Koji Gotu, Kaito
Food & Drink

Kaito’s Koji Gotu Talks Noodles

The Japanese restaurant’s name loosely translates to ‘ocean lover’

Koji Gotu, who owns Kaito, says Santa Cruz is a good town for people to enjoy ramen, as the weather often gets cold by the water. PHOTO: JACOB PIERCE

Koji Gotu bought the Pink Godzilla sushi spot on 41st Avenue four years ago, and refashioned it into an all-things-Japanese restaurant with not just sushi, but also noodles, curry and Japanese tapas.

Gotu, who used to own a similar restaurant in Burlingame, says that Santa Cruz, with its cool weather, is a good place for ramen. He also owns Sushi Market Sprouts, a takeout store on 7th Avenue, and says ramen is a good way for surfers to warm up after getting out of the water.

What’s the difference between ramen and other types of Asian noodles?
KOJI GOTU: Udon is a different type of noodle. Like ramen, it’s also a wheat noodle, but it’s a different type. Soba is a buckwheat noodle, and it has a different floss.

How did you come up with the restaurant name?
Kaito means ocean lover. The “kai” means ocean or sea, and the “to” means people—so ocean people or seamen.

I’ve always liked the raised wooden seating area, where you can sit on the ground but still dangle your feet below. What’s it called?
We call it zashiki. Other people call it tatami. Zashiki means sitting on the floor without shoes.

Do you like eating that way?
I like it, and the people like it, too. And our kids like it. It’s a different experience than regular tables and chairs.

Do you have a favorite food establishment here in the Pleasure Point area?
We have a lot here. Next door, Penny Ice Creamery has a huge line, and they’re really good.

smilekaito.com, 464-2586.

News Editor at |

Jacob, the news editor at Good Times, won the 2014 award for best local government coverage from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. A longtime basketball and football fanatic, Jacob has evolved into a shameless fair weather fan and band wagoner for hot West Coast sports teams. He also enjoys arguing with others about where to find the best burrito in town.

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