Archive for the ‘Japanese’ Category

Sushi Yotsuya (LA)

March 26, 2008

Whenever I get hungry for sushi it is hard to find the right place. Anyone can tell the difference between good and bad sushi, the fish must be fresh! People who open sushi restaurants think of it more as a trend, so they open the restaurant without any concern on how much tradition and passion sushi requires. It takes years to master.

I found a 5-star rated place in Tarzana, 5 minutes from my house. Sushi Yotsuya! From the outside it looked small, quiet, and hidden. Since there are so many sushi restaurants across the street and a few doors down, it was hard to spot.

After you walk in, right in front of you was a big sign that says, “We only serve traditional style sushi, no California roll, spicy tuna roll, appetizers, or American style sushi.” How cool is that!

It is a small simple place, probably about 13 seats at the sushi bar, and 6 tables.

On the right is Masa Masumoto (founder, proprietor, and chef; above right) is going on his 8th year after opening in 2000. Masa and his 2nd chef Chica are a good team, always communicating with one another. Masa’s goal was to have an original/traditional sushi joint since there is so many around his. He says he buys the fish every morning before opening, guaranteed! Can’t get any fresher than that.

We started with a cold beer, the best Japanese imported beer you can get: Orion (deep from Osaka, Japan). Not many Japanese restaurants carry this, it’s got a bite and it’s good.

Next we have the Katsuo (Skip Jack; above), and the Aji (Spanish Mackerel; below). I haven’t seen Katsuo any where around here; just melts in your mouth!

Then we have our Mirugai (Jumbo Clam; above) and our Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp; below). The Mirugai was so fresh it was moving slowly on the rice (as you can see in the picture it is curling), it was so crunchy, which ensures freshness.

The Ankimo (monk fish liver; above) was excellent. The Ankimo was grilled, had a nice color to it. It had this Japanese mustard miso sauce on it. Never had it with a sauce like this. It was flaky, and once again melted in my mouth.

Next are my favorite Uni (sea urchin; above left) and Ikura (salmon roe; above right). The Uni is a delicacy, it fells like a tongue and looks like tongue. It tastes like the ocean, very salty and explodes in your mouth. The best. The Ikura is usually marinated before service to enhance taste, and most places don’t do it right, but Masa was right on.

We got the Tako (octopus; above left) and the Ika (squid; above right). Both very fresh and crunchy; which is needed to ensure freshness, soo good!

Up above is Aoyagi (a orange clam; above), it was moving once again, very fresh, little bit of salt and lemon on it, and no soy sauce needed. It was crunchy and had a good citrus flavor to it, sooo good!

As we were trying to finish up, they treated us a round of their special fish for the day! Starting form the left was Managatsuo (Panfret; left), Tombo Toro (Fatty Albacore; 2nd to left), Kurodai (Black Snapper; 3rd to left), and Kinmedai (Alfonsino; 4th to left). They were all fish I have never eaten before; it was very new and exciting! They all tasted spectacular!

To finishing off, the best part is the Green Tea. Has to be dark as the Tea above, most places you go has weak light tea. You want to make sure you drink tea at the end of the meal to drain out all the oil and start digesting right away.

I recommend this place to any sushi lover out there.

Sushi Yotsuya
18760 Ventura Blvd
Tarzana, CA 91356
T: 818.708.9675

Inari, Four Ways

February 27, 2008

Inari sushi is one of those things that I always want to order even though it always tastes kind of bland. I do like bland food though. I’ve had inari covered with spicy tuna before which was pretty delish. I made my own version.

I don’t really like plain white rice. Actually I do but I have pounds of different grains at home that I need to use. I used black (or purple??) rice, white and brown. I made some sushi seasoning and also used one of those ready-to-use seasoned packets of lotus root/carrot from the Japanese grocery. I just added in extra (spicy but totally not) bamboo, peas, scallions and some chopped shiso. I usually saute some onion but I didn’t have any (and also there was a gas leak in my building but TMI).

I just topped these with some ume/shiso furikake (rice topping). It definitely tasted better than just a plain inari but not totally mind blowing.

I keep jarred salmon flakes/eggs around if I want to eat ochazuke in the morning. Is that gross?

Okay obviously this was the best. Ikura. When do those globules of orange fishiness not taste good? I just want to eat a bowl of it, like cereal.

Last one was just covered with chopped shiso. That was the best along with ikura. Do you love my plates? They look like they are from Ikea but are supposedly “concept” appetizer plates that you arrange differently according to the number you use. Which sounds so Ikea to me. So here is a meal you can make without a range, supposing you have a rice cooker.

This was totally Sandra Lee for Japanese food.

Katsuhama Lunch

January 31, 2008

We took our colleague David out for lunch yesterday cause he’s jumping ship. Sad for us he’s leaving, but happy cause we used it as an excuse to make a little excursion to Katsuhama. You see, I work all the way on 1st avenue in midtown, which means that it has to be a pretty special occasion to go all the way to 5th Avenue (crossing 2nd, 3rd Aves, then Lex, Park and Madison- whew!).

Katsuhama is a little non-descript looking restaurant that looks like a Japanese take-out bento place from the outside. But don’t be fooled! Keep walking past all the people waiting in line for sushi packs (no tuna please!- sarcastic face here), and you will find yourself in a little wonderland of yellow walls and cute hanging paper lights. They specialize in tonkatsu, which is deep fried pork loin- Japan’s ultimate comfort food, and I would probably say that it’s the best in town (not very many places in NY serve tonkatsu).

They give you a little Japanese version of a mortar and pestle, that is used specifically for grinding sesame seeds– it’s a fun and campy way to wait for your fatty meat lunch to arrive. Here’s a demonstration:

Ryo told us that in Japan, to “goma suri” or grind sesame seeds, is to bullshit someone. We pondered that for a minute.

Our food came out super quick– let the meat fest begin! I got the menchi-katsu, which is basically a deep fried beef/pork/onion hamburger. Yum.

Everyone else got the tonkatsu. We all shared.

Mix their special sauce into the sesame seeds, and dip away! I like mine with a lethal dose of that yellow mustard. The cabbage is a must have with tonkatsu, as it eases the fattiness from all that deep fried meat you’re consuming. The waitstaff even walks around a plate of cabbage and tongs to serve you more! So cute!

After Bittman’s preaching about cutting down on meat intake I actually felt kinda bad after this meal. But not that bad. I save tonkatsu for special occasions, and it helped eased the pain that David’s deserting us.

11 E 47th St (btwn 5th and Madison)
New York, NY 10017
(212) 758-5909
Lunch: $15-20
*Expect to wait at least 5 minutes to be seated.

Kyotofu (NYC)

December 29, 2007

Sis diagnosed herself as having pre-diabetes so we decided to go to a dessert place, of course. Kyotofu had been NY Mag’s pick for cupcakes so we headed uptown to 9th Ave and 49th St. I liked the look of the front of the restaurant, very cutesy and white and homey. But the back area was kind of cheeseball with white huge cushions along the walls. We decided on the Kaiseki prix-fixe with sake pairing. But I wanted to try the savoury dishes first.

This clay pot was brought out with soy milk. The very cute waitress explained that after she added the starter, we would have to let it heat for 20 minutes. For some reason the carrot pickles tasted like ACETONE NAIL POLISH.

Very soft tofu with a gentle taste. Sprinkled with wasabi powder, it was mild yet kind of rich. But I think I was slightly allergic to it because my ears started feeling itchy and my sister too!

These were “Chicken tsukune sliders.” I have never eaten a real, beef hamburger before but I love all things faking burger-ness. These were half dollar sized bites of plainness. BLAH.

“First course” was a sweet dessert tofu with black sugar syrup. Just lightly sweet enough and tasted slightly of almonds, this was so nice! This was my fave.

Second was a trio of small bites. Tofu cheesecake on the left with vanilla creme on top. Some kind of nut (?) ice cream with caramel and toasted, crunchy grains. Chocolate cake with berry sauce. The cheesecake was strangely too sour but some bites tasted fine. The crust tasted of sesame which is always nice with tofu. The ice cream was creamy but a bit too hard, although nice with the contrasty crunchiness of the grains…the caramel was way too sweet. The chocolate cake was just blah but I don’t like chocolate cake in general. The sake they served with this was a “dessert sake” and was way too sweet! I don’t really want to drink sugar while eating sugar. That’s gross.

Chocolate covered ginger, green tea choco, yokan. First two were run-of-the-mill, yokan was very very bland and had a more jello-like consistency than I am used to. The sake pairing was 1 glass (very FULL glass) per course, and for the small portions I think it was too much. But the price is very good and the afternoon menu is even cheaper. Overall, Kyotofu is a very feminine, cute and nice place to go to with a couple of your girlfriends. The dishes with tofu were better than the dishes without, and the sweet was much better than the savory. But maybe that goes without saying….

