Full Omakase for Lunch at Kiriko
This being my first review of Kiriko Sushi on this blog, I’ll just start by saying that is my favorite sushi restaurant for lunch. Their three hand roll lunch set is a great deal at $14.50, and comes with miso soup, salad, and a choice of three hand rolls. You can even select one of their excellent blue crab hand rolls as a choice for an additional $1.00. I generally get a negihama (yellowtail and scallion), a salmon skin, and a blue crab for my temaki selection. Most satisfying $15.50 lunch!
One Thursday last month, I decided to finally try their eponymous “Kiriko omakase” at lunch while seated in front of Tomo-san. After I had ordered, I was given a small knot made of what appeared to be laquered paper to use as a hashioki (chopstick rest). I had previously had their prix fixe lunch omakase ($40/$50 for sushi-only or sushi/sashimi, respectively) but was never given a hashioki, so it was a nice little touch to start the full omakase experience.
Since I was going “full omakase” (not to be confused with “full monty”), I decided to order sake to accompany my meal. I could count the number of times I’ve had sake on one hand, and still can, so I’m quite the sake amateur. Looking at the list of sake, I wasn’t even sure if I liked sweet or dry, but I went with the waiter-suggested Otokoyama, a supposedly very dry sake.
It was much smoother than I expected for something that was classified as dry, with a creamy aftertaste, and paired well with my meal, which started with:
Sashimi plate consisting ishikarei (stone flounder) carpaccio, sockeye salmon salad, house-smoked salmon-wrapped mango, cooked tako (octopus), and uni (sea urchin) sea salt ice cream in salsa fresca gazpacho.
The tako had a smoky flavor that mostly came from the sauce, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the octopus itself was smoked in the same process used to make their house-smoked salmon. The mouth-feel of the pieces were quite interesting, with the gelatinous outer layer of the octopus giving way to the chewier inner flesh.
The slices of deep reddish-orange sockeye salmon sat on a bed of pungent onions. Like the tako, it also had a smokiness to it that I wasn’t expecting.
Of course, I was expecting smoke with the house-smoked salmon-wrapped mango, topped with caviar. This is one of Ken-san’s signature dishes, but I’ve always felt that the sweetness of the mango competes too strongly against the salmon. It is quite delicious, though.
The ishikarei was sliced nearly paper-thin and had a very fresh, mild taste.
The freshly-grated wasabi and truffle oil added a bit of boldness to the delicate fish.
Last but not least was the uni sea salt ice cream in salsa fresca gazpacho, which I’ve had before. The full portion is a little much, but the portion that came with the omakase was perfect.
The scoop of ice cream was about the size of a golf ball, with a deep, nutty taste that bordered on bitter, in a good way. The gazpacho had a little more heat then I remembered, and the nori tempura was fried to a perfect crisp.
Next was whole live hotate (scallop) from Japan, prepared two ways.
On one shell, the central adductor muscle was sliced into glistening coins and layered, topped with dabs of fresh wasabi, and drizzled with a little bit of lemon.
Each slice was incredibly sweet and delicate. Best hotate sashimi I’ve ever had!
On the other shell, the rest of the scallop, including its (or I guess “her”) roe, was cooked in a ginger-soy sauce that reminded me of the cooked whole scallops I’ve had in Chinatown in Boston (only thing missing was the shredded ginger and scallions on top).
The other parts of the scallop were (appropriately) chewy, and the roe was tender and bursting with flavor.
The last dish before the sushi course was pork confit with a mizuna and shredded daikon salad.
The ribs themselves were delicious, fatty and tender with a drizzle of sauce that tasted of balsamic vinegar.
I wasn’t sure if it was daikon in the mizuna salad, as the texture was more apple-like, but without much sweetness. Jicama would have been my second guess.
However, according to a post on the excellent TOMOSTYLE blog, the identical-looking salad the reviewer had contained daikon radish and was tossed in a pickled plum ume vinaigrette. I did not recall the dressing on my salad to be particularly sweet or tart, rather it had a more nutty sesame oil taste. Regardless, it was delicious.
Tomo-san then moved onto the individual servings of nigiri, starting with:
Tai, (wild) red snapper, with lemon juice/zest and sea salt:
I wondered if this wasn’t tai but rather madai, as it was firmer and more flavorful than the tai that I’ve had at Kiriko before.
Chutoro, medium fatty tuna, lightly brushed with shoyu:
This was melt-in-mouth fattiness incorporated with perfectly cooked shari (sushi rice) for an incredibly balanced piece of nigiri.
Ayoagi, orange clam:
The flesh of this bivalve was very tender, with a sweet briny smokiness to it.
Uni, sea urchin, gunkanmaki, with a dab of fresh wasabi:
This specimen was not as sweet as I’ve had but was texturally perfect.
Tomo-san paused at this point and asked if I wanted more. I wasn’t sure if this would have been the “natural” end of the omakase, or if Tomo-san was just being a good itamae and checking in with his customer. Of course, like Oliver, I responded, “Please, sir, I want some more.” (Okay, not really, but I did indicate that he should continue.)
Tomo-san pondered for a moment and then started preparing…
Amaebi, live sweet shrimp:
The shrimp was dispatched in front of me, and I consumed its plump and sweet flesh within a minute of its demise. This was quickly followed by the fried head of said shrimp.
The head came out piping hot and perfectly fried. The rich flavor really came through the crisp exterior and moist interior of the head. The bit of roe was a nice treat.
I asked Tomo-san if he had any more shellfish, and he offered up…
This piece of nigiri had a bright and crisp bite to it.
I had consumed this piece before realizing I had not taken a photo of it. The consistency of the squid was creamy, with a little chewiness. Shiso leaf under the neta (I guess it’s technically part of the neta) bolstered the natural flavor of the ika without overpowering it.
I was getting full but asked Tomo-san if I could have a few pieces of hikarimono (silver-skinned fish). He served up the following:
Saba, mackerel; and kohada, gizzard shad:
The mackerel was marinated, as is traditional with saba. I don’t generally get saba because most places nearly pickle the fish during the curing/marinating process, but Kiriko’s saba had a clean, not overly tart, taste. The kohada had a rich and bold flavor, and is quickly becoming one of my favorite hikarimono, alongside aji and iwashi.
At this point I indicated to Tomo-san that I was done with the sushi, but I wasn’t sure if he’d finish up with a blue crab hand roll, which the prix fixe lunch omakase both ended with, or if the full omakase came with dessert. Perhaps I indicated too strongly that I was full, as the only thing that was offered me was my check. It was just as well, as I was curious what damage I had caused to my wallet. Surprisingly, when my check arrived, my meal “only” cost $108, not counting the sake, and before tax and tip.
I could not have asked for more from my first full omakase experience at Kiriko, literally; I was pretty full. I am still very much an omakase amateur, but Tomo-san made the experience very easy and non-intimidating. I plan on going back for the full omakase at dinner time at some point to see what differences are.
11301 W Olympic Blvd Ste 102
Los Angeles, CA 90064