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Dinner and a movie
blaisepascal
Last night sheherazahde and I went to Kyu Shu, the Japanese steakhouse next to Applebee's, and then went to see Kick Ass.

As far as I know, there are 6 Japanese restaurants in Ithaca, and Kyu Shu is one of my least favorites. This is the second time I've gone to Kyu Shu. The first time, We sat down, read the menu, and went next door to Applebee's. This time, we had an hour for dinner before the movie and Applebee's had a 15 minute wait to be seated, so we went to Kyu Shu.

I ordered tofu teriyaki, Zahde ordered the tonkatsu (or perhaps the chicken katsu, more on that later). We both ordered iced tea to drink. Both of our meals came with the house salad, a bowl of miso soup, and rice.

The good things first: The service was fast, despite how crowded the place was (there appeared to be at least two parties going on, plus the hibachi tables lined with what Zahde identified as tourists). The house salad was easily one of the best salads I've gotten from an Asian restaurant; it was a reasonable amount of clean, dry, iceberg lettuce, a small piece of tomato, and a generous dollop of ginger-carrot dressing. It wasn't swimming in residual water by the time I was finished with it. The disposable chopsticks were a decent quality bamboo chopstick, smooth with a nice taper. And the rice was well-made; I could easily taste each short, sticky, and plump grain while eating it. We were out in enough time to make it to the theater, wait in line with all the college kids going to see Iron Man II, and get seated before the trailers started.

The bad things... Kyu Shu advertises based on it's "diverse menu", but I found the menu to be small. While it appears a large hibachi section, it lacked any don buri, bento, and had only limited selections of udon or soba dishes. While the sushi selection is only slightly smaller than what is available at another local Japanese restaurant (Aki Samurai), and much cheaper, Kyu Shu amazingly does not have sashimi on the menu at all! Their deserts are decidedly non-Japanese (ice cream, fried ice cream, and fried banana), and they don't seem to offer hot tea of any sort. As I expected, the choices for a vegetarian were limited, but they were more limited than usual at Japanese restaurants, which is why I ended up with the tofu teriyaki despite not particularly caring for teriyaki.

Zahde asked me if our tea tasted like instant. I told her I suspected it came out of the spigot next to the Coke. She felt that was a reasonable explanation for the taste.

As I mentioned, the salad I had was excellent for a western-style salad in an Asian restaurant. The miso soup was not worth commenting about good or bad.

My teriyaki was served on a sizzle-plate, and bits of the teriyaki sauce reached soft-crack stage while sitting on the plate. Most of the sauce (and onions, I believe) were under the tofu, which had been prepared agedashi-style. However, the silken tofu hadn't firmed up from the cooking, so the light fried breading quickly came off when touched with a chopstick, and the chopsticks met little resistance from the tofu. It was impossible for me to pick up a block of tofu without inadvertently cutting it to bits with chopsticks. I eventually had to resort to asking for a fork in order to be able to pick it up to eat it (I thought of asking for a spoon instead). Also on the sizzle-plate was a small handful of vegetables -- broccoli, carrot, etc -- which had been cooked just past where the color starts to fade but before it is no longer crunchy. I believe the flavor had faded as well.

After finishing the vegetables and tofu, I was left with a plate of rapidly hardening teriyaki sauce and a bowl of rice. I combined the two, and found the rice decent, as described above.

Zahde's katsu arrived as a flat, breaded and fried cutlet, on a plate decorated with artistically-sliced citrus (I beleive). She had good things to say about her chicken during most of the meal, which is why I was surprised when she picked up the last bite and exclaimed "this is pork!". I know that it's standard for every exotic meat to be described as "tastes just like chicken" but I didn't think that was supposed to apply to pork.

In general, with 6 Japanese restaurants in town, I can choose to be a bit picky about where I get my fill of Japanese cuisine. As such, I'm likely to only return to Kyu Shu under a couple of circumstances: if I want the full Japanese hibachi restaurant experience[1] or if I'm trying to catch dinner before a movie and Applebee's is packed, like last night.

After the dinner (which, for those who care, came to $38 after tax and tip), Zahde and I went to see Kick Ass. I might write up a review of that later.

[1] For me, the full Japanese hibachi restaurant experience involves watching a Japanese chef theatrically cook other people's beef, pork, and seafood on a hot communal griddle before proceeding to theatrically cook my vegetables, tofu, and eggs on the same griddle. Needless to say, I rarely want the full Japanese hibachi restaurant experience.

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I pretty much only go there when I want hibachi. It's a great deal for weekday lunches, when the hibachi is half price (or thereabouts) and several sushi rolls are half price. As you've observed, for table service of kitchen-prepared dishes, there are better places in town. But their sushi crew seems to be quite talented, as well as friendly. (I'm sure it helps that I tip them separately.)

Also, it may not be on the menu, but I have hot tea every time I'm there. They have lovely cylindrical stoneware mugs that are painful to use because they have no handles. :-) "Hot tea and ice water, please" is my usual beverage order in such places. No charge.

I'll keep that in mind about the tea. I don't mind handleless cups, as I find tea normally too hot to drink initially anyway.

I have nothing to say about their teppanyaki, but since the general nature of teppanyaki is such that it puts me off my food, I don't think I'll ever try it at Kyu Shu. (a hibachi is a clay firepot used for house heating, a shichirin is a portable charcoal grill, and teppanyaki is a style of cooking on a large iron plate, invented in 1945)

I didn't try the sushi this time, so I'll keep your suggestion in mind for next time.

Mind you, the previous local Japanese restaurant I went to (which shall remain nameless until I write up a full review) required the waiter to remind the sushi crew that tamago was egg, not octopus.

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