A couple of mini cupcakes to end your dinner. Actually, I totally wanted to go eat french fries.

705 9th Ave (btwn. 48th & 49th Street)
New York, NY 10019
(212) 974-6012

Momofuku Again

December 21, 2007

I haven’t been to here in so long because I get scared by the mad groups of Asian Americans and the Bridge and Tunnel type couples. But my friend really wanted to go and of course I’m all up for ramen at any time.

We started with shrimp and grits. It had some fancy adjectives attached but I already forgot what they are. This was a really weird combination. There was crispy bacon and a COLD poached egg. I ordered it because it sounded weird and it was. But not in a good way. We also ordered those pancakes that are like Peking duck and have hoisin and cucumber along with the Berkshire pork inside. I definitely think those are the best item on the menu.

My friend got the original Momofuku ramen but I ordered the duck leg ramen because it, again, sounded weird. I guess I assumed the meat was off the bone but actually they expected me to tear it up with chopsticks. Which proved impossible. Unremarkable broth, no memma/bamboo…everything was sort of blah. Fatty duck skin doesn’t do so well when dunked in broth.

Hitachino White Ale was so good though! I would have done better just to get the pancakes and beers. I think this place is just decent but definitely not worth the line and the loudness. Going at a weird and inconvenient time like 3 pm, which I have actually done before, is the best solution. The chef was cute though.

163 1st ave
New York, NY 10003

Naka Naka – A Hidden Treasure

September 19, 2007

Behind all the star chef restaurants such as Morimoto, Del Posto, and Craft Steak, lies a hidden treasure in deep west side of Chelsea, or I should call it Starchitect Row (if you know all the new condos and buildings in the neighborhood designed by Jean Nouvel, Shigeru Ban, Annabelle Selldorf, Frank Gehry to name a few) . It’s right next to a new ugly condo development called Caledonia, and due to the construction, the restaurant’s facade is almost hidden, and no one knows this place even exists.
Nakanaka means mediocore, or so so, in Japanese. Naka means middle, so Naka Naka is middle of middle. The name was a perfect one for a Japanese owned and operated restaurant, very humble, and food was well prepared. Naka Naka sounds fun if you don’t know the meaning of it, but I wouldn’t call my restaurant mediocore if I were the owner…

The place looks like a small restaurant in a small village, with only 18 seats plus one tatami room (if you go with two people, they will charge you $10 per person to sit there, so don’t bother). Seats were very low, very uncomfortable. What’s up with this family style dining, with totally wasted space in the middle?!

Place set was cute with origami wrapped chopsticks, resting on paper crane. I felt like I was in 1980s restaurant scene set or something. Instead of Jazz, it should have been some ballards like Miyuki Nakajima‘s very sad voice lingering through the restaurant. By the way, the orange curtain was put up just a couple of days ago, so now it looks like something is there, but until then, it was white curtains, and looked like a dentist office.

We had bunch of everything. Started with shrimp shumai, chikuzen-ni, and squid tempura. They were good. Then we had some sushi, which was very mediocore. I understand it is difficult to open a restaurant with a lot of authentic Japanese homemade food, but I would just stick to non-sushi items at a restaurant like Naka Naka.

After all the sushi we had, I wasn’t yet full, so I ordered Kamo-Nanban, which is hot soba noodle soup with slices of duck. It was quite good, soba was actually very nice, soup was very good, duck was ok.

Although I didn’t take a picture of it, the best was their check, the one you handwrite, which 99.9% of the time, it’s completely illegible, but this one was totally typically Japanese. Very perfectly handwritten, no mistakes whatsoever. I was so impressed by it, so I was going to take it home, and take a real picture, but after we left, waiter came running to me, and told me that they need to keep it. We paid, you have the money, who cares about a piece of paper with all the orders!?

I will definitely go back there, with a group of people so that we can sit in their tatami room (if they are still open….)

Naka Naka
458 West 17th Street (10th Avenue)
(212) 929-8544

The SnarkReport: Moldy Morimoto

July 26, 2007

With my dining partner Matt in tow, we were off to the METApacking District for a restaurant week lunch at Morimoto. When Hua told me that Morimoto NYC was like being in Vegas, my interest piqued. Vegas?? In NYC?? No WAY, can’t wait! (Sarcastic face here). This perceptive comment has inspired this no-holds-barred, special Vegas edition of Umami Mart, live from NY!

