Indie Toledo: KotoBuki

Part of a series about independent restaurants and stores in the Northwest Ohio area.

KotoBuki in Sylvania, Ohio is one of several Japanese food/sushi places within just a few miles on Monroe Street.  Nestled among a variety of shops in the same plaza, KotoBuki houses a beautiful dine-in area and a friendly atmosphere.

The restaurant has a very good reputation in Toledo and has been featured in local media several times.  The restaurant currently has a 4 1/2 star rating on Google restaurant reviews and is one of the highest-recommended Japanese restaurants in Toledo.

Food & Beverages

KotoBuki has a wide range of food available, from unique and standard sushi rolls to Korean and Japanese traditional cuisine.  One item of note that sets KotoBuki apart from other area sushi places is that, if requested, a diner may enjoy a cup of green tea to accompany his or her meal for free.  One of my closest friends, who in fact brought me to KotoBuki in the first place, loves to have green tea with her sushi, so this works out wonderfully for her.

Many specialty rolls at KotoBuki can also be found at other restaurants, such as the Joe roll or the Ninja roll, but the restaurant also has several unique rolls as well including the Toledo roll and the Harry Potter roll, neither of which I’ve seen (in the exact incarnation) as I have at KotoBuki.

My personal favorite at KotoBuki is the Joe roll, simply because of the way the KotoBuki chefs make it.  I have tried some of the other specialty rolls as well and have never felt unsatisfied with the way it was made or the taste.  The fish at KotoBuki is fresh and the presentation is very pretty.

There are other dishes available as well, such as chirashi and Korean chirashi.  Chirashi is a dish of sashimi (sliced raw fish) on top of a bed of rice, unlike nigiri-zushi, which is a slice of raw fish on a pat of rice.  There are also hot dishes, like tempura and soba, and hot appetizers like gyoza (dumplings) and calamari.

Critic’s Conclusion

I personally would recommend KotoBuki as a place to enjoy sushi or traditional Korean and Japanese meals with family members or close friends.  The atmosphere is friendly, the restaurant itself is beautiful, and the wide variety of foods available on the menu make it an excellent place for evening meals.

While there, I’d definitely recommend trying out the traditional dishes over the sushi.  Not that there’s anything “wrong” or sub-par about the sushi – it’s quite delicious – but the traditional offerings are what really set KotoBuki apart from other Japanese-style restaurants in the area.  It also makes KotoBuki a great place to have dinner with friends who don’t do the raw fish thing when everyone else in the group loves sushi.

You can learn more about KotoBuki and check out the menu at the KotoBuki website.

Have you been to KotoBuki?  What do you like about the restaurant?

Indie Toledo: Elaine’s Tea Shoppe

Part of a series about independent restaurants and retailers in the Toledo area.

Toledo isn’t exactly the place you’d expect to find tea and scones, but you can in fact find a place that serves tea and scones on Monroe Street in West Toledo.

Elaine’s Tea Shoppe, which has been in the area for about 10 years at various locations, sells loose-leaf tea, tea accessories, and other paraphernalia as well as offering a tea service at all times of the day.

Elaine’s is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Food & Beverage

Elaine’s offers a tea service to customers who stay in the shop which has a variety of offerings.  The main menu is a list of the varieties of tea available at the tea service.  I vastly prefer the green teas, but that’s more of a personal preference.

The shop has multiple varieties available, primarily black teas, oolong teas, green teas, and white teas.  Each type costs $3.50, which includes multiple re-steeps.

There are other things on the menu, as well, including Elaine’s recipe for scones with jam and cream.

Products

The greatest variety at Elaine’s includes the various tea-related accessories and other items that a casual browser might enjoy.

First off, there are a variety of teapots, tea strainers and infusers, and other items to help a tea enthusiast to brew tea.  Currently, since it’s summer, the shop is carrying iced tea makers as well as regular pots to make hot tea in.

Apart from single pots, the shop also carries sets – for my birthday, my friends bought me a set with a teapot and a cup, while other sets come with a pot and two cups.

Elaine’s also carries food products, particularly loose-leaf tea (nothing comes in bagged form) and flavored varieties of honey, which – incidentally – are created locally in Waterville, Ohio.  The honey comes in several varieties, such as Lemon, Cinnamon, or Lavender.  There are also other sweeteners available, such as the popular tea sweetener German rock salt.

