Friday, March 09, 2012

Dinner @ Kiss Seafood

[ Originally posted February 16, 2012 ]

Tonight we went to Kiss Seafood, in Japantown.

The place is adorable. 3 tables, 5 seats at sushi counter. The entire staff is a husband and wife: she is the waitress, he is the chef. You need reservations, and you need to make them at least two weeks in advance, even for mid-week. They do two seatings: 6-6:30 and 8-8:30. The meal takes about 2 hours. I liked sitting at the sushi counter and watching the chef, it was pretty impressive how he did all of the work, cooking the hot dishes, making the sushi, etc. Very methodical and in control of his kitchen!

The menu is small: a few cooked appetizers, and then a few choices for sushi - sashimi plates in a few sizes, sushi plates in a few sizes, or two omakase options. You do not have the option to just order specific pieces. I'd read enough reviews on Yelp to know that we should do the omakase, the "special" omakase, which was $68 and included 6 courses - salads, cooked dishes, sashimi, nigiri, soup, and melon. We also added on some specials that I couldn't resist: dungeness crab and uni!

Everything here was ok, but not particularly memorable or worth waiting two weeks for. I had high expectations given the crazy good Yelp reviews it gets, but I wasn't wowed by anything. I think I enjoyed the cooked dishes more than the sushi, which I really wasn't expecting. Value-wise however, it was quite good. And it was adorable, I liked the atmosphere quite a bit. Casual and very traditional.

The best part of the evening was walking a few blocks to Moyo and getting the taro frozen yogurt with mochi! I didn't care that I was stuffed or that it was freezing out, that was some creamy, flavorful yogurt and the mochi was soft and delightful.
Complimentary starter: noodles, shredded diakon, tiny little fried sardines.
This was fairly boring. The noodles were a little mushy, the diakon was not very crisp, and there wasn't a whole lot going on flavor-wise here. The only interesting part was seeing tiny eyes and discovering the sardines! (We had no idea what was in the dish as it wasn't described to us at all and was just their amuse bouche).

Dungeness crab special: Crab leg, claw, body with diakon and kelp, in a light dashi broth.
Extra appetizer we added on to the omakase. This was one of the specials for the day, and I can't resist ordering local dungeness crab when I see it on a menu!

The crab was pre-cracked, so all we had to do was extract the meat with the provided seafood fork. The diakon had been cooked/stewed and was really soft and flavorful. The kelp added extra interesting flavor, but didn't really go with the dish. The broth was light and flavorful, but was mostly just there from the crab being simmered in it, as there wasn't really a way to eat it or to get bites with much of it.

Overall, this was fine, but not particularly memorable. Strangely, the diakon was my favorite part of the dish, I found it far more satisfying than the crab itself.

 Trio of salads: Sakura-Ebi & Spinach Shira-Ae: tiny-dry-shrimp and spinach served with tofu-sauce on top. Salmon roe.  Japanese eggplant, radish, in a ponzu vinegar sauce
Omakase dish #1. I really did not like the tiny dried shrimp cakes in the first salad. They were kinda crunchy and weird, but I loved the tofu sauce on the spinach. It tasted sorta sesame-like as well, but I didn't see any sesame, although it could have been a paste. I would have gladly eaten more of the spinach with sauce!

I'm not a huge fan of roe, so the roe did nothing for me. Seemed just like standard roe. They provided a little spoon to eat this with.

The eggplant was pretty boring, in a kinda vinegary sauce. Forgettable.

Sashimi: Tai snapper, Surf clam, Amberjack, King mackerel, Toro, Baby striped bass
Omakase dish #2.  For the most part, not a very good assortment of sashimi. While none of it was bad, it wasn't really all that good either. The strangest part was the cuts, we had some very peculiar shapes.

  • Snapper: had the skin on, which I did not enjoy. The flesh of the fish was kinda gooey. Did not like. Textures were doing things here that really don't belong in sushi!
  • Clam: firm, chewy, with a fishy taste. Didn't really like this (not that I normally like clam anyway).
  • Amberjack: the flesh was nice and firm, the fish flavorful. The cut was really strange, small little cubes.
  • King mackerel: Another one with the skin on. There was a third piece of this hiding in back that was a strange cut, much thicker, and square. The fish was flavorless.
  • Toro: Nice and fatty, buttery, soft, the best piece on the plate.
  • Baby stripped bass: Firm, a little fishy, and a little stringy.

The wasabi was fresh wasabi and had a great kick to it.

Cooked yellowtail, turnip, lotus root, clam, in a light broth.
 Omakase dish #3.  I really enjoyed the yellowtail in this dish. It was nicely cooked and had a great texture and flavor. The clam was plump. The turnip (or was it radish?) was a little refreshing, but I didn't really like it, particularly compared to the stewed diakon in the crab dish. The lotus root was really starchy and I didn't like it much at all. I think I'd only ever had lotus shaved thin and fried like chips before, so this was a good experience to try it out in another preparation. I think it was fried here too? Broth was forgettable.

Chawanmushi with steamed halibut, egg custard, dried scallop, mushrooms, in a light soy/dashi/mirin broth.
Omakase dish #4. My first time having chawanmushi! I really liked the experience of eating this, it felt so much like comfort food (reminded me of mashed potatoes or mac and cheese or something like that).

The very bottom of the bowl contained some steamed halibut. It was nice to have the pieces of fish in there, but they weren't particularly interesting. That was topped with the egg custard that made up most of the bowl, and then the dried scallop, mushrooms, and chives. The mushrooms were mushy and overcooked. The dried scallop was a strange texture, kinda stringy and firm. I've never had dried scallop before though, so that was nice to try. The custard was lovely, creamy, smooth. The broth was pretty flavorful as well. I'd love this on a rainy day!

Uni nigiri.
Another thing I can't resist when it is on the specials menu: uni!  So we added this on as well.

This was japanese uni, which does feel silly given how close we are to great uni sources here. Creamy, fairly flavorful, decent.

Nigiri - halibut, wild salmon, octopus, bluefin, yellowtail.
Omakase dish #5.  The nigiri was MUCH better than the sashimi. I liked the size of these pieces, so many places give you pieces that are too big to eat comfortably.

  • Halibut: firm, good texture, but not much flavor. 
  • Wild salmon: firm, nice flavor. Probably my favorite piece of raw fish for the night.
  • Octopus: chewy, did not like, but I don't tend to like octopus.
  • Bluefin: Nice and soft, really flavorful. One of my favorites. 
  • Yellowtail: Firm, great texture, flavorful.
Mushroom miso soup.
Omakase dish #6: Soup loaded up with mushrooms. I thought the mushrooms, like the ones in the other dish, were mushy and overcooked. Broth wasn't particularly interesting. Meh.

Galia melon.
Omakase dish #7.  I didn't eat this because I'm allergic to several types of melon, and didn't want to risk it on an unknown melon.
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