Kabuki Japanese and Korean Restaurant, which recently relocated from Clifton Park to the Peter Harris plaza here, isn’t the same restaurant in a different place.
Kabuki Japanese & Korean Restaurant
WHERE: 952 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham (Peter Harris Plaza, Route 7). Phone 782-9609
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily
HOW MUCH: $60
MORE INFO: All major credit cards except Discover. Handicapped accessible. No children’s menu.
There are no hibachi tables, for example, where you can sit and watch your food prepared as you listen to the clickety-clack of the knives and cleaver on the stainless-steel grill surface. The place is attractive enough, with lots of pretty Asian prints on the walls. But what’s Japanese food without the show?
I strayed to the Korean portion of the menu on a recent visit, choosing the bulgogi, a signature Korean dish of grilled marinated beef. Bulgogi — it’s “Buhl GooGee” on the menu — is sirloin or another prime cut that is sliced in thin strips and marinated in sesame oil, soy sauce and spices. It is usually cooked on a metal dish over a burner and served, as in the case of my entree, with grilled onions and green peppers. It came with white rice, though often it is served with lettuce or other garnishes to be eaten with the meat. The dish was flavorful, but over-tenderized and on the sweet side and, at $15.95, I wasn’t impressed.
I was disappointed too when the bulgogi was delivered to the table only a couple of minutes after our appetizers had arrived, leaving me to cut to the entree quicker than I wanted to or risk its going cold.
For appetizers, we enjoyed some sumai ($4.95), delicate little dumplings flavored with shrimp bits and lightly toasted. They were served with a light dipping sauce and were quite good, as I remembered them to be from the former Kabuki.
For a second appetizer, I tried to order the beef negimaki, which is asparagus and onions wrapped in thin-sliced beef, brushed with teriyaki and grilled, but our server returned to say there was no Negimaki this day. So I ordered a kimchi and tofu dish ($5.95), which turned out to be a good idea. The kimchi, a standard Korean side dish of brined, spiced cabbage, was quite flavorful with a nice kick from the medium hot chili that is used as seasoning, and the silky, cool tofu cubes added a pleasant contrast in both texture and flavor.
My dinner guest chose the shrimp tempura ($15.95), which looked prettier than it tasted. There was a variety of veggies and a generous number of shrimp that had been battered and deep-fried, but when I sampled some of it, I thought it was not nearly as good as it should be. The coating was heavier than it should be and had a rubbery consistency, no crispness to speak of, as though it had been too long out of the deep fat. The dish came with noodles, which I didn’t try, but my tablemate pronounced them “not bad.”
Our meals came with miso soup, which was pleasantly aromatic and delicately flavored. It, along with the vanilla ice cream with bits of candied ginger at the end, made for pleasant bookends.
You can get more adventurous with Kabuki’s appetizers, which include such dishes as grilled spicy squid and “Dynamite Octopus,” both for $7.95, or kushikatsu (deep-fried kabobs) and maguro tataki (seared fish), both for $6.95.
There is a fairly extensive sushi selection, ranging from a “beginner’s sushi” choice for $12.95 to a sashimi dinner, featuring a variety of raw fish, for $21.95.
Bento box combination lunches and dinners also are offered with California roll, rice and noodles, a shrimp tempura and a choice of chicken, beef or salmon teriyaki for $16.95 on the dinner menu.
The Korean menu contains a dozen or so entrees. Choices include chicken dolsot bibimbahp (assorted vegetables and chicken in a hot stone pot) for $13.95 and japchae (grilled vermicelli noodles with mixed vegetables and beef) for $14.95, both on the dinner menu.
Our tab, for entrees, two appetizers and sodas, came to $60 with tax and tip.
Miso soup is made from the Japanese condiment staple miso, a fermented soybean paste that is used in numerous dishes. It is made with soybeans, salt and sometimes rice along with a culture of mold that is the fermenting catalyst, and it is aged in cedar vats for a year or more. It is quite salty in flavor, so it is used sparingly. Miso soup is popular breakfast fare in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.