Best Japanese Restaurant - 2005
Though the raw (and cooked, for that matter) fish is stellar, Kiko is best-known as perhaps the region's finest -- only? -- country-style Japanese restaurant. Instead of the flashy, neon-drenched techno-meal you'd find in the hip sections of Tokyo, this clean, bright space in the Fountains Center offers food you'd discover a farmer serving to guests in the old country. Ramen and other noodle dishes are outstanding, as is the deep-fried pork cutlet with panko breading ($13.95), a true comfort food. Try nabemono, with vegetables cooked together in a clay pot, or yakimono, with various samplings of meats or seafood in different sauces. The provincial fare is heartier and less delicate than what Westerners are used to -- some of the menu is a rather radical departure from our usual strip-mall sushi spots -- but it's authentic and served with artistic flair in a Zen-like realm. Kelp salad, brown rice, and tofu galore set Kiko apart, but on those rare, cold and rainy subtropical days, nothing warms body and soul like a steaming hot bowl of udon soup with fat, chewy noodles, Japanese cabbage, and big chunks of chicken (starting at $6.95).