“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.
The amuse bouche of sorts. Slices of crunchy cucumber with pieces of whitefish and octopus marinated in sesame oil. Great texture and flavor.
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.
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.
Japanese Amberjack - a bit more weight with a yielding texture and light almost buttery flavor.
A great piece of bluefin tuna came marinated in soy, sake, and fish broth adding to an already fantastic flavor.
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.
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.”
Crisp panko crust, creamy oyster interior, and a soy BBQ sauce to compliment. Awesome.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
“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.
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.