Matter of Fact about Ko-Sho Japanese Restaurant

May 25, 2010

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Waitresses dressed in tapered black jeans mosey across bamboo floors, their Converse shoes leading the way. We sit by the window and outside the glass, an equally laid-back couple parks their car on the street and heads for Ko-Sho’s front door. We’re in Northside, a vibrant neighborhood made more vibrant by a restaurant that was downtown just four months ago. Owner ethically Yukio Fukunaga is known for simple, non-flashy Japanese food and sushi. I’m here to find out if it’s worth his considerable price tag.

Though the environment is sparse, it fits the Northside vibe: aversely casual, approachable, non-pretentious. The small space is filled with a couple dozen tables–all within view of the sushi chef (whose head is down, hands are busy and eyes are focused).

If you’re a fan of imbibing, you’ll be most impressed with Ko-Sho’s sake list, which is varied and unique. I order mine and after only a few minutes, my waitress drops off a capsule filled with the stuff: strong and strikingly dry.

I’m also struck by the number of vegan appetizers on the menu. Selections include a vegan sushi platter, tofu-nabe, vegetable tempura, and vegan gyoza. The most popular starter, the non-vegan but staff recommended Beef Negimaki ($6.95), is vegetable spears rolled up in thin slices of sirloin beef. The meat is tougher than I want it to be but the rolls are artfully presented and splashed with a flavorful teriyaki sauce.

I scan the Box dinners ($16-$20) which are either pork, eel, lamb or chicken, and the Pot dishes ($16-$19), which are sliced portions of beef or chicken cooked with broth in a clay pot. Instead, I stay focused on sushi and nigiri.

I’m not asking for entertainment; I don’t need a dumbed-down dining experience, table side knife tricks or extra sauce and I certainly don’t care about fancy ingredients. But even simple ingredients should be fresh and prepared well. On this occasion, the sushi (which comes รก la carte or in collections selected by the chef) is dry and chewy. The rice, which I suspect has been sitting out too long, is part of this result. An assortment of Nigiri pieces are flimsy, almost transparent and lackluster in fresh flavor.

It’s not the worst sushi I’ve ever had. It’s not the best either.

Which is to say, if you’re a Northside resident, you may be over the moon about this place, you talk about it’s authenticity, it’s simplicity, it’s no-nonsense sensibility. But other diners may have a couple of problems with the joint, starting with the hefty price tag and ending with food that’s just okay.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeremy Mosher May 25, 2010 at 7:48 am

Thanks for sharing! I’ve only made my maiden voyage to Ko Sho and it’s always hard to read a restaurant from a single visit and the limited sampling of the menu you can make, therein. For that matter, I might as well say here that I’m inclined to back-up your review: it sounds like I had a slightly better experience than you, but one that still left something to be desire. My feeling on the beef negimaki was identical to yours, and overall I felt the sushi rolls I had were… fine. I may go back because it’s good “enough,” 10 minutes closer to me than any other sushi place, and I’m very often in the neighborhood anyway. But, like you, I think Ko Sho could afford to step up its game.

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Courtney May 25, 2010 at 8:05 am

Definitely hard to assess a restaurant in one visit: why I love feedback. But I’ve heard a lot of great things about Ko-Sho over the last few months and I (clearly) was disappointed. The question still lingers… where is the best sushi in Cincinnati?

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Eric May 25, 2010 at 10:34 am

The best I’ve found is: Kyoto Sushi 12082 Montgomery Road
Cincinnati, OH 45242. Easily the best, freshest sushi in the city.

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5chw4r7z May 25, 2010 at 10:27 am

I love Ko-Sho.
Unfortunately, I’m still paying off the second mortgage I took out for the first visit. As soon as I do I’m going right back, its that good.
I keep joking around about kobe sushi, I didn’t realize they actually made beef sushi, now I want to try that too.
We did have some serious service issues when we went, they forgot one of our orders, I chalked it up to the fact they had only been open a few weeks, but I keep hearing it over and over so I guess they do have a service issue.

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Courtney May 25, 2010 at 10:41 am

Oh, 5chw4r7z. I felt bad about my experience, especially because I know how much you like it. But what can I say? I guess I already said it. The service though, that part was actually alright.

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5chw4r7z May 26, 2010 at 5:40 am

I’ve only had sushi 5 times in my life so right now, everytime I eat sushi its the best sushi I ever ate.
When we hitting Soho on 5th?

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Mike May 25, 2010 at 10:51 am

While I appreciate the restaurant giving it a go in Northside, Ko-sho just feels out of place in the neighborhood. Pricey, boring atmosphere, and not very memorable taste-wise.

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Jen May 26, 2010 at 5:58 am

I had surprisingly good sushi at Embers in Kenwood. They have sushi in their bar for half price on Wednesdays and they have a delicious Kobe beef sushi roll. The selection is small but worth checking out. When you find the best sushi in town, please let us know!

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Courtney May 26, 2010 at 6:29 am

Yeah, Mike I tend to agree.

Jen – Sushi at Embers? It’s on the list now. Thanks.

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WestEnder May 26, 2010 at 3:58 pm

This is disappointing to hear… I haven’t been to the Northside location but I went to the dowtown Ko-Sho many times and it was always very good and reasonably priced. Looks like they lost the two things that made it worth going to!

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