Chotto delivers a needed izakaya-style restaurant to the Marina. Based on merely one visit in its initial opening weeks (and therefore limited), I find a welcoming space. The staff care and are informed about Japanese food. In a brief chat with the chef, he talks with gusto of traveling through Japan researching menu ideas. While no particular dish was an overwhelming standout, ‘chotto’ translates to a little bit or bite, and here you can experience an array of bites and flavors.
Sans hard liquor license, they do well with shochu and sake cocktails, something I usually find a disappointment compared to a “real” cocktail. In lieu of a Manhattan, they created Tokyo Cocktail ($7) with aged shochu, sweet vermouth, bitters and a Luxardo cherry. It does well as a ‘boozier’ option. But best was a simple, fresh Cucumber Shochu Cocktail ($7 – also with mint or basil), ideal with the food. There’s plenty of sakes, wines and beers by the glass, carafe, pitcher or bottle.
Kinoko Tempura ($7) is mixed mushrooms perked up with a squeeze of lemon, and Kanisu ($8), a clean, if a little bland, salad of snow crab meat, yam potato, ginger, cucumber, and seaweed. Avocheezu ($8) suffers from a ‘cheesy’ name but is playfully reminiscent of a caterpillar roll in appearance with thin, alternating slices of avocado and fresh mozzarella under a soy wasabi drizzle.
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The usual Sashimi and Nigiri options were present ($5-11 per fish – two nigiri or five slices of sashimi), while Tori Pate ($9 – chicken liver mixed with onions, brandy, butter, thyme) is a rich spread over toasts with the necessary contrast of pickled onions and ginger root.
Grilled skewers held both high and low points. Buta Belly ($6) sure was a tough few pieces of usually silky pork belly.
Tsukune ($8), well-seasoned chicken meatballs dipped in an egg yolk resting in house teriyaki, were comforting and flavorful. Small but meaty Abara ($9) are fatty, miso-marinated baby pork ribs enlivened with apple soy.