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A Delectable Fish Tale 

Entering the peaceful, Zen-like ambience at Kyoto (4920 Prytania St., 891-3644) is like escaping to an oasis amid the intense construction that has torn up an entire block of Prytania Street outside.

There's usually plenty of parking just steps away from the cozy restaurant, and once you've passed the barricades and heavy equipment you find yourself in a totally different atmosphere. Although the menu boasts all kinds of water creatures, the smells that emanate are appetizing and clean, sort of cucumber-like. Even the noisy clanking of metal silverware usually heard in restaurants is replaced by the delicate, almost noiseless clinks of chopsticks as customers and staff alike appear to be relaxed and enjoying themselves.

Sara Molony, who owns Kyoto with her sister-in-law Mitsuko Tanner, says the construction is cumbersome, but hasn't thwarted her regular customers. "People, thank goodness, are supporting us through this," she says. "I hope they're patient through the summer." Construction on the street outside should be completed by the end of August, she says.

Kyoto has been a neighborhood favorite since it opened eight years ago as one of the first four sushi restaurants in the metro area. In that time, the restaurant has attracted a cadre of regulars, some of whom Molony has watched mature and grow up.

"What we intended when we opened was (to have) a small neighborhood sushi bar," she says. "We have people who started coming in when they were in high school, then they got married and now come back with their children."

Although sushi was fairly new to area diners at the beginning, their love of the cuisine hasn't wavered and the menu has expanded to cover most tastes.

"It took [diners] a little while, but once they came around, they came with a vengeance," she says. "We have people who come in on a daily or weekly basis. Plus, we're very kid-friendly. We encourage people to bring their kids in."

Customers of all ages go for the chicken tempura, miso soup and teriyaki dinners as well as the lengthy list of a la carte sushi items made with tuna, mackerel, salmon, shrimp, crab, eel, octopus, squid, clam, roe, sea urchin, scallops, mushrooms, cucumbers and other delicacies. There also are numerous choices of grilled and fried items, sashimi, soups, salads, noodles, spring rolls, beef, tofu and more. Plus, the cuisine is healthy.

"The Omega 3 oils found in a lot of fish is counteractive to cholesterol," Molony says, "and we have lots of options for people on Sugar Busters! and no-cholesterol diets." Currently, her personal favorites are the Tuna Tatari Ginzan, which features the fish lightly seared on the outside but still raw inside, served on a bed of turnips with a spicy avocado sesame sauce or the shittake mushrooms stuffed with snowcrab, tempuraed and served with a tasty sauce. What she likes most at Kyoto, however, are the staff, customers and business neighbors. She also says she has no plans to expand the restaurant, which offers a few tables in the front dining area and more in the back, plus ample seating at the sushi bar where customers can watch the chefs create dishes as they are ordered.

"We're happy in our space just the way it is," she says.


Designing Man

Interior designer Tom Chandler, whose makeovers are the subject of the book Reality Hits Home as well as a television pilot of the same name, will bring his decorating expertise to New Orleanians in seminars from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 5 and 6 at Longue Vue House and Gardens (7 Bamboo Road, 899-3340).

Chandler specializes in helping homeowners rejuvenate their homes by redesigning areas into functional spaces using the owners' existing belongings. The seminars also will cover topics such as furniture and art placement, traffic flow, lighting, accessorizing and selecting fabrics and window treatments.

The seminars will be held at the Playhouse at Longue Vue and will include lunch, refreshment breaks and a tour of the home and gardens. Cost is $165, and space is limited.


Protecting the Birds

Community Coffee
and CC's Coffee House are working together to garner support for the preservation of migratory bird habitats in Louisiana and Mexico, plus providing locals with cool places for birds to roost.

The coffee purveyors are offering handcrafted birdhouses, or "nesting boxes" made of wood at CC's locations in New Orleans, Lafayette and Baton Rouge as well as on select Community Coffee and CC's products in grocery stores. The birdhouses, available just in time for spring migration, are designed for some of the state's native songbirds and take only a few minutes to assemble and place in your backyard. Some of the migrating species for which the house was designed include the Carolina chickadee, brown-headed nuthatch, Carolina wren, house finch, downy woodpecker and prothnotary warbler. Many of the birds migrate across the Gulf of Mexico to Louisiana, then on to the Atlantic Coast, the Northeast, Midwest and Canada.

The goal of the birdhouse project is to raise awareness of the need to preserve migratory bird habitats in Louisiana and Veracruz State, Mexico, and to raise funds to help The Nature Conservancy with that task. Proceeds also will benefit The Arc Baton Rouge, a Louisiana nonprofit that helped handcraft the birdhouses.

click to enlarge Sushi Chef Steve Nguyen deveins shrimp and - prepares other fresh ingredients to roll up together - for a customer at Kyoto Uptown.
  • Sushi Chef Steve Nguyen deveins shrimp and prepares other fresh ingredients to roll up together for a customer at Kyoto Uptown.


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