Kotobuki

377 Nesconset Hwy. Hauppauge, NY 631-360-3969

Kotobuki , 377 Nesconset Hwy., Hauppauge, 631-360-3969. At

(Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis)

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Critic rating: 1

User rating:
3
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Type: Japanese, Asian, Restaurant, Sushi Price range: $$$ (Expensive) Description:

At the flagship restaurant of this mega-successful chainlet, sushi chef Kenny Muraki consistently turns out super-fresh raw fish in portions that surpass generous.

Reservations: Accepted Notable dishes: Sushi, sashimi, crudo.
1.0

Is it remotely possible that the Kotobuki restaurants have Long Island's "top food"?

Is it even plausible that branches in Babylon and Hauppauge are, overall, the "top" restaurants in Suffolk?

Is it probable that any of them is the "top" Japanese restaurant in either county?

Is it likely that each is its neighborhood's main sushi bar?

No. No. No. Yes.

Originally, the Kotobuki on Nesconset Highway and the one on Deer Park Avenue were unpretentious and easy to recommend.

Then, they had the fortune/misfortune to place unrealistically high in a popular survey. They contracted Zagatitis.

The advanced symptoms are clear in Hauppauge and in Babylon: Each eatery has become as overblown as its rating. The new addition in Roslyn expands the empire - and also underscores the reality.

These three restaurants are more like six: one each for the raw, one each for the cooked. To be positive, Kotobuki prepares good, sometimes very good, sashimi and nigirizushi, the uncooked fish on ovals of vinegared rice. Sit at the sushi bar, stick with these, or the house's versions of crudo, and you'll do all right.

At the Roslyn newcomer, as at the others, the familiar, cooked dishes, from tempura to teriyaki, yakitori to negimaki, sukiyaki to yosenabe, are disappointments. They find the precise point between routine and ordinary.

Each eatery is numbingly noisy. In Roslyn, the sounds one night included a trumpeter playing "If I Were a Carpenter." If so, he might redesign the dining room, allowing a bit more space between tables. This Kotobuki is more streamlined than the others, but it's still tightly packed. One more table, and another could pop into the parking lot.

The better dishes in Roslyn are the premium o-toro sashimi, and the crudo of salmon; the fluke usuzukuri, thinly sliced and served with ponzu sauce; and the sushi of maguro tuna, yellowtail and Spanish mackerel.

If you favor the multiflavored sushi rolls, the UFO, with marinated radish, tuna, salmon, yellowtail, avocado, scallions and tobiko, stands out. Skip those with spicy mayonnaise, cream cheese, tempura, and "crunchies." Kotobuki can give raw seafood big flavors and display. But they don't add up to Nobu East. "Okinawan fluke," for example, pairs the pearly fish with a sweet-spicy chile sauce suitable for barbecue.

Hiyashi wakame, seaweed salad with toasty salmon skin, salmon roe and vinegar sauce, is satisfying. Pass on the refrigerator-cold gratis house salad with the patented, orange-hued dressing. For cooked fare, try the tuna nuta, or seared tuna with mustard sauce.

Service is patient and welcoming. And the lead sushi chef provides a silent seminar in slicing.

At meal's end, if you want dessert, have your ice cream simply scooped, not fried. Consider fresh pineapple rather than banana tempura.

For the record, the 2007/08 Zagat Survey also put the Suffolk Kotobukis fourth in popularity on Long Island. Peter Luger, complete with its grand $158 steak, as usual, is said to be the most popular restaurant on the Island.

Is that believable?

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Kotobuki 377 Nesconset Hwy., Hauppauge

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