For several years, Japanese cuisine has been enjoying an unprecedented boom across our country. From sushi, to hibachi, to bento boxes, to other traditional dishes and creative specialties, our love of Japanese food continues to grow. Locally, Koto Japanese Sushi & Steakhouse, in Clemmons, NC, is already experiencing great popularity and even has regular customers after opening in January of this year.
It might surprise you, but Koto Japanese Sushi & Steakhouse is owned by Chinese immigrants, Jian “Tony” Dong, Shao Ting “Connor” Li, with Dong’s wife, Mi Long “Annie” Yang, who oversees the dining room. “We moved from China to New York in 2005, each of us working in Japanese restaurants, my husband as a chef and I, as a waitress,” said Annie. It was that experience that gave Tony and Annie the idea and dream of one day opening their own restaurant. Li had previously worked in South and North Carolina, while Yang and Dong had been working in the sushi bar at the Harris Teeter in Clemmons, NC.
Moving from New York to North Carolina in 2015 wasn’t a strategic decision because Clemmons, NC, needed a Japanese restaurant, but one of wanting a warmer climate. “We love the weather here and there were good opportunities for our family to pursue our dream of having our own restaurant,” Annie stated. So why choose Japanese over your native Chinese cuisine?
“We really like the Japanese flavors. The two, Chinese and Japanese, are similar, yet different in their offerings. The love of sushi and hibachi led us to continue in Japanese and finally, after many years, open our own restaurant. Tony has worked in hibachi restaurants for about ten years and I’ve been making sushi about ten years, as well. It is the work we got when we first came to America…we learned to cook Japanese and that’s what we know and now love,” commented Annie.
Their combined twenty-plus years of experience has led to an extensive menu at Koto Japanese Sushi & Steakhouse. With a touch of and influence of Chinese and Thai cuisines, there is something for everyone who loves Japanese.
Appetizers include IKA Maruyaki (BBQ squid, $8), Beef Negimaki ($7) and Annie’s favorite, the Bacon-Shrimp roll ($10). “Our teriyaki entrees are popular with items like scallops, shrimp, salmon, tofu for vegetarians, chicken or steak. Most of our entrees include steamed rice and choice of soup or salad,” Annie said. From those delicious dishes, the menu continues with bento boxes, featuring chicken katsu, sushi, sashimi, and shrimp tempura. Each box includes shumai, a spring roll, rice, and a choice of soup or salad. Hibachi items can be served alone or in combinations, with chicken, steak, shrimp, lobster, and more.
The Chef’s specials include grilled filet mignon with yakiniku sauce, Chilean sea bass and crispy duck, which is the one purely Chinese dish.
The choices of sushi and sashimi items are endless. “We have standard sushi rolls, but also 34 special rolls. The Clemmons roll has spicy tuna inside with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and tilapia on top. The Koto roll includes spicy shrimp, lobster salad, and avocado. At lunch, we have a number of specials. Customers can choose two or three sushi rolls from a select list and get them with soup or salad for $9.75 or $13.75. Other items, including hibachi items and bento boxes, are priced from $7 to $13 at lunch,” explained Annie.
Koto Japanese Sushi & Steakhouse is located at 3619 Clemmons Road, Clemmons, NC, in the Clemmons Village Shopping Center. Hours of operation: Monday-Thursday, 11 am-2:30 pm and 4-9:30 pm.; Friday, 11 am-2:30 pm and 4-10 pm.; Sunday 12- 9:30 pm. For more information or to order online and pick up at the restaurant, visit www.kotonc.com.