Kotobuki Japanese Restaurant

How far are you willing to walk for your favorite dish? As a young Marine I was willing to walk a mile and a half across the base in Japan for one of my favorite Japanese meals, Tonkatsu Curry. I have only been to two Japanese restaurants in the states that serve Tonkatsu Curry. One being Maru Sushi in  San Francisco and the other, Kotobuki Japanese Restaurant, in Norfolk Virginia. Every time I eat at Kotobuki, I am transported back to Japan. Kotobuki is a Japanese family restaurant, that has been in business for 24 years. One of the draws of Kotobuki is that you feel like you are visiting family. How many restaurants do you know where you walk in the door and the owner gives you a hug and asks how you have been.

Kotobuki Gyoza
Kotobuki Gyoza

Fortunately, everyone that walks through the door of Kotobuki benefits from the flavors of Japan that the owner Machismo brought from her homeland, Okinawa, Japan.  At Kotobuki, you can expect the freshest ingredients prepared in such a way that you feel like you are dining in Japan.

Tonkatsu Curry
Kotobuki Tonkatsu Curry

Tonkatsu Curry is a perfect wintertime dish. After finishing this dish, you will have a feeling of being full and warm. Tonkatsu Curry is a deep-fried panko crusted pork patty, that is sliced and laid to rest over rice and then smothered by a rich spicy curry sauce. The curry sauce is bursting with flavor. In some ways Tonkatsu Curry is reminiscent of a hearty stew with its potatoes, carrots, and onions. Not taking anything away from Indian Curries, Japanese Curry is by far my favorite. If Curry is not your thing, Kotobuki has a Sushi bar and a menu of dishes straight from Japan. If you have a favorite Japanese meal, I’m certain they serve it. Of course the Sushi lovers will not be disappointed.

Kotobuki has been recognized for its selection of dishes that can be made vegan. They actually have a full Vegan menu. This is one restaurant where everyone in your party can enjoy a freshly prepared Japanese meal.

My only disappointment was I didn’t save room for dessert. How can you refuse Tempura Cheesecake or Tempura Ice Cream.  If you are looking for something truly special and uniquely Japanese, try their Daifuku Mochi, Dorayaki, or Yukan.

If I didn’t know better, I would say Machismo carried Kotobuki from Japan in her luggage. I would definitely say one of the best Japanese restaurants on the East Coast. Have you been to Kotobuki Japanese Restaurant in Norfolk VA? If you have or have another favorite Japanese restaurant, leave your comments below.

Blue Gingko

Blue Gingko in Lafayette California, is authentic Japanese cuisine.

A trip to the San Francisco Bay Area would not be complete without eating at my favorite Japanese restaurant, the Blue Gingko. Outside of Japan, the Blue Gingko is one of my favorite Japanese restaurants. It starts with the food. Blue Gingko imports food from the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. It ends with tastes that will transport you to Japan.

Fried Rice Balls
Blue Gingko’s Fried Rice Balls

Something unique to Blue Gingko is fried rice balls. Picture this, you pick up your Hashi, better known in the States as chopsticks, and you slice through the outer shell of a fried rice ball to find the soft inner body. This has to be one of my favorite ways to eat rice. The fried rice balls at Blue Gingko are served with an unagi sauce (Eel Sauce.) Unagi sauce is a thickened, sweetened soy sauce. For the squeamish amongst us, this sauce is not made from eels, it is a sauce that is traditionally served with grilled eel dishes in Japan. 

Blue Gingko's Gyoza
Blue Gingko’s Gyoza

Call me crazy, I actually went to Blue Gingko twice on this trip. Knowing that it will be a while until I go back to the Bay Area. On my second trip, I ordered Gyoza. This is one of my favorite appetizers. Blue Gingko has the right touch, they are deep fried to the point of having a light crunch and the pork is tender and flavorful. To complement the Gyoza it is served with a dipping sauce that is made of soy sauce and vinegar. After the unpleasant experience I had in Rochester, it was a pleasure eating their Gyoza.

Blue Gingko Tonkatsu
Blue Gingko’s Tonkatsu

As soon as I confirmed my trip back to the San Francisco Bay Area, I knew I was going to dine at least one night at Blue Gingko. There was also no doubt what I was going to order, Tonkatsu. You may ask yourself what is so special about a deep-fried pork tenderloin cutlet. Blue Gingko’s pork tenderloin is cut to the right portion size. They do not cut their pork tenderloin to thin. Cutting pork tenderloin to thin has a tendency to make it too dry. Theirs is tender and juicy. The panko crust has just enough seasoning to enhance the dish. Let’s not forget the Tonkatsu Sauce. Tonkatsu Sauce is a complex sauce made from fruits and vegetables, plus soy sauce, vinegar and no less than 10 spices. If you haven’t had Tonkatsu Sauce, it has a rich flavor with a slight tanginess. The Tonkatsu Sauce is what brings the dish together. Having eaten this dish in Japan, Blue Gingko’s tastes like it was transported straight from Japan.

Teriyaki Chicken
Blue Gingko’s Teriyaki Chicken

When I want to change things up, I order Blue Gingko’s Teriyaki Chicken. Blue Gingko’s Teriyaki Chicken has a light, sweet teriyaki flavor. If you are watching your carbs, this dish may not be for you. I highly recommend this dish. The day I was eating dinner there, I heard another patron tell their dining partner, they only order Teriyaki Chicken when they eat there.

Blue Gingko  is definitely a restaurant worth the drive if you live in the San Francisco Bay area or just visiting. Whether you are looking for sushi or want to try my favorite Tonkatsu, you should make plans to visit Blue Gingko in Lafayette, California. Have you been to Blue Gingko? Please feel free to leave a comment.