April 2008 – Koto (dt)
5.63 - 7, 6, 6, 6, 6, 5.5, 5, 3.5

Flair. Sizzle. Noise. Presentation.
            All of these enveloped the DP8 experience at Koto’s (a group selection) in Colonie at the end of a warm week, cooling with a SE breeze that plays a part later. Upon entry, one is faced with a wall of floor-to-ceiling calmness of pebbles and rocks, with a trickle of water oozing its way to the collection area at floor level.
            Wham! Open the next door and the excitement of noise, flame, irregular “tables” combines with a riot of menu selections.
             While we waited twenty minutes (no reservations taken at Koto), most of DP8 sidled up to or around the bar area, which also hosts several chairs for sushi customers. We were then led past the serpentine seating line to an arch of twelve seats, with four other customers complementing our teppanyaki/hibachi experience. A row of booths lined the back wall, with the obligatory (but pleasant) Japanese cloth frames and shadowboxes. Japanese lanterns pleasantly, moodishly lit the room, with its semi-dark interior with Japanese-style, dividing posts, interrupted by the brazenly intrusive glare of the overhead light of the grill’s smoke vent.
             Drink orders were taken – not the usual: Asian pear sake for the Teators, white wine for Deb K and Judy, Sapporo beer for Ken, diet soda for Kriss, and a bottle of Mirassou 2006 pinot noir (deemed worthy) for Tim and Chay.
            Orders were taken, all of them from the hibachi menu, which included all the courses sans dessert. Starting was the miso soup in a small bowl and dipping spoon. It was just OK for most of us, or not, with some remembering a fishier taste than expected.
           The smallish salad was mostly iceberg lathered with a dollop of ginger sauce, a bit of water collecting on the bottom. Clean and spartan, bland for most, at best.
            Then, the show began. “Kevin”, garbed in white and red (especially the chef’s red hat), introduced himself and proceeded to oil the cooking counter and start the show – the clacking of knife-ware, the tossing of an eggs (part of one splattered Chay’s shirt), the onion volcano that erupts in one bright flash that “needs” extinguishing with the squirt gun which wets half of the table’s denizens. It’s hokey, yet part of an entertaining show.
            The vegetables are grilled, to be mixed with the bowl of rice that is warmed and oiled, and added to the eggs. A spatula-full is apportioned to each plate, and we start nibbling, waiting for the entrée to wend its way to the same plate. The fried rice was the most complimented food of the evening. The menu’s appetizer, shrimp, is grilled and two are set on each plate. The others remaining on the cooking counter served as entrée for those so ordering.
             Kevin marked the doneness requests of the meat by rips of the order sheet, and off he went, grilling and cutting chicken, filet mignon, shrimp, lobster, scallops. All is chopped into fork sized pieces, since no spoon or knife is placed. (only one daring chop stick user)
            The rice was excellent for all, the entrées were good – hot off the hibachi. This cuisine was a change of pace for DP8, a worthy change (for most) but, I suspect, one that won’t be repeated for a while, given our customary likes.
            Service was effortlessly and generally good – the show is part of the service. The order taker, the whisker-away of plates, the pourer of water were all very adequate, although a water check would have helped.
            The one heavy blot is the sense you better damn well move along the cattle feed line because the next setting of twelve is coming in. Sixty minutes marked beginning-to-end, and we were part of a very well choreographed show, with our part to move along, especially since we were not partaking of dessert.
            The noise level is intensely busy in the hibachi area. With the Teators and Adamses sitting on one side of the square, and the Karneses and Monteverds on the adjoining side, voice contact between the two far corners was rare. Those in the middle fared better in the conversations. (What didja say, Ken?!)
            Presentation. Flair. Sizzle. Noise. Yup, it was all that we expected, and we walked away enjoying the experience but… the parts were less than the total.
            The tab, including tax and tip came to $90 per couple (not counting the earlier tab from the bar), probably average but it felt a bit above average, possibly for quantity of food and possibly for wondering what a $35 entrée might look like someplace else

In the background, somewhat nagging our minds, was that Ken had had no coffee (and he had known he would not), and that dessert, well, dessert, no matter how good it might be, would be worth a try elsewhere. Cheesecake Factory was our first choice but we would settle for a nearby Stewart’s on the way back home.
            CF had a sixty minute wait inside but no wait outside. The air was a little nipply (our waiter’s words) but we tried outdoors anyway, probably against our better judgment, even with the promise that the deck was heated. That aforementioned almost stiff southeast breeze of 10-15 mph was pleasant for about thirty seconds but nipplizing after that. Coats were needed, and a thank you to Len and Claribel’s car throw for keeping me warm. One of our illustrious DP8ers opined the next morning that it might not have been one of our better decisions. But, we will probably remember our laughing through most of it.
            Desserts? Ah, yes. Frangelica and Sambucca kept Tim and Chay happy. A few glass mugs of coffee and tea (yay! Ken got his coffee) kept hands warm. And mountain sized desserts (solo or split) – Chris’ chocolate cake, McKinley-sized strawberry shortcake, strawberry cheesecake, Snickers bar cheesecake – satiated the dessert urge. Another $20 per couple topped the evening, and headed south along the new roundabouts in Slingerlands, snaking our way back Rt. 32 back home.

The evening had started at the Teator home with Deb’s new stone wall segment greeting arrivals. Plates of cheese and crackers, vegetables and hummus, cantaloupe and grapes were nibbled away. We caught up on news – the Monteverd cruise, Deb K’s medical adventures, Catskill, the hopeful grandparents-to-be, a modicum of school stuff, summer plans, the beginning of cutting the grass, and, of course, the much above average temps of the last two weeks which was causing spring to sprung a couple weeks earlier than usual.