You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 10:52 a.m.

Kuroshio offers upscale Japanese dining experience

By Julie Halpert


A sashimi tuna rose on daikon radish with a crispy golden angel-hair pasta in tempura batter with seaweed dusting and a wasabi leaf at Kuroshio restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor.

Joseph Tobianski |

It's hard to recognize the former Champion House space after the makeover that its new owners, Kenneth and Grace Wang, provided. The new restaurant, called Kuroshio, opened Dec. 28.

The Wangs transformed the dingy atmosphere, taking out well-worn and stained carpet and installing a plush, patterned one instead. Our table, with cushy chairs, bordered a waterfall. Fresh black paint on the walls and sparkling-clean floor-to-ceiling windows add to the contemporary look. The servers all wear purple ties that match the napkins and table covers.

General manager Alan Wang, the son of the owners, says the goal is to "present the best food quality out there." He says the chefs use the freshest tuna, salmon and meats.

"We're trying to do a rather upscale service in a family friendly environment," he said, with an emphasis on buying local. The still-to-debut beer and wine list promises some unique offerings, including shochu, a liqueur from Japan.

Kuroshio has an expansive menu. In addition to the typical sushi, sashimi, vegetable tempura and salmon teriyaki, there's a large variety of fish and beef dishes.


120 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor
  • Hours: Sunday, 4-9 p.m.; Monday-Wednesday, 4-10 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 4-11 p.m.
  • Plastic: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover.
  • Liquor: Not yet, though a liquor license is in process.
  • Prices: Expensive.
  • Noise level: Quiet
  • Wheelchair access: Yes
Kuroshio is clearly aiming for a luxurious dining experience, evidenced by the preponderance of servers milling about. One took our order, another constantly refilled our water glasses, while a third delivered our food. One our second visit, three servers followed one another, procession-style, to deliver our entrees. While in some respects it felt like they were making a fuss over us, I'm not certain our experiences supported the adage that more is better.

On both our visits, dinner started with a complimentary serving of edamame. We tried two of the flowering teas. A ball of different types of tea leaves and stems hand bound together bloom into a flower when steeped in hot water. I slightly preferred the more mild shooting star classic, which was a green tea, to the jasmine lover classic, or white jasmine tea, though both were quite good.

Appetizers were excellent, even better than some of the main courses. The soft-shell crab had a sweet, crispy exterior surrounding the meaty insides. It was coated in a tomato sauce, melding the tastes of barbecue with cocktail sauce.

The yellowtail carpaccio was presented beautifully: several triangular slivers were topped with mango and a jalapeno pepper that made the dish especially spicy. The ponzu and plum sauce provided the perfect accent to the wonderful, fresh fish.

One of my favorite dishes was the spicy tuna avocado appetizer. Layers of sliced cucumber, avocado and tender tuna were served artfully in a martini glass. The flavors combined perfectly with a spicy sauce. The ingredients were so fresh and dense, I could easily have made this my main dish.

The pork gyoza were also wonderful, just lightly fried, but each one was so tiny, there were barely enough to share.

Two of the main courses we tried left me wanting more. While the grilled sea bass that my husband ordered was fresh and flavorful with a tasty white miso, the zucchini, onion and broccoli that came with it were bland. And it was far from hearty; simply adding some rice would have helped. My husband left hungry the second visit as well, when he ordered another light dish, the sake oyakodon. This dish paired raw salmon on moist rice with an egg omelet. A tricky combination, it could have benefited from a sauce to tie the elements of the dish together.

The filet mignon was moist, flavorful and tender, with a wasabi sauce that worked well on the meat. It was served with delicious, creamy mashed potatoes.

There is a large array of sushi here, and all of it that we ordered was fresh, including the tofu roll and the California roll. I decided to also try the most expensive roll, the Venice roll, which was $21 and considered the chef's specialty. It combined snow crab and tuna avocado crunch in a slightly spicy sauce with a seaweed accent. This was tasty, but with only eight pieces to an order, I would argue it wasn't worth the money. I've had less expensive sushi at other establishments in the area that is as good or better than what's offered here.

