3600 kirby dr #h @ richmond
first walking in, you'll notice that not too much has changed inside except the wall color and some art work. the green tea stained walls are now a warm brown hue, but hue, the former restaurant, is now a goner. that upscale, vietnamese restaurant that opened last year almost to the exact day has been put to bed and the azuma group have decided to focus on what they seem to do much better: sushi.
so interestingly enough, there is no robatayaki (japanese style charcoal grill) in sight. i was told they are planning to build a grill outside which seems even stranger. i'm sure i'll return and actually try the robata - i dig any foods usually served on a stick - but tonight was for omakase. i was here to find out how sushi chef hori-san (from kubo's) was settling in behind his new sushi bar. i definitely recommend sitting front stage when you go. hori-san is a real pleasure to chat with and totally understood all my photo taking even showing me his own photos on his i-phone from catalan a couple weeks ago.
it's been awhile since i've actually felt the need to blog about a meal as soon as i got home. tonight i felt it. i don't think i've ever been excited about japanese cuisine in houston, but now i am. this is what omakase (chef's choice literally translated "it's up to you") looked like tonight.
lobster ceviche. lobster tail, avocado, spinach, green leaf, tomatoes, and red onions in a soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, & yuzu vinaigrette: a tad overdressed, but the dressing was tasty and brought out the sweetness of the lobster tail.
japanese red snapper (madai) sashimi w/asian truffle oil sauce. the sauce of white truffle oil, yuzu and soy was absolutely delightful and the yamamomo ("mountain peach") was a wonderfully sweet and luscious palate cleanser to save for the end. (available on regular menu)
uni & king crab spoons. the sweet uni and the dashi-heavy and tangy sunomono sauce had a wonderful smokiness to it. black caviar added a bit of salt and texture. (available on regular menu)
"kakuni" pork belly. pork belly braised in sweet soy sauce over butter sauteed spinach with micro greens. i can't explain how delicious this was. the pork belly was tender and unctuous but the buttery spinach sent each bite over the top with the added depth the butter imparted. chinese hot mustard garnished the plate and helped balance the fat. (available on regular menu) don't we have a pork belly throwdown coming soon?? this would rival the best of them.
foie gras with daikon. foie was a tad overcooked but still very enjoyable. the sauce was smokey from dashi, slightly sweet from mirin, and had a nice depth imparted by fish stock made from hamachi fish bones. very good dish, but totally outshined by the foie dish to follow. (available on regular menu)
shima aji (japanese striped bass), o toro (tuna belly), copper river salmon sashimi (from left to right). both the toro and salmon melted in my mouth from the high fat content. all of the fish was very fresh. the copper river salmon seemed smoother and more mild than regular salmon. this was served with hon wasabi.
hon wasabi on sharkskin grater. stolen from behind the sushi bar for the photo, this is what fresh wasabi (japanese horseradish) looks like. it's grated to order and is milder than the powdered, bright green stuff that we're used to that is cut with mustard to make it cheaper and more potent. the crisp, radish-like texture is enjoