Friday, November 17, 2006

sushi kaji review

i'm not sure a review is even blew my mind. one of my top five eating experiences. the space is warm and friendly, kaji-san is really punchy and cute and spunky and lively. everything is prepared at the moment, the balance of flavours and textures and attention to detail is exquisite. the service is attentive without being intrusive, and they were really respectful to us, which is something i pay attention to...the boy and i have a tendency to underdress for fine dining experiences, add to that the fact that we're both a little babyface and we tend to get treated like kids sometimes, so i make a point of noticing when the service we get matches the other people dining around us. we each got separate omakases, the boy had slightly less than i did, as he wanted to drink some sake with his meal (not drinking really makes eating out a bargain for me). i think the best thing that can be said about it, was that watching kaji-san and his chefs worked was so inspiring...i basically wanted to run right home and start sharpening my knives and working on my knife skills.

my first course was two preparations of fluke, on top of a sliver of daikon and topped with some rapini. on the right it's served with an egg yolk sauce, on the left it's served with a plum sauce.

he had a chicken consomme with a keffir lime leaf infusing the soup, each sip resulted in a slightly more pronounced keffir lime fragrance

my next course was a piece of steamed abalone, that was then tempura-battered and fried, sitting atop a little fried taro cake, with soybeans and a crunchy lotus garnish.

he had fluke carpaccio with corn greens and frisee.

next i had chicken three ways. the left was wrapped around a little japanese pepper (not that spicy, like a cross between a jalapeno and a green pepper...a grassy brash flavour), the middle was wrapped around onion and had some wasabi, the right was wrapped around what was described to me as a "japanese vegetable"

then we both had lobster sashimi. this was when we got the try to the fresh wasabi (so nose-searingly hot! but the heat dissipates almost immediately) and his homemade soy, which is thicker, and slightly sweeter than commercial soy. the last time i had lobster sashimi was ages ago when i was in japan with my family, at the time i didn't remember liking it (i thought the texture was it tasted pasty, like a poorly cooked out roux)...but this was fantastic! it tasted like lobster-lite...sweet and crisp.

next we both got sashimi plates, which consisted of (clockwise from the top): toro, fatty tuna belly, which again i haven't had since japan, it's one of my top ten flavour/taste/texture sensations. it was so well marbled, so fatty, so chewy, but as soon as you started masticating it, it kind of dissolved, leaving an intensely satiating coating of meaty unctuousness coating your mouth. the flavour lingers long after you swallow. (it's alarming just how many of my top taste sensations involve fat coating my mouth...but it's best not to think too closely about such things). next is ocean salmon, then sea bream (with some grated yuzu zest on top) and then amberjack (in the yellowtail family).

my following course was a little puck of deep-fried tofu stuffed with duck, with an egg yolk sauce. it was creamy and custardy and so warmingly apt for winter.

the boy had a sauteed scallop, sitting on top of a mushroom risotto, topped with a seared prawn and served with a sea bream sauce.

then i got steamed sea bream (it must be in season now) with chestnut and uni. BEST UNI EVER. none of that usual muddy/ was beyond creamy, with just the lightest hint of earth at the end.

the boy then got fried black cod with lobster sauce. the green leaf was hiding two little nuggets of bamboo, coated in shrimp paste, then tempura battered and fried. there was also a little tiny baby gem of an eggplant, skinned, stuffed, and then sauteed.

i had this study in king crab. there was a fried scallop wrapped in shiso leaf, a mini king crab roll (the "nori" was a paper-thin piece of parsnip) and in the top right, were two slivers of fried pork belly (!!!!!!! my dove!!!!) lacquered with a sweet, yakitori-esque barbecue sauce.

sushi time! uni

left to right: seared toro with barbecue sauce and ginger sauce, smoked amberjack with keffir lime zest brunoise, toro

king crab, seared scallop

seared seawater eel fresh from tokyo bay (again, unlike other eel i've eaten before, this was fresh and clean and saline tasting, with just a slight undernote of earth)
then kaji san made us a special eel preparation, taking raw fillets and moulding them in a box with sushi rice and yuzu zest...what came out was a little eel brick that he then brushed with bbq sauce.