For dessert, we most enjoyed the tempura bananas and the mochi, especially the green tea and mango flavors. Tiramisu is reportedly prepared in house, and while it tasted fine, there were parts of it that were frozen, as if it had been recently defrosted. In an attempt to present an artful scoop of ice cream, the chef used a phyllo dough crust, which didn't add much.

Though the many servers were frequent visitors to our table, the multi-server system didn't work well on our first visit when the restaurant had some traffic. Dishes came out piecemeal, as they were ready. That meant one appetizer followed quite a while after the first. I ended up starting on my main course because my husband's took so long, and the salad arrived after the main course. When the server brought the check, he said they decided to give us our ice cream free, apologizing for the mediocre service. "Please come again," he said. "We're ironing out the kinks."

Indeed, some of those kinks seemed to be ironed out by our second visit, when our food arrived within a reasonable amount of time.

In its ambiance, elaborate, attentive service, presentation of the entrees and price, Kuroshio is aiming to be a high-end Japanese restaurant. Many of the entrees are $24 and higher, with the majority of sushi rolls at $15. And while many of the dishes are very good, I'm not certain they merit the higher prices.


The Chef's Special, a small sashimi dinner that has a salmon-rose sashimi, tuna sashimi, yellowtail sashimi, and a jumbo scallop on a seaweed salad; a fresh grilled chilean sea bass on a bed of miso cream topped with daikon radish, carrots, and beets; 2 pieces of shrimp tempura; and a mix of vegetable tempura with 2 li hing mui tomato grapes; and fresh free-range Australian lamb on top of asparagus.

Joseph Tobianski |

View Larger Map

Julie Halpert reviews restaurants for



Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:23 a.m.

My partner and I enjoyed it. Very nice decors, colors, tablecloth. Loved the edema beans, pork gyoza, spring rolls. He had chef special and I had the beef medallion. The deep fried cheesecake were awesome -- wish I had more chocolate and bigger scoop of ice cream. Would love to have a liquor drink. Total for us was $95. Yes, bit pricey but we enjoyed. We will return.

john posa

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:09 a.m.

Please not another "Japanese" restaurant brought to us by non Japanese. Warui kangaedesu.

John of Saline

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:30 a.m.

Feel free to expound on your proposed set of ethnic rules on who's allowed to open what restaurants.

Renee S.

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:18 a.m.

Is it really family friendly? I'd like a sushi place to take my baby, but upscale and family friendly don't usually go together.

Julie Halpert

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:40 a.m.

Renee S., Yes you could certainly take a baby there. There were many families, with kids of all ages, when we were there and the servers were very accommodating.

Homeland Conspiracy

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 8:52 p.m.

What does "Upscale" mean to you? For me it stands for very rich snobby yuppies. Peasant NOT welcomed


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 8:19 p.m.

Just ate there last weekend and it was very disappointing. There are many other places with better sushi in town at for a lower cost. Just because you serve it with cloth covered tables and classic music does not make it better. All the sushi tasted the same, (no flavor), and the spicy tuna roll was ground up tuna mush. We won't be back. I'm surprised the food is that much better after a week.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

Exactly. And this was at 6pm on a Saturday evening. There were only two other tables there, so really, no excuse. Being in Michigan, we can hardly expect awesome sushi, but there is no reason to sink so low and charge high end prices.


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 8:34 p.m.

WOW...they did the tuna roll with GROUND tuna? That's a REALLY cheap corner-cutting trick... The reason they do this is because they were using the garbage trimmings from their nigiri tuna. It's making use of everything which is good and efficient....but it's also a cheap thing to do...and something ENTIRELY inappropriate for anyplace touting itself as high class. Knowledge of that alone will make sure I never go there nor recommend it to anyone else. If they were willing to do that when they first open....then what OTHER things are they doing to sacrifice quality to save money... The thought of cutting corners should never entire into the mind of someone running a top shelf exceptions. If you want to do that kind of thing....there are plenty of mass-chain franchise opportunities out there for you...


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 7:08 p.m.

That chef's special looks also looks to be at minimum a $36 dish. Prices rarely dictate how well a restaurant does in downtown Ann Arbor however. Plus ever since the loss of Fiji there hasn't been a good sushi bar downtown in a while. Miki's was a joke and Champion house was more Hibachi style.

