We’ve had two excellent meals at Kiyokawa in the past–one the full chef’s omakase lunch, with kaiseki style cooked items along with sashimi and sushi, and the other an exquisite sushi omakase. And so, as good as our regular lunch omakase at Kiriko was, and as much as it suggested that their omakase of comparable cost could give Kiyokawa a run for his money, we chose to return to Kiyokawa for our 10th anniversary lunch (we’re travelling with our young boys and have neither the ability nor energy to go out to dinner).
The fish is great–and we’ve been dreaming about the live uni for a year–but Chef Kiyokawa (I like appending the word “san” to Japanese chefs’ names about as much as I like using the words “wee” and “dram” when talking about whisky) is the tie-breaker. He’s personable and warm and funny and it’s a pleasure just watching him slice and prepare fish. He’s a one-man show for sushi (there are assistants breaking down fish and making the cooked dishes) and a perfectionist—grating wasabi to order with a sharkskin grater, for example—but he’s also gregarious and playful (as you will see from the pictures).
Though not every component was great it was a great meal on the whole. Quite a splurge, admittedly (though not much by some people’s standards), but it’s an annual indulgence.
Here are photographs of the meal. Please click on an image to launch a larger slideshow; descriptions and comments are in the captions.
Waiting for the restaurant to open. Never was there a less appropriately placed trashcan.
The decor has changed since our last visit. The wall behind the bar used to be darker and had shelves with ceramic plates and bowls on them, I believe.
The very playful first course.
A tiny and delicious deep-fried crab. Inside the slipper is a croquet of tofu, halibut and truffle butter, coated in Japanese cracker crumbs.
Shellfish trio. Nemo is not eaten.
And a wonderfully meaty and briny Hama Hama oyster in yuzu-ponzu sauce. This may be the single best oyster I have ever had.
Very, very recently dispatched Santa Barbara spot prawn.
The head is served with tentacles still wriggling, but is not eaten at this stage (and you’d be a fool to try).
Sashimi trio. Hawaiian bigeye tuna, amberjack and east coast halibut. The amberjack was great, the other two were just okay.
Each diner is given a large book (apparently colour-coded by gender stereotype). This was my co-celebrant’s.
This was mine.
Each contained the same thing. Clockwise from top: prosciutto wrapped around cantaloupe; smoked black snapper; stone crab puff; a fried ball of aji with Japanese noodle crust; pickled cucumber with uni; yuzu hollowed out and filled with pickled red snapper and smelt roe. The prosciutto and the smoked black snapper were great; the others were just fine–the uni in particular got swallowed up by the cucumber.
Earlier we’d been asked how we wanted the heads of the prawns prepared. The missus always gets hers deep-fried, and pronounced this iteration excellent.
I always get mine made into miso soup and this was wonderful too. Really deep flavour.
Salmon seared and baked with monterey jack cheese, tomato gelee, thinly sliced okra and Japanese radish. I forgot to ask how the broth was made but it was excellent. The whole thing was excellent.
Things come to a close with a nigiri sushi platter: bluefin toro; aji (Spanish mackerel); wild ocean trout from New Zealand; hamachi (yellowtail) belly; Santa Barbara uni with a dab of truffle butter melted on top, dusted with truffle salt and then garnished with a thin slice of black truffle. Freshly grated wasabi on the toro and hamachi; freshly grated ginger on the aji; smoked soy sauce on the trout. The toro and trout were very, very good; the uni was as decadent as you would expect; the hamachi belly and aji were just okay.
A closer look at the toro.
And at the wild ocean trout.
This was not part of the omakase but Kiyokawa is known for their live uni and we can never resist. This was amazing as always. This is one urchin’s worth of uni, shared by the two of us.
The problem with presenting it on a leaf is that you lose some uni slime to it. If not for the spines poking through/under the leaf I would have licked it.
And yuzu sorbet from the omakase to close. (The other dessert option was black sesame ice-cream)
Satoshi Kiyokawa preparing our nigiri platter (photograph posted by permission).