Clematis Street hosts an Asian restaurant invasion

Clematis Street is experiencing an Asian restaurant explosion that’s putting a whole new spin on the strip’s menu of restaurants. Just recently, Kabuki opened on the 300 block next to Don Ramon’s. On the 200 block next to Grease, signage announcing the coming of “Fuku” (be careful) has been out for a few months. And just the other day, signs went up in the windows at 340 Clematis St. (formerly Bahama Mama’s, which closed a few weeks ago) for the Palm Sugar Asian Grill and Dessert Bar. Needless to say, it’s encouraging to see Clematis Street booming with lots of new restaurants (three are under construction).

Kabuki’s cuisine is a mix of Thai, Japanese and an Asian tapas menu. The renovated space, which is long and narrow with high ceilings, sports a clean, modern motif enhanced by decorative lighting fixtures that create a dimly-lit, inviting atmosphere. A full liquor bar and a sushi bar in the rear of the restaurant provide an opportunity to observe the sushi chefs in action.

Leave yourself some time because the menu reads like a short novel. Some of the choices include noodle dishes ($14-$16), Japanese grill (chicken, lobster, salmon or steak teriyaki) ($15-$26), an array of stir fry dishes and tempura ($8-$9). Kabuki’s tapas menu offers over 30 dishes that include ingredients such as oysters, mussels, calamari, gizzards, soft-shell crab and satay, just to name a few. Prices range from $4 to $15.

A number of pages on the menu are dedicated to sushi and sashimi, with conventional choices like mackerel, fluke, tuna, sea bass, octopus, squid and sea urchin. Kabuki also has some unique specialty rolls like “dynamite” (baked chopped seafood), “lava drops” (crab, cream cheese, mayo, eel sauce) and mango tango (tempura fried snapper, mango, cucumber, scallion, smelt roe and mayo). The prices range from $4 to $18.

I have had lunch at Kabuki on a number of occasions and have tried its Thai curry dishes, which were all delicious. It offers daily lunch specials ranging between $8 and $9 in an abridged version of the full menu. All specials are served with a choice of soup, salad or appetizer du jour. Our group chose the appetizer, which consisted of two tiny spring rolls. If you are hungry, go with the salad or soup. The lunch service was also a bit slow.

For dinner recently, we got there early enough to get happy hour drink specials (martinis for $5). The gingertini and peachtini were lovely. We chose some tapas dishes to start — steamed pork dumplings, crab cakes, chicken satay and asparagus and bacon. While they were all tasty, no one dish was a real standout. We also tried the fried rice and chicken teriyaki. The rice was unappetizing, and the chicken was dry and tasteless. Also, the service was off — the wait staff took a long time to greet us, and the server seemed inexperienced and awkward.

Even with some of these inconsistencies, I plan to patronage Kabuki again, especially for its Thai dishes and $5 martinis.

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