In terms of tea, Elaine’s carries black teas, oolong teas, white teas, green teas, herbal tisanes, and blooming teas.  All of these line one long wall on the right side of the shop.  They come in small or large bags – you can purchase packs of 4 as well – and you can always buy a 2-oz or 3-oz tin and buy loose-leaf tea to be put in the tin if you don’t like to use up a lot of packaging.

Critic’s Conclusion

If you’re interested in learning more about tea – and maybe discovering a new brew – then Elaine’s is the place for you.  Elaine is one of a handful of Tea Masters in the country, and she can answer practically any question on the topic.

My best recommendation is to visit with the intent of having tea in the shop.  The service is very nice, there is a wide variety of teas to try for $3.50, and you can try something new each time.  My favorite thing to do?  Have tea with a friend.

*Please note that Elaine’s Tea Shoppe requests that you pay by check or in cash if possible.

Poem: “Toledo Skies”

The city falls asleep each night
as the gold-orange streetlamps light the sky
Purple swathes of cloud float
above treetop hills and tar-covered roofs

What is there to a city besides people?
When the people are not there at all
when the nightfall drives them to the cover of
front porch chairs and backyard patios

Each night when the sun falls
to let the purple darkness rise
over the asphalt streets and city forests
and the sounds of the people alive.

This poem was written as part of a writing prompt for the UT Writer’s Guild.

Indie Toledo: Taruman

Part of a series about independent restaurants and stores in the Northwest Ohio area.

Sushi may not be for everyone, but those who do enjoy it often have particular tastes: specific cuts of specific types of fish, preferences of toppings or fillings for various rolls, even a liking for the California roll made by certain sushi places.

While I’ve been to several sushi places within five miles or so of the University of Toledo, where I work and go to school, I haven’t found one I like quite as much as I like Taruman.

Taruman, which technically counts more as a sushi takeout restaurant, is located at 7430 West Central Avenue in what the maps tell me is Toledo.  I’d definitely say it’s far out enough on Central to be in Sylvania, though, so if you’re a Sylvania resident near Central Avenue, it’s one of the closest sushi places.

Food & Beverages

As a sushi place, Taruman serves sushi.  Usually, they’re open for lunch and dinner, and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays there is a lunch special, which is written on the white board at the front of the shop.  There are a few basic categories of food at Taruman.

First, there’s nigiri sushi.  Nigiri is the type of sushi that has a small pat of rice with a piece of fish, seafood, or other item on top.  I haven’t really tried the nigiri at Taruman, but I have tried one: the tamago nigiri, which is sweet fried egg.  It was a little odd-tasting, but as far as I can tell, it’s because sweet fried egg in general tastes very strange to me.  (I’ve had it elsewhere and felt the same way.)

The second category I would include are the regular and vegetable rolls, or maki sushi.  Maki refers to something round, so a maki is a rolled sushi.  I usually get maki sushi, since it’s my main preference.  There are standard rolls like the California and Philadelphia rolls as well as a variety of vegetable/vegetarian rolls.

The third category is specialty rolls.  I haven’t tried Taruman’s specialty rolls, but those I go with often do.  From the reviews I’ve heard from friends, the Monster roll and the Dragon roll are both very good.

The fourth category of sushi is the te-maki, which translates to hand-roll.  These are cone-shaped sushi often filled with deliciousness.  Taruman actually has a kimchi te-maki, which would sound interesting and delicious if I liked kimchi.

There are other offerings as well, such as udon (a type of noodle), edamame (lightly salted, steamed soybeans in the pod) and miso (a traditional Japanese soup made with tofu).

A variety of beverages are also available, including the Japanese soda Ramune, hot tea, and more.

Critic’s Conclusion

I GREATLY recommend Taruman to any sushi-lover in Northwest Ohio – and anyone just trying sushi for the first time.  Taruman is the second place I had tried sushi, but the first place I actually enjoyed it – and after that, I headed there regularly.

Personally, my favorite thing about Taruman is the service.  The staff there is great – the chef is a very nice lady, and I’m sure that by now she knows my face, since I’m there pretty often and usually get the same thing.  I haven’t met such a friendly staff in a restaurant before!

In regards to food, I widely recommend the California roll or spicy California, especially if you like spicy sauce.  That’s pretty intense coming from me – I usually can’t stand spicy things!  The Philadelphia roll is also good.

One note: I’d recommend Taruman as a lunch visit.  While it’s charming inside, it’s not the sort of place you would impress your date.