Raw Clone

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It's pointless to point out how sushi restaurants have proliferated in the Dallas area over the past few years. It's not a trend anymore. It's a near onslaught. It's easier to get strips of white tuna on a rice bumper than it is to get white shirts starched and on a hanger.

And sushi restaurants are no longer confined to multiplying in the traditional way. Now--like lambs, kittens and Arnold Schwarzenegger--they're cloning, too. Named in Hollywood-sequel fashion to avoid confusion, Sushi Kyoto II is a clone of Sushi Kyoto I in Coppell that chef-owner Won Park opened three years ago. Kyoto II is a simple restaurant in a little commerce strip across from Southern Methodist University.

The restaurant is unassuming, with a ceramic faux stone tile floor and black walls that hold assorted snapshots and a Troy Aikman football jersey as well as an ATM with a color television propped up on top. An odd grid of white rectangular metal tubing is laced across the ceiling, a sculpture above the bar that neatly evolves into a glass rack.


Sushi Kyoto II

6429 Hillcrest Ave.

214-520-9991. Open daily for lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. $$-$$$

Tuna: $4.95
Smoked salmon: $4.50
Tobiko: $4.50
Uni: $6.95
Octopus: $4.25
Toro: $11.95
Seaweed salad: $4.95

Despite this bewildering interior accessorizing, the sushi is good: silky tuna that disintegrates in the mouth with just a little tongue pressure; smooth, delicately smoky salmon that can be easily parsed with chopsticks; and a pair of fluffy tobiko parcels, one dyed green (wasabi), the other black. Even the uni, that sushi specimen that makes infrequent appearances and even more infrequent successful ones, was firm, nutty and smoothly cool. The octopus was tender and chewy, with a touch of brininess.

The only downside was the toro (fatty tuna belly), which was so stringy and tough that it was impossible to bite off chewable morsels. One of the more profound items on the Kyoto II menu isn't even a fish. It's a snarl of seaweed speckled with sesame seeds. The flavors are so clean, crisp and addicting, we ordered a bowl of it at $4.95 after finishing off a generous complimentary serving of the stuff. It's an arousing mouth stimulant--a vegan French tickler.

Sushi Kyoto II was conceived as a pint-sized sushi/hibachi complex. To that end, shiny metal hoods hover over two dining room tables whose surfaces are embedded with griddles. The hibachi part of the restaurant should be up and running in a couple of months, Park says. But the sushi doesn't need any knife and spatula antics, though the sushi bar does have a trio of freshwater fish--bass and trout--mounted behind the bar. This is a peculiar piece of dissonance. Eating freshwater fish in the raw is akin to mopping a garage floor with gasoline; it might be tempting, but will almost certainly result in hair loss.

Kyoto II is much safer than that, no matter what others may say about vengeful clones.

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