As I rushed to meet Matt on 10th Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets, I noticed Morimoto one side, and these two joints exactly across the street.

Craftsteak, Del Posto AND Morimoto–three restaurants owned by celebrity chefs–on the same block?? How could this be? It reminded me of one of those strip malls that I grew up surrounded by– the above two are side by side and look exactly the same! Matt noticed that Del Posto looked like an Olive Garden from the front, which I thought was pretty on point. At least Morimoto’s entrance had some flair to it.

Location, VEGAS Factor: **** (out of 5 stars- one star taken out cause c’mon, even Vegas isn’t as bad as the suburbs)

Perhaps one of the things I was most anticipating in visiting Morimoto was the interior design– Tadao Ando is one of my favorite architects, and I was ready to be wowed.

I was far from wowed- frankly, the interior is a confused mix of materials and concepts. Ando is known for his minimal, sparse concrete designs, but here there were these curtain like waves undulating from the ceiling, that extended down one side of the restaurant. Another wall was just a plain wall flanked by clear glass. Uncharacteristically inconsistent.

There were these cement columns that jutted out from the center of the room, that acted as lamp posts essentially. Cement steps led you down to the lounge bar area, and the bathrooms.

So there’s a lounge and bar downstairs that could fit maybe 30-40 people. Can’t you just imagine all the lines of coke that can be snorted right off this bar? Vegas factor is way up on this one.

This glass bottle motif was used as the backdrop for the bar, which I thought was pretty neat looking (we’re in Vegas here, cut me some slack).

Also, there was a wall of these bottles along one side of the cement steps going downstairs, backlit to make these starshaped designs. There was really no function for them to be there except to add bling to the place.

Interior, VEGAS Factor: **** (one star taken out cause it’s still Ando, and he could never be entirely Vegas-y although he really did try!)

Now the bathrooms, what a beauty! I never wanted to come out! Forget the sushi lunch- you can find me on the can! When you walk into the stall, you’re faced with an infinity mirror behind a beautiful glass wall of cherry blossoms. It’s pretty hot.

Now this looks like just another toilet, but au contraire! This, my friend, is the Toto toilet. It’s like magic. Look at all these buttons! Such toilet fun should be banned from public restrooms- I never wanted to come out!

Bathroom, VEGAS Factor: ***** (it’s so perfectly Vegas!)

And now, the food. Does that really matter, when you’re in Vegas? Of course it does, but when you’re in a place like this, it’s no longer about the food– it’s about the scene, the hype, the decor, what everyone’s wearing, blah blah– all the stuff that really probably shouldn’t matter, but all the sudden you realize that you’ve become THAT person. It’s sorta upsetting to know that an Iron Chef would put himself in such a superficial category of trendy restaurateurs (although I’m sure he doesn’t see it this way, and whatever, this is Vegas).

Alright, alright, so the food. We got the sushi platter and the cod with a soy sauce glaze. Nothing too crazy. Oh wait, and we got Morimoto’s signature ‘tuna pizza’ as a starter, which was pretty good.

Here’s the sushi platter– the eel came sloppily toppled over, which I thought was tacky, and ironic.

The waiter mistakenly quoted the white tuna for mackerel. Get it straight people.

Cod came dripping in soy sauce, and did NOT come with a side of rice! We ordered a side of rice (major faux pas), and when we got the check, we saw that it was $5. Isn’t that crazy? The Morimoto gods were loathsomely punishing us for wanting our carbs!!!

We were curious and got a bottle of the Morimoto pilsner. It’s brewed in Oregon with “free range coastal water” (whatever that is, it means they are allowed to charge us $25 for a bottle) by a company called Rogue Ales. It was nice though, I liked it– if nothing else, we got to keep the bottle.

Best part? I found this piece of mold on the plastic bag that came to put the bottle in. Isn’t it sort of pretty? It looks like a little nugget of pot.

