in one dish.  Nor did I see any special preparations or innovative ideas.  Just about everything on the menu you can get elsewhere at simpler, less-expensive, and more casual restaurants.

I’ve read that this is the family’s first foray into the restaurant business.  Unless they create a really special menu to match the beautiful space and to match the crazy prices, this is going to be a painful learning experience for them.

Kuroshio Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

17 comments on “Ann Arbor Eats – Kuroshio

  1. a2sicilian
    January 9, 2013

    It was in the annarbor.com news story last week that they didn’t have their liquor license yet. I agree; if you’re going out to a nice place for dinner on a Saturday night, you want a cocktail.

  2. musingsoftheamusingmuse
    January 9, 2013

    Great review, even if I’m not in Ann Arbor, and… it’s okay if you’re a lush.

  3. a2sicilian
    January 9, 2013

    BTW, I’ve seen the mayo thing on other tuna tartares. What is with that? Mayo only belongs with canned tuna, with relish and celery on toasted wheat. Ugh. I like comparing the different tuna tartares around town. You know who does a good one, that’s different because it’s not Asian: Gratzi. In fact, the only new thing I think they’ve had on their menu in years. (And because of that, we usually just sit at the bar..and get the tuna tartare.)

  4. Gastro Boy (@A2GastroBoy)
    January 9, 2013

    Ahhhh – so that’s why it was a ghost town when I drove past ….no booze. How ridiculous to open without alcohol. The short-term cash-flow benefits are completely undemined by the long-term impact of poor customer experiences. I’m trying to be polite, but I fear this will become another cautionary tale about the rigors of opening a new business. I hope there’s something left in the father’s IRA account when this place inevitably closes. Perdiction: The dining room remains empty; ina last-ditch marketing effort they try to make the bar area into a late-night Asian grad-student ultra lounge. Bar tabs fail to pay the rent and they shut the doors before the lease ends.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      January 9, 2013

      Yeah, that’s sounding about right. I thought the same thing with Ravens Club. And I’m thinkng that’s how they’ve survived til now… Looks like they got a new chef, so hopefully they’ll start doing the food right. We’re going to RC for restaurant week, so we’ll find out.

      Even if they had the liquor license, I don’t think my opinion would change – very expensive for unexciting food.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • Tom Cormie
      January 14, 2013

      Bravo

  5. the winegetter
    January 9, 2013

    Thanks for the warning. I do not understand why one would throw mayo on fresh tuna…what a waste.

  6. the drunken cyclist
    January 9, 2013

    Good write-up–and it is OK to be a bunch of lushes! Why disparage the lush? My brother lives in Ann Arbor, but he would have to give up an evening at the Outback in order to eat here, good thing I don’t have to tell him it isn’t that good….

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      January 9, 2013

      I’ve NEVER been to an Outback. I work out a couple doors down from the one in A2 and the place is constantly packed. Is it worth a try? (Don’t answer, I still won’t go)

  7. Megan @ MegGoesNomNom
    January 13, 2013

    Very interesting. The lack of liquor license has primarily been what’s held me back from trying this place so far. I’ve walked by several times since their interior renos, and you’re right, it does look beautiful inside (but empty)… I will be cautious with my cash if I go here post-liquor license acquisition – thanks for the heads up!

  8. SerialEclectic.com
    January 16, 2013

    Thanks for this; just confirms that I’ll be sticking with Godaiko!

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  12. Suzanne
    August 10, 2013

    Just FYI, the restaurant now has a liquor license, and their drinks are fantastic. The menu seems to have changed quite a bit, too. I didn’t see several of the items you listed. Maybe you should wipe the chip off your shoulder and try it again. Jussayin’..

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This entry was posted on January 9, 2013 by in Ann Arbor, Dining and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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