dessert! and for once, it wasn't an afterthought (green tea ice cream, i'm looking in your direction here). i had a sesame blanc mange...mousse-like, airy, yet thickly creamily substantial and tasting of toasted sesame seeds, with some evaporated milk on top, and a little cluster of fruit, also lightly sauced with evaporated milk

the boy got a lemon mousse in a strawberry sauce, with some more cut fruit. both desserts were light and cleansing, and not sickly sweet.
this is kaji-san (shitty cute!

this is a gentleman who helps kaji-san at the sushi bar with the preparation.
this gentleman came out at the end...he's responsible for the hot food from the kitchen. here's he's busy shaving daikon (with a KNIFE) peel and turning it into a parting gift for me. he was so sweet! he insisted that i stay after i told kaji-san that i worked with chef scot woods (who used to volunteer his sunday time to work with kaji and learn) at canoe. he then presented me with these beautiful carrot and daikon flowers. watching him shave the daikon and produce a thin, continuous, even peel with which to craft the flower...i was in awe. it made me ashamed to be a cook...i'm so not even in that calibre. CURSE MY WESTERN-SULLIED HANDS!!!

the parting gift.

so usually, i'm pretty conscientious about the seafood i eat...i've bookmarked the list of endangered seafood and i make a conscious decision to only buy stuff that's been given the greenlight by the environmental agencies (which means a lot of tilapia, sigh). but at times like this...i really don't give a flying f**k. which probably means i'm a selfish lout or a hedonist, or both. but still! in the moment when i'm biting into some toro or uni or freshwater eel, i'm entirely willing to make a deal with satan that in exchange for this moment of bliss, my progeny will never know the pleasure a fatty piece of tuna belly can give. it's not like i hold it against my greatgrandparents that i never tasted a dodo egg, right? it's not like i know what i'm missing...right?

this is a monster of a post, i know...but i know that my food-obsessed friends and family would want to see it.

today is a fun day...i'm working at a library i like, then going to school to do a wee dram of homework, then going shopping with my friend (i'm one of those freaks who tries to get their holiday shopping out of the way by the end of november), culminating in dinner at ghandi's rotis...where i'll be consuming my beloved malak kofta roti. fun fun fun fun fun!



tasha said...

looks like you had quite the food experience! I've been craving sushi like mad lately...I might go tonight with Lisa. apparently there's this pretty nice new place near their house and they serve a lot of veggie inspired sushi, using brown rice instead of white, and stuff like pumpkin, which I'd like to try.

someday, john and I are going to check out Tojo's, which is apparently the best place in Van to go (which is a hardcore designation considering how much tasty sushi there is out here), but we'll have to save up some cash for that! you tell them what kind of stuff you like and they create personalized dishes for you...I'll definitely take pictures for you when we finally go.

sigh. we've had so much rain that the reservoirs are fucked and we have a 'boil water advisory' in effect which sucks! but then, we you actually have to conserve it, you realize how much you use. I hope it ends soon, but the rain just keeps on comin...

hope you have a great weekend! I'm on to exam #2 now!

mercedes g. lee, esquire said...

good luck, ladyfriend.

did you get my email? i don't think i want to call and catch up and get all up in your grill with gossip and ish until you're done writing.

kick some ass and then we'll have a major hate-session soontime.

i miss you!!!


tasha said...

yeah, I got the email. I was a little bummed because it actually helps to hear a familar and friendly voice, especially right now when I'm couped up in my house for 3 weeks straight. I'm totally looking forward to some upcoming social engagements that we have planned. yay for being social!

oh well, it'll just mean lots more to talk about, I hope! you better have lots of gossip ready for me.

ciao bella.

p.s. can I send a copy of your walk down memory lane, re: the restaurant years, to Lisa? She's asked me questions about your former job and I think she's curious about what it's really like...and because she is into food, as you know, and I guess is interested in this other facet of food production, if you will.

mercedes g. lee, esquire said...

please do!!!

awww...i thought i was doing the right thing...poor lady.

i can try to give you a holler tomorrow (monday) afternoon.


tasha said...

no worries...tomorrow will be crazy. maybe next weekend?