Food/ Drink, VEGAS Factor, **** (The sushi itself wasn’t all bad, but both dishes were pretty forgettable. Pretty on par with what you would expect in Vegas, so it gets four stars)

Miscellaneous observations and questions asked throughout the meal:
– Music was one of those super cheesy chillout lounge soundtracks that you find in the dollar bins nowadays. The 90s are over, HELLO! And the volume was at an awkwardly loud volume.
– “Don’t you think it’s weird that all of the waitstaff are white?”
– Flies were buzzing all over the place. We were confused about that. Flies at Morimoto?
– Wait staff were all dressed in awesome outfits by Maria Cornejo. Yes, I asked.

Here is Matt’s 2 cents about the Morimoto Vegas Experience (via chat):

Matt: – flies, really? i just paid $5 for this fucking rice

at least the spray of water up my ass was free
11:52 PM i wish i took a shit there

And there it is: $5 rice, but f
ree ass water, flies a buzzin, scatterings of mold, identity crisis interior, a pornstar bathroom, and a coked out bar room. Check please!

Morimoto Overall Vegas Factor: **** (one star taken out cause we’re in New York, not really Vegas- although sometimes, I can’t quite distinguish one from the other)

Soba Baby

July 9, 2007
This is the meal that made it happen. Mel & I dined at Sakagura with Aya on (6/29) – our last meal with Aya before her childless days were kissed goodbye. She was still supposed to have a little more than a week before her baby was born, but there must’ve been something in her Tenzaru soba, because little Kota was born about 48 hours afterwards!! We all enjoyed the homemade soba at Sakagura – it’s always a meal that doesn’t disappoint.

Their desserts are also unique and delicious….we devoured them so fast we forgot to take photos. Here’s what’s left of my green tea ice cream.

Congratulations, Aya — I hope they have high chairs at Sakagura so we can go again with your new addition!

211 E 43rd St Btwn 2nd & 3rd Ave
(it’s in the basement of an office building – a little hard to find)


June 24, 2007

Aya: Hey Tmonkey,

tmonkey: hey
have you recovered from The Banquet?

Aya: um I don’t even know what you’re talking about because I’ve had my memories from Friday night removed from my brain.

tmonkey: nooo
ok the movie was painful
but the ramen at Setagaya!
Can’t forget that!

Aya: hmmm seem to have a faint recollection….
ok jk how could I possibly forget?! SRSLY

tmonkey: omg u r such a dork
i mean, when we finally find the BEST RAMEN IN NY

Aya: WOW bold statement!!!!

tmonkey: some cat comes along and reformats ur hard drive

Aya: LOLCATS!!!! only eaten cheezbrgrs
ok ok — seriously…
I have heard that Setagaya is a chain restaurant from California and also from Setagaya in Tokyo (which, incidentally, is where my brother lives)

tmonkey: i thought chain meant it would be bad

Aya: I know, right?

tmonkey: but boy was i wrong!

Aya: OK let’s break it down

tmonkey: well, it started out kind of disappointing
no liquor license yet

Aya: yeah, wtf, how can they be “out” of gyoza?!?

tmonkey: after that, i was like (to the waitress): “This ramen better be damn good!”

Aya: Yah, i think she was like, whatever, dude

tmonkey: i mean, we were all prepared for some serious disappointment

Aya: It’s pretty bold for a ramen shop to serve only one kind of soup

tmonkey: we = a big table of Japanese (and Taiwanese) ramen freaks
what was it? shio?

Aya: yes, shio (salt) flavor. kinda risky, considering most pp tend to favor the traditional shoyu flavor

tmonkey: isn’t that what i ordered?

Aya: no you got the chashu ramen, which basically means you got 2 extra slices of pork
the soup was the same: pale yellow color, looks light but full of flavor!

tmonkey: i love how there’s a whole different menu listing for ADD EXTRA PORK SLICES
the soup!
nice saltiness (not too much) but with good depth, and it was clear

Aya: yeah the description on the menu in bad engrish was hysterical

tmonkey: they put those three oils in it..

Aya: something like “look for the bamboo shooting on the top”

tmonkey: oh yeah, i had some bamboo gunplay going on in mine
the noodles were AWESOME imho
al dente

Aya: u r such a dork

tmonkey: shaddap
what, i like my noodles thin and al dente!

