At Koi Sushi Bar & Grill, south of Interstate 20 off Texas 360, the fresh-fish game has been elevated to a new delicious level, thanks to seasoned sushi chefs and an exceedingly comfortable atmosphere.
Last spring, Koi opened in a former sushi space, intent to separate itself from the crowd. Right away, you’ll notice one way it stands out — its gorgeous dining room, all red banquettes, textured ceramic walls and luxe crystal pendant lights and chandeliers. The atmosphere is so pleasant and serene, we soon forgot the frustration of sitting in frontage-road Christmastime traffic just a few minutes earlier.
Even better, we found Koi has a large menu of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese dishes (like wonton soup and spring rolls), so virtually anyone can be happy dining here.
We toed the Japanese/Vietnamese line by ordering the seared tuna spring rolls ($7.95), eight little flattened rice paper pockets, each filled with about two inches’ worth of asparagus spears and a small piece of raw tuna. It was a simple pairing that was tasty enough, as long as you avoided the wasabi dipping sauce, which was little more than oil that had separated from soy sauce.
The barbecued pork Chinese egg noodle soup ($7.50) was a large bowl filled with crispy noodles, bok choy and a generous amount of pork. It was fragrant and hearty — ideal for those in your group who shun sushi in search of more filling food.
The asparagus beef ($15.95), stir-fried chunks of rib eye served with asparagus and red and green peppers, drew more than a few comparisons to a plate of fajitas — if you didn’t factor in the bowl of sticky rice served on the side and the entrée’s sweet-and-spicy sauce.
But if it’s sushi you’re after, Koi delivers with creative sauces — no mayo-laden drizzles here — and interesting flavor combinations.
All three of the sushi specials sounded tempting the night we visited, but we especially liked the popcorn shrimp ($7.95) and the Sweet Caroline ($13) rolls. The former was exactly what it sounds like, with a little nib-let of tempura-fried shrimp married with julienned cucumber and an unexpected sprig of cilantro, which added a fresh touch.
The Sweet Caroline was even more innovative, with tempura vegetables rolled inside rice and topped with fresh crab and shrimp. But what really won us over was the mango-raspberry chili sauce drizzled on top. It sounded totally incongruous, but the sweet notes worked wonders complementing the roll’s ingredients.
Koji Aoki, Koi’s head sushi chef, is an alum of Sushi Zone and I Love Sushi, so he knows the drill. Now, he simply wants to transfer his Arlington success to Grand Prairie. With Koi, he seems well on his way.