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The Food Guy: Kobe Asian Fusion may deserve a second look

You’ve heard me say time and time again why I don’t review a new restaurant the day, week or even first month it opens.

I strongly believe new businesses need a chance to get into a groove, work out the kinks and just settle into the “type” of restaurant they’re going to be and the experience they’re going to offer.

Most places don’t nail that right away, and Kanawha City’s Kobe Asian Fusion is a perfect case in point.

Early reviews of this place were, um, not good. I heard horror stories from friends and readers about poor food and service, which most people (fairly or not) were comparing to its beloved predecessor (Su-Tei) and lamenting how it came up short.

Fearing it wasn’t going to survive, I didn’t even try it. For months.

But after seeing Kobe still kicking — and noticing a post about a new menu released and a possible second location coming to Fayetteville — it seemed time to finally check it out.

Despite a new colorful paint job on the building’s exterior, the decor inside is largely the same. But gone, thankfully, is the working fountain in the middle of the dining room — and the musty smells that came with it.

The restaurant’s menu offers a mix of sushi, teriyaki and hibachi favorites, along with a few Thai rice and noodle dishes.

During my first visit, I started with a bowl of Gulai soup and appreciated the subtle cross between a spicy Indonesian beef stew and a rich, creamy Thai coconut-ginger-lemongrass soup. It’s a “fusion” dish, for sure, but I fear those expecting the usual big flavors of one or the other will find this middle-ground somewhat bland. That was my takeaway.

The Szechuan salmon, however, was fantastic. The fried rice was flavorful, the mixed vegetables were crisp-tender fresh and the cook on the salmon and veg (he says, as if he’s a judge on “Top Chef”) was absolutely perfect.

Despite my reservations, I enjoyed a nice meal and made plans to return to try a few more items.

On that second visit, I tried both the red and yellow curry which, I admit, was a blatant move to compare them to Su-Tei’s curries, which were phenomenal. These weren’t, but they were certainly flavorful enough to keep me intrigued — and prompted a third visit to check out even more items.

This third trip, unfortunately, was not a charm.

My spicy tuna roll was missing the crunch it promised and, even worse, didn’t taste very fresh. The vegetable tempura was a little heavy-handed and greasy, coated in a thicker batter rather than the traditional paper-thin tempura coating you’d expect. The peanut sauce on the chicken satay wasn’t very peanut-y, and also was too thin to cling to the grilled chicken strips like a glaze. Instead, it just pooled at the bottom of the plate.

Kobe was definitely 0-3 on this trip, food-wise, but the service was good and I can balance those missteps with previous successes instead of writing the place off for one bad day.

For the ultimate test, though, will I go back?

When in the mood for killer Asian cuisine, I confess I’ll probably head to Ichiban instead. I’m also quite concerned that I’ve pretty much been the only customer in the place every time I’ve stopped in.

But if this place makes it, I can see myself popping into Kobe again to try a Thai dish, another curry, that fantastic Szechuan salmon again or an interesting-sounding Thai Mango Crispy Chicken with broccoli and carrots in chili sauce.

A note to former Su-Tei fans, though: Kobe still offers beer, wine and sake, but the liquor behind the bar was gone on my last visit.

IF YOU GO: Kobe Asian Fusion, 5711 MacCorkle Ave. SE in Kanawha City, is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday, noon to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 304-925-7562 or visit www.kobeasianfusiongrill.com.

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Speaking of Kanawha City restaurants, my praise of the stellar tortilla soup at Plaza Maya a few weeks ago prompted a reader to send in a reminder about another worthy bowl in town.

“Steven, you must try Mi Cocina de Amor’s soup before making a decision on the best tortilla soup,” she told me, saying she and her husband prefer it to Plaza Maya’s version.

She’s right about Mi Cocina’s being excellent. I haven’t had it in ages, but remember it was otherworldly when I first tried it.

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by e-mail at wvfoodguy@aol.com. You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”

Funerals Today, Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Childers, Margaret - 1:30 p.m., Ravenswood Cemetery.

Duppstadt, David - 11 a.m., Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery, Dunbar.

Farris, John - 2 p.m., Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery, Dunbar.

Lehew, Anna - 2 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.

Manley, Alice - Noon, Spring Fork Missionary Baptist Church, Campbells Creek.

McLaughlin, Gary - 1 p.m., Maranatha Baptist Church, Charleston.

Siders, Joan - 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Snead, Ruby - 1 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.