Kaito Sushi

by Rodzilla on June 27, 2011 · 12 comments

“We’re going all out on this one. Like full blown, hand them my black-card and tell them I want everything short of Ariel and Nemo.” That was the first message I recieved from Greg after letting him know we had reservations at Kaito Sushi.  I responded that I expected nothing less. Kaito was said to be among the best on the West Coast, and the best way to experience it would be to sit at the bar and order Omakase.

So we didn’t completely finish off the fish case, but we did do enough damage for the staff to switch Greg’s nick-name from the Mooms to Shamu. We were lucky enough to visit Kaito on a rare slower evening, making for plenty of interaction with Chef Kaz. The man is as knowledgeable as he is personable, we had a great time as he provided background on each dish for the nearly 3 hours.

Cucumber Seafood Salad

The amuse bouche of sorts. Slices of crunchy cucumber with pieces of whitefish and octopus marinated in sesame oil. Great texture and flavor.

Hotate Raw

Cooked Muscle

Scallop two ways. This was the freshest scallop I’ve ever had. I know this because it was still moving as Kaz sliced it for the sashimi prep. The less commonly used muscle had a texture akin to squid, and was grilled in a soy/sake marinade.

Hirame

The halibut was  adorned with freshly squeezed lemon juice and grated sea salt, a classic pairing for a delicate whitefish. The peppers alongside were too spicy for me. I can’t tell you type or scoville units, but it was much spicier than any jalapeno relishes I’ve had.

Kanpachi

Japanese Amberjack  - a bit more weight with a yielding texture and light almost buttery flavor.

Marinated Maguro

A great piece of bluefin tuna came marinated in soy, sake, and fish broth adding to an already fantastic flavor.

Hokkigai

I avoid surf clam at most places, it has a tendency to arrive dry, rubbery, and flavorless- not at Kaito. The texture was pleasantly snappy, but moist and sweet.

Kohada

Gizzard shad was diced to soften the firmer texture. It’s a stronger flavored fish which Kaz mentioned “tastes like sushi to me, tastes like Japan.”

Fried Oyster

Crisp panko crust, creamy oyster interior, and a soy BBQ sauce to compliment. Awesome.

Ankimo

Monkfish liver pate is a favorite of mine and Greg’s. Often referred to as foie of the sea, I actually prefer this to foie pate. For those unfamiliar, it’s a mildy sweet flavor with a consistency almost like chilled butter.

Mountain Potato, Maguro, Nori

Mountain Potato, Maguro, Nori

Mixed

Kaz makes sure guests want to try each dish before he prepares them, but he was extra careful with this one. “White people don’t like it, I like it, you guy’s – I don’t know”. We both have an affinity for bizarre food, so we decided to try it.

I think the problem for most people must be the texture of the mountain potato. The flavor reminded me of a cross between a russet potato and jicama, but when grated it breaks down into a gooey pooridge like consistency. The starch was paired with that same great blue-fin, and accented with salty hits from nori and soy. Not my favorite of the evening, but it didn’t take us long to finish the bowl.

Chutoro

This Chutoro was actually taken from the back rather than the belly. Kaz noted that he prefers the medium fatty Chutoro to the  fattier Otoro for nigiri, mentioning the latter has an overwhelming fattyness. The piece was incredibly rich without tasting like I just took a shot of oil. The texture was also phenomenal, I did use my teeth but I didn’t need to.

Ono

The lightly seared Ono had a meatier texture. I loved the way the tomato, cilantro, and pickled vegetables added a savory counter to the sweeter fish. If I HAD to pick one piece to have again, this would be it.

Anago and spine

Kirbie‘s recent review had me interested in eel spine.  The spine was fun, but the sea water eel it came from was amazing. A more restrained sweetness than it’s freshwater cousin, and an incredibly melty texture – so soft it seemed almost spreadable. This was one where I actually did not chew.

Uni and Uni/Clam roll

The sweeter Santa Barbara sea urchin. Prepared as both gunkan nigiri and in roll form with clam. I really liked the pairing of two sweeter components with just a hint of briny flavor.

Otoro negitoro handroll roll

At this point Kaz could sense I was close too my limit. Though he had checked several times throughout the evening to make sure we wanted to continue, he finally threw in the towel for me seeing that I couldn’t go too many more rounds with Greg Shamu.

“Okay, last one – negitoro.” As Kaz prefers chu-toro for nigiri, he reserves Otoro for rolls. The incredibly fatty tuna was so tender that it was chopped and scraped away from the tendinous sheath with a spoon. Paired with scallion and perfect sushi rice, I really enjoyed this.

Cooked Otoro Gristle

As a special treat, Kaz took the reserved Otoro sheath which is too tough to eat raw, and cooked it with soy, sake, and garlic. Once prepared it transformed into something like a Japanese take on beef bulgogi..only better.

Even though I was beyond full, the end to the evening was bittersweet. The food, setting, and company made for one of the best times I’ve had (and it still would have been even if Greg didn’t foot the bill). I should warn anyone planning a visit that Kaito is a ruiner.  I went in with high standards, but left a full blown snob. It’s going to be hard for anyone else to top Kaz. Kaito Sushi has gone from a must visit to an absolutely will return.

Kaito Sushi on Urbanspoon

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jess

Wow. That looks like an utterly phenomenal meal! God, I love restaurants that allow the opportunity for tasting menus or small, varied items. Sushi just ties it all together like that. Fantastic review!

2 Nicholas

I wonder if the “fish” part of mermaids/mermen are more like red or white fish. Also there has to be ethical issues with eating a mer-person.

I would eat Nemo.

3 karaethon

That meal looks great! Not sure how soon you want to go back, but this reminds me that I’m supposed to try and set up some sort of food gathering of sorts at Kaito…

4 Rodzilla

Jess – Thanks so much, it was quite the experience. Are you a big sushi fan? I know O-ya iis up your way and quite popular.

Nick – yeah, the mer-activists are worse than the foie people. I think nemo is a clown fish, so you would need a couple of him.

James – tomorrow wouldn’t be too soon. I look forward to it.

5 Kirbie

So glad you love Kaito as much as I do. It’s ruined me for a lot of other sushi spots too.

6 Ed Dibble

Great post.

I also love the comment on on your personal page about people drowning sushi in wasabe soy sauce –Bathing, swamping, smothering, marinating, killing their spicy special rainbow Philadelphia roll and then pronouncing “Man, dude, this is great sushi.”

7 Juvi

I LOVE sushi and especially love sashimi. I think I would have been in heaven. Fortunately I live in Chicago and there are several nice places to get excellent sushi, even the lowly strip malls have acceptable sushi places.

8 Lily

Eel spine? Even that looked good in the beautiful pictures. Miss you a lot!

9 Rodzilla

Kirbie – thanks for pointing me to the eel spine, I think that will be a regular thing as there is no way I’ll visit without having anago.

Ed – haha thanks, I don’t think people realize that at a legit place doing so is actually offensive to the chef. If someone wants to drown their crazy roll in soy – fine, but save it for a fitting establishment, and don’t call it sushi.

Juvi – I’ve heard good things about Toro Sushi and it looks moderately priced. If I every make it to Chicago though, I want my seafood fix from 1. Alinea, 2. L20

Lily – Miss you too

10 Kevin

Holy shit, that’s an impressive meal, made even better by the fact that you didn’t have to pay haha. That’s my problem with high-quality sushi: I can’t afford it.

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