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Katana, a new Japanese restaurant, livens up a Canton corner

Katana is a good addition to Canton

Katana is a sweet and promising new Japanese restaurant in Canton. The focus is sushi, but there are also hot and cold Japanese appetizers, entrees, and various rice and noodle dishes.

And there's more. Much, much more.

Not unusual for Japanese restaurants, Katana has an enormous menu that almost guarantees panicky ordering. There are separate sections of sushi bar appetizers and kitchen appetizers, and the same goes for entrees. That's before you get to the rice dishes and noodle bowls. Then there are multiple listings for sushi, sashimi and chef's special rolls.

Sit at the sushi bar if you can. It's easier to focus on the meal, and when the staff sees you taking an interest, they're more likely to steer you toward special items and house favorites.

That's how we ended up with exceptional sushi bar offerings such as seared bluefin fatty tuna, which dissolved the second it hit the tongue, and luscious Japanese red snapper, served nigiri-style, atop a mound of seasoned rice. These are, relatively speaking, luxury items at a sushi bar — $13.99 for the tuna and $7.50 for the snapper — but they're worth seeking out.

The staff also guided us toward the dazzling baked scallops appetizer, a savory casserole of chopped bay scallops, fish roe and black mushroom. The dish is set ablaze just before it is presented to you, which makes for a fun and dramatic moment. We were told by Katana owner Jimmy Chang that the dish is served like this only when the restaurant isn't crowded, and only at the sushi bar.

We liked Katana's take on standard appetizers such as deep-fried egg rolls and pork dumplings. We especially enjoyed Yellow Tail Amazing, a sushi bar appetizer, which was a simple but elegant presentation of very thinly sliced yellowtail, jalapeno peppers and ponzu sauce. Ramen is a specialty of the house, and one of the best decisions we made was ordering a bowl of creamy, delicious tonkotsu ramen as the finish for a very satisfying meal.

There are a few things that feel unformed at Katana. The cocktail list feels dated and the beer selection is tired. Some of the midrange sushi bar offerings were less than exciting. Some of the fish tasted chilled, and some of the rolls were more manic than exotic. An appetizer of shrimp and vegetable tempura was just average. Mostly it lacked visual appeal.

Chang opened the original Katana in Clarksville in 2009. There are now Katana restaurants in Elkridge, Annapolis and Mount Airy, operated either by Chang's relatives or his former employees. Chang sold the Clarksville location last year.

The Canton location, then, is the only Katana owned and operated by Chang. He's done a commendable job rehabilitating what has been a notoriously challenging Canton property, which has been home over the past 25 years to two successful restaurants, Weber's on Boston and Red Fish, and a whole lot of unsuccessful ones — New Orleans Grille, Stars, Tangier's Bistro Bar and Martini Lounge, Meridian 54 and Hollywood Burger Bistro.

The redecorated dining room and bar area, painted in fresh and soothing purples and grays, are sophisticated but not severe. Katana would work just as well for a quiet date as it would a chatty gathering of friends.

There are other sushi restaurants in Canton but none very close to Katana, which is filling a niche very nicely. Katana has potential to be a little dining star.

richard.gorelick@baltsun.com

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Nearby reviews: DishBaltimore.com - Canton/Highlandtown

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Katana

Rating: 2.5

Where: 845 S. Montford Ave., Canton

Contact: 410-522-7100, katanabaltimore.com

Open: Mondays through Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Sundays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Prices: Appetizers $3.50 to $16; entrees $12 to $41

Food: Sushi bar offerings, cold and hot Japanese entrees, noodle dishes

Noise/TVs: Normal conversation is easy in dining room and bar area; two soundless TVs in the bar.

Service: Engaging and encouraging.

Parking: Patience will help you find on-street parking.

Children: The children's menu features teriyaki and tempura items.

[Key: Superlative: 5; Excellent: 4; Very Good: 3; Good: 2; Promising: 1]

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