Aya: anyway the soup — made from dried shrimp, dried scallop, garlic, onion, chicken — was so full! and they added the scallop oil at the end,
very complex

tmonkey: it’s amazing how hard it is to get the soup right
momofuku you would think would be able to conjure up a good broth

Aya: ugh

tmonkey: minca’s is too thick

Aya: i don’t know WTF they are doing over there, man

tmonkey: and everywhere else just has no DEPTH

Aya: minca is way too thick and salty

tmonkey: but Setagaya, I gotta admit, EXCELLENT

Aya: yes we are in agreement there.

tmonkey: that’s half the battle

Aya: the menu also talked about there being 3 different thicknesses to their noodles.
did you notice that?

tmonkey: not sure if i got that

Aya: me neither…

tmonkey: i was too busy slurping them into my mouth i didn’t have a chance to get my ruler out

Aya: but then again, we pretty much inaled that shit
that’s what i said

tmonkey: jinx

Aya: stop stealing my thoughts

tmonkey: dork
the egg, halved and poached to perfection
no piece of seaweed though
no fancy ginger

Aya: yeah. plus bamboo shotting — they had shredded seaweed (not nori)

tmonkey: what was that orange crumbly stuff on the scallions?

Aya: OHHH dried ground shrimp i thnk!

tmonkey: gave it some nice color

Aya: and packed a flavor punch

tmonkey: i liked the restraint and the humble presentation
it wasn’t trying to do too much

Aya: We should have order extra noodles

tmonkey: um, we should have just ordered another bowl

Aya: yeah second round!

tmonkey: hungry hippo

Aya: of course by that time there were like a dozen pp waiting in line to get in

tmonkey: yeah, we have to plan to be there at some odd hour to not have to wait in line, but you know
it’s totally worth it

Aya: yesh — and next time we’ll skip the crepes from next door that gave you the tummyache
and the poop poops

tmonkey: STOP

Aya: LOL



tmonkey: KTHXBAI

Aya: 😦
i don’t know why you insist on chatting with me when you’re sitting 5 feet away from me

tmonkey: because, sometimes there are things that are better said through chat

Aya: like what

tmonkey: like
i just farted

Aya: U NYERD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sent at 11:05 AM on Sunday

Ramen Setagaya

141 First Avenue
(bet. 8th and 9th Streets)
(212) 529-2740

Links to other Umami Mart ramen-related postings:

Sushi Kuni Restaurant

June 18, 2007

Whenever I visit my hometown, Cupertino, CA (home of the beloved Macintosh computer), the first thing that I do, before I even go home, is stop off at Sushi Kuni Restaurant. In my five years in NY, I haven’t found a place that compares to the comfort, the authenticity (I hate to say that word, but you know what I mean), the freshness, the consistency, and the value of Sushi Kuni. It’s the REAL DEAL. Truly.

Sushi Kuni opened in 1995, and is located right down the street from Apple HQ. Formerly a little house-turned deli (I heard that the folks at Apple calls this place “the House”), this place only seats 13 people at the sushi bar and has only 7 tables (about 5 years ago they built a tatami room in the back for small parties). I went during lunch two days in a row, and it was pretty packed. I asked Kuni (founder, proprietor, chef; below left) how business was and he said it’s “too busy.” Ha! It really was though– there were people waiting for a table out front by 12:30pm.

Kuni, short for Kunio, is a classically trained tempura chef who worked at one of the most prestigious restaurants in Japan, Inagiku. He was transferred to LA to work for the restaurant there, and pursued a career in sushi when moving to the Bay Area in 1984, when sushi was just barely beginning to make a dent in America’s culinary landscape. Can you imagine life before sushi???

You see, it’s only Kuni and Steve (above right) behind the bar– when it gets really busy, it’s pretty amazing to watch the speed in which they slice the fabulous selection of sashimi to create such colorful, dazzling dishes. But they are never too busy to talk to the customers– they love to chat! Kuni loves to talk about the fish (he always has fish specials that aren’t necessarily on the menu, so make sure to ask what they are)– what region the fish is from, when they are in season, how best they are served. He’s an encyclopedia of fish.

Ok so the food: the first thing I ordered was of course the chirashi sushi. Assorted sashimi over rice– it is always super fresh and truly one of my favorite all-time meals. It’s just so simple and delicious! There’s ikura, maguro, hamachi, unagi, ika, tamago, ika, tako, ebi… all over a bed of Kuni’s nicely vinegary (but not too much) rice. It’s genius, if you ask me. With a bowl of miso soup at $13, it’s truly a good deal.

Kuni hooked me up with a few pieces of ‘hotaru ika‘ (below), also called ‘firefly squid’, which were on the special menu. These are tiny little whole squids (only about two inches long), that are slimy goodness very flavorful and truly delicious. I am just reading that they light up blue when migrating in the ocean!

