SANTA ROSA BEACH – For those who drive along U.S. Highway 98 in Santa Rosa Beach, the sign announcing VKI Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar had become a familiar sight for many months, but the restaurant associated with the sign wasn’t open. Finally, in February, VKI opened for business.
At VKI you choose between dining at a teppanyaki table, where the preparation of the food is a show, a sushi bar or individual tables. This allows VKI to offer a wide range of Japanese fare.
I found that the best bets were from the sushi portion of the menu. Standard items were offered as sushi or sashimi. There were also more than 40 different types of rolls offered. I particularly enjoyed the Kama Kazi Roll with spicy tuna and mango inside and avocado outside.
By far the best item I had at VKI was the Sashimi Deluxe. It was a nice selection of 15 pieces of fish that were beautifully displayed. Shiso leaves were also a welcome addition to the plate, providing a bright foil to richer fish such as mackerel or salmon.
I also enjoyed the soups, including a miso soup with a lobster tail. The lobster had poached beautifully in the soup, and it was a satisfying dish.
As for other cooked items, I found most to be overcooked so that meats were on the dry side. This was true with the katsu items (breaded chicken, fish or pork cutlets) and the tempura.
Teriyaki meats were also overcooked, and over sauced. Among the cooked items, the soba and udon noodle dishes were the best. Sauces were used judiciously, and the meats and vegetables had better texture.
Hibachi entrees can be ordered with vegetables only, or with a variety of meats and seafood. They are served with miso soup, a salad and fried rice.
VKI has good deals at lunch, offering sushi, sashimi and bento box specials. There is also an all you can eat sushi special Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Happy hour with beer and sake specials is daily from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
The interior of VKI is divided into two main sections. On one side there are teppanyaki tables. On the other side there are individual tables and booths, along with the sushi bar.
The seating is comfortable, and background music is played at a pleasant level.
The only issue concerning the atmosphere is one that is difficult for restaurants to handle. VKI strives to be family friendly. However, a few families take this too far.
One group at the teppanyaki tables had two preschool children who cried loudly at the table and spent most of the evening running around the dining room, or quizzing diners. The children’s parents admonished them to be quieter only when they interrupted the parents’ conversation.
No one approached the parents to ask they take control of the children. At some point, restaurant management should step in to ensure a pleasant dining experience for their other guests.
Service is extremely fast. On my last visit I ordered an appetizer, an entrée and a sushi roll. Two minutes after I ordered I received the appetizer, the sushi roll, a bowl of miso soup and a salad. Seven minutes after I ordered, the entrée was also at the table.
The staff is also very attentive, making frequent stops at the table to refill drinks and ask about the meal.
A final taste
VKI offers good sushi, a variety of entrees and the option of having your dinner preparation as entertainment.
The staff is friendly and very eager to please.
Some adjustments in the kitchen are needed, but VKI has the potential of being a good restaurant offering good value.
Restaurant: VKI Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar
Location: 4552 US Highway 98W, Santa Rosa Beach
Hours: Every day: Lunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Dinner, 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Handicap accessibility: good
Children’s menu: The restaurant does offer items for children
Price range: Appetizers, $3.95 - $11.95
Soup and Salads, $1.95 - $10.95
Entrees, $10 - $25.95
Sushi (nigiri and rolls), $3.75 - $14.95
Lunch specials, $9.95 - $14.95
Payment: major credit cards