Bob Needham

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 9:14 p.m.

Billy, were you aware Miki got new owners about a year and a half ago?


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 6:24 p.m.

Just what we need, another over-priced sushi joint that swears they use the freshest fish. Folks, we're in Michigan. It's all about the same unless you're talking Superior Whitefish. Good luck to them, I don't need to spend $15 on a roll I can get for $8 in half a dozen other good restaurants.

An Arborigine

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

An upscale dining experience in Ann Arbor? Imagine that! I sure hope Blimpy Burger doesn't go "upscale" when they relocate.

John of Saline

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 7:17 p.m.

Hey, there's the hot dog and lobster bisque stand.

An Arborigine

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

Oh my, that was troubling! But brilliant!

Jessica Webster

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 5:40 p.m.

Oh, but they already did that once:


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

Waiting for the liquor license. Cannot eat sushi without sake and beer.

John of Saline

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

Amazing how many people can't stand to eat without alcohol.


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 7:06 p.m.

Don't need a "liquor license" for beer and wine (sake). That's it's own license that pretty much anyone can get. And there is usually a wait on that one but only because of paper pushing tax-dollar wasting're almost always approved for one though.

Kyle Mattson

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

I can't argue with that GoNavy. Then again, I understand the Wang family not wanting to sit on an empty restaurant waiting to open until they have the license. Hopefully they're able to sort that out soon and best of luck to them.


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 4:10 p.m.

I still can not believe you can honestly give an accurate review of this place or any other only being open less than a month. This is a dangerous and unfair approach to your review process.

Bob Needham

Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 10:47 p.m.

I don't know about past policy at the Times, but they definitely don't wait a year now -- the instantly infamous skewering of Guy Fieri's new Times Square restaurant came in mid-November, two months after it opened in September. And while the Purple Rose might spend three weeks in rehearsals, they only have one week of actual public performances before "press opening night" (Performance Network does the same). As I said, we do wait a few weeks in an effort to be fair, but the main goal of our reviews is to let people know if they might want to try a place, and I feel the sooner we can reasonably do that, the better.


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 10:52 p.m.

@Bob. I once listened to a interview w/Bryan Miller NY Times restaurant critic. They had a very strict standard, NO review would ever be given until 1 year after open date. So, to your point 2-3 wks wait just is way to soon to even pass judgement in a review form. I also just a conversation w/Guy Sanaville from The Purple Rose on this very topic and how they handled reviews from their end. They have a very strict policy of 3 wks before a review will be granted. These are two very different products but the point ways made give us time to work out the kinks. Then if a good or bad review happens than that seems fair.

John Hritz

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 6:12 p.m.

To you fairness, point, I agree that it might be a bit early and I like to hear that someone has been to a place more than once to develop a review. That said, I'm not sure how this review is dangerous.

Kyle Mattson

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 4:31 p.m.

I understand that perspective EightySeven, then again the restaurant is open to diners, so while it may put a bit of pressure on the restaurant early on it is also reflects what diners currently may encounter if they decide to give it a try in the near future. Obviously any business has a settling period and we understand that, but you could then argue how long is too long? We often do return and follow up on newly-opened restaurants as they make tweaks to their operations (check out our Lena converge over the last few months). Also to note: Julie's approach to reviews here on are more informations over critical so we invite readers to use them as a guide before heading out to make their own personal assessment of any new restaurant. My personal concern regarding restaurant reviews is when diners try a new place a few days after it opens then rush to their computer to post a critical review on sites like Yelp. I always try to give any new place I try at least two 'chances' before I even consider posting a review online if not more.


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 4:21 p.m.

Menus can change a lot in the first few months as the restaurant learns what sells and what doesn't. Yes, menus can change any time, but I see more changes when the restaurant is new. Reviewing too close to their opening (and 2-3 weeks is too close), risks reviewing items that may drop off. New restaurants may need a month or so to work out quality control issues. They may have to work on food consistency and they may be tweaking recipes for improved taste.

Bob Needham

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

We do always wait at least 2-3 weeks. What length of time do you think would be appropriate?