On a rainy afternoon on Maple Street, a neon sign decorated with a koi fish glows through the mist, signifying the presence of Kakkoii Japanese Bistreaux (7537 Maple St., 504-570-6440; www.kakkoii-nola.com). Co-owner and general manager James Vu chose for the name a Japanese word meaning cool, attractive or awesome. It's all part of his attempt to create an upbeat place to enjoy sushi and sake.
"You can eat sushi anywhere, but how you feel when you go into a restaurant is what makes you come back," Vu says.
Vu and three of his childhood friends, all of whom have service industry experience, opened the restaurant last August.
"We always wanted to do something together," Vu says, "We talked about it and decided to open up a restaurant."
He and his partners renovated the building from the ground up. The only thing they kept were the doors. Vu says they used feng shui when designing the open, mellow space. Dim lighting, art and lounge music create a welcoming, upscale vibe, and dishes are artfully presented. Chefs treat sushi as an art form, a fixation that's reflected in a dragon roll shaped like a Japanese dragon.
"Presentation is everything," Vu says. "If it looks good, chances are that it's going to taste good as well."
Kakkoii offers a variety of cooked dishes like shrimp tempura and noodle dishes with udon and soba. Some of the most popular items are appetizers with a Japanese twist, including Taceaux de Pescado, a tempura whitefish with pickled cucumbers, spicy aioli and cilantro, all wrapped in flour tortilla. Spicy tuna dip served with wonton chips is popular.
The long list of appetizers is great for people looking for cheap eats. The partners wanted to make eating out affordable for students, so they accept Tulane meal plan cards. During happy hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, there are $3 rolls, and appetizers, drinks, draft beer and sake specials.
"With a $3 roll, appetizer and drinks, you can get a meal for under $10," Vu says.