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Kura Japanese finds success in simplicity in year 12 

click to enlarge There’s nothing like sushi and sake, and Kura’s just fine for that. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • There’s nothing like sushi and sake, and Kura’s just fine for that.
I’m sitting at one of the dark tables in Kura Japanese’s cleanly decorated, well-lit dining room, drinking sake. On the advice of one of my dining companions, a former chef who worked at an award-winning sushi joint in Portland before leaving the industry, we’re splitting a bottle of Hakushika Snow Beauty. It’s an unfiltered sake, pouring cloudy-white with a sweet, fruity characteristic, decidedly tropical, sipping more coconut-floral than citrus-bright.

In part, this sushi and teppanyaki spot stands out in its 12th year for its comparatively expansive sake selection. For those who aren’t as experienced with the fermented rice drink, Kura offers tasting flights — something unique in the Springs, if we’re not mistaken. The Snow Beauty’s a good choice, as its complexity of course pairs beautifully with different elements of our meal, heightening the food’s potential. It proves an easy pairing at a place where the simple classics largely stand out over more fusion-y and forward-thinking offerings.

We find ika shioyaki — squid — available as part of a bento box. It’s a different squid presentation than we’re used to, appearing like a sliced steak, grill marks prominent, with a mild teriyaki-like marinade and pleasant ponzu sauce dip. There’s a little chew, but it’s satisfying, and the ponzu’s citrus brightens the affair right up. The box includes salad, fried gyoza, rice and tempura veggies and shrimp, all soundly executed.

We’re also pretty happy with the okonomiyaki, a “pancake” predominantly of eggs and shredded cabbage, here dubbed a “Japanese pizza.” Kura serves it in a skillet with typical Japanese mayo and sweet-savory okonomiyaki sauce, topped with scant bonito flake (dried, fermented fish, shaved melt-in-your-mouth thin) and none of the typical shredded seaweed. Consequently, the dish sits heavily on the tongue, and between that and an eggier batter than we’ve had elsewhere, something bright or salty to cut the fat and umami would help avoid tongue fatigue.
Location Details Kura Japanese Restaurant
3479 Research Pkwy.
Powers
Colorado Springs, CO
282-8238
Sushi/Japanese

We hit the sushi menu only lightly, but find deep enjoyment. The volcano roll — a fully American invention, make no mistake — wins the night, full of crawfish and langoustine topped with a fiery mix of fish and spicy mayo. More traditional, the unagi nigiri’s as good as anywhere in town and particularly nice with the sake.

For another simple joy, gyoza udon comes with flavorful dumplings, tender noodles and a rich broth that tastes of chicken stock and miso, though the mushrooms therein are basically raw.

Kura’s small plates, labeled “house specials” and marketed online as tapas, show less successful. I try to make a dinner from two of them, racking up a $20-ish bill with an order of crispy red snapper and a spicy tuna spring roll. The former’s a plate of five slices of tempura snapper served over shredded daikon garnish with spicy mayo. Though a little oily, its mild sweetness goes well with a little spice. My spicy tuna spring roll in a gluey, translucent wrapper takes near on 40 minutes to arrive, the only instance in which our food drags. The roll includes seasoned fish sauce for dipping. It’s served bisected, making it even easier for the slippery cubes of tuna to escape, lubricated by tiny masago fish eggs. Perhaps skip it for a regular spicy tuna roll, but know at least that the components are good.

So while Kura displays a few rough edges, it remains a worthwhile spot to sip sake with friends, appreciating the simplicity of traditional Japanese cuisine.

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