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Dining review: Mochi Kitchen in Haltom City

Mochi Kitchen

4613 Denton Highway, Suite 45, Haltom City

817-656-7028; www.mochikitchen.com

Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 4:30-9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 4:30-11 p.m. Thursday and Friday; and 5-11 p.m. Saturday.

Cost: $4-$18 (lunch and dinner)

Signature dishes: All-you-can-eat sushi; fire cracker

Recommended for: Sushi cravings in Haltom City; Asian-cuisine fanatics looking for affordable, good food

Posted 4:07pm on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012

Sushi is serious business at Mochi Kitchen.

The nearly 4-year-old Haltom City restaurant's lengthy menu teems with all manner of nigiri, makizushi (hand rolls) and sashimi, from the traditional to the unique. Even as you enter the compact space, tucked between a steakhouse and a Thai restaurant in a strip mall just south of Loop 820, the first thing you see is the sushi bar. Behind it, a gong, which is struck whenever guests arrive or depart.

It's a quirky touch, but one separating Mochi Kitchen from the flashy, stylish sushi spots that have popped up with increasing frequency throughout North Texas in the past two years.

In fact, one such sleek eatery -- Blue Sushi Sake Grill, anchoring one end of the bustling West 7th development -- acquired the services of Mochi Kitchen's original chef-owner, Reata veteran Ped Phommavong, who turned over operations to general manager Bon Ku in April 2010. Ku appears to have altered little, retaining the Blade Runner-esque charms of the space (the aforementioned gong, a Phommavong flourish, and abundant Asian tchotchkes, with a flat-screen TV tuned to sports during our recent visit -- complemented by the steady glow of neon light from beneath the bar).

But the food, not the decor, is the focus, and Mochi Kitchen excels at feeding its customers quickly, affordably and with staggering variety. You'll want the fire cracker ($7.95) to start, an eye-popping appetizer set atop a fried wonton masquerading as a tortilla chip. Slightly spicy tuna, crab meat, avocado and four sauces are drizzled on, resulting in a savory, crunchy bite reminiscent of the habit-forming spicy tuna and crab nachos at Sushi Axiom.

You can wade through the menu and suss out what seems most promising or you can let Mochi Kitchen do the editing for you: Pay a flat rate of $19.95 and you'll be treated to all the sushi you can eat. There are some caveats -- no sharing; eat everything you order; selection is somewhat limited; nothing to-go -- but you're also freed from having to narrow your choices. I sampled standards like the spicy tuna roll (frustratingly mild; available separately for $5.95) and exotic concoctions like the volcano roll, which piled baked crab, masuyo and scallop on a California roll ($8.95).

Although sushi is the star of the show, Mochi Kitchen offers lots of other options, including Asian entrees such as kung pao chicken, pepper steak and even bulgogi (Korean barbecue). Prices range from $7.95 to $15.95, and the portions are ample. On a recent visit, my wife tried the honey chicken ($8.95), which was coated in a light crust and a sweet, sticky sauce, and served over fluffy white rice.

Mochi Kitchen is BYOB, with only tea and canned soft drinks available. And although the entree selection is broad and deep, dessert, sadly, is perfunctory: mochi or tempura ice cream ($4.95 and $6.95, respectively) or an orange. (There's also a "chef's special," but diners must request it.)

Is Mochi Kitchen worth beating a path to Haltom City? Not exactly. It's clear that Bon Ku and his team are serious about their sushi, but none of the rolls sampled elicited moans of satisfaction. However, if you are in the area and you have a hankering for sushi, this unassuming, efficient restaurant will hit the spot.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713

Twitter: @prestonjones

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