If Kuni is the more straightforward, traditional sushi chef, Steve is the funkier counterpart who always brings in new “fusion” creations that are a huge hit with the experimental, cosmopolitan crowd. He used to work at Wolfgang Puck’s place in Vegas, so he’s quite the hipster chef himself.

This was avocado, snow crab and shrimp grilled in Steve’s special basil-mayo sauce. Superb!

Steve plopped this little cup of delight in front of me as a surprise– it’s his rendition of Hawaii’s poki!!! YUMMY! Tuna, scallions and tobiko, in a tangy ponzu sauce. So good!

The bento box during lunch is about the cheapest meal you can possibly imagine. For $7.50, you get your choice of two items (tempura, sashimi, sushi, gyoza, and chicken/beef/salmon teriyaki), rice, salad and miso soup. Friggin ridiculous. My personal favorites are the pan-fried gyoza (Japanese style pork dumplings) and the tempura– the tempura batter is crispy, never soggy or too eggy, and each delicious gyoza is handmade with love by Sushi Kuni’s other half, Hideko, in the kitchen.

Hideko (below) is Kuni’s wife– she and Victor make everything on the menu that is not done behind the sushi bar. So basically, all the hot food. They cook all the Japanese restaurant standards like teriyaki, tempura and nabeyaki udon (another favorite), and Hideko also is the brains behind countless other “authentic” Japanese dishes that are on a seperate, special menu. Little dishes like ‘kinpira gobo’ (sauteed burdock root) and ‘nasu no nanbanzuke’ (eggplant in a vinegar soy sauce) will immediately make you feel like you are hanging out at an izakaya in Tokyo.

Incidentally, Kuni also has a license to slice and serve blow fish– I think he told me once that he took the blow fish test at the famed Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. Remember that Simpson’s episode where Homer almost dies when he’s served bad blow fish? While that episode is not in any way a reflection of Kuni’s mad skills, I always do think of it when I see his certificate on the wall. Hilarious.

Last but not least, let me comment that Kuni’s spicy tuna roll is the best in the WORLD. My brother and I have had spicy tunas far and wide, and nothing has compared to Kuni’s creation. What could it possibly be? Is it the Kewpie mayo? The green onions? The special spicy sauce? Whatever it may be, it is heavenly. Look, it’s pink! So pretty!

In the last 12 years, Sushi Kuni has changed little, but has blossomed into a thriving neighborhood restaurant that is truly a Japanese food destination in the Bay Area. The place has a really loyal following, and the customers all know Kuni and Steve and talk to each other– when I was just there, I ran into fellow Sushi Kuni lovers that I hadn’t seen in years, and we ended up chatting for a while. It’s like Cheers, but a Japanese restaurant- it’s so nice! The place is comfortable, reasonably priced, not ever pretentious, friendly, and the food is always fresh, consistent and just really solid, delicious Japanese food. Don’t just take my word for it– try it for yourself! *k*

Sushi Kuni Restaurant
10211 South De Anza Blvd.
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 257-5864
Closed Sundays

I have a confession to make: Kuni is also my pops! Biggest shill EVER! I didn’t mean to be tricky, but I didn’t want this to be overtly biased given that this is the family restaurant. But really, I’m not just saying all this because my parents run it– it really is a great little place.

He and my mom (Hideko) have poured endless amounts of love, time and energy into Sushi Kuni, and I am so so proud of them both. This is essentially where me and my brother grew up– I was forced to waitress there EVERY SATURDAY NIGHT for ALL FOUR YEARS of high school (you know what that does to a teenage girl who is trying desperately to be cool?? Forget about trying to sneak into San Jose State parties for a night of underage drinking). My brother was forced to work in the kitchen when his delinquency started getting out of hand and my parents thought it would be the best way to keep an eye on him. Oh, and look at us now… Good times.

Despite the grueling long hours (he gets in at 10am, and generally doesn’t leave until 1am– but he does get to sneak a nap in there for about an hour), Kuni has a wry sense of humor and has aged little since the restaurant first opened 12 years ago. He also loves a cold glass of beer and is also quite the sake connoisseur so be sure to offer him some of yours when you are sitting at the bar. He’ll drink you under the table. And my mom will drink HIM under the table!

Happy Father’s Day とうち!!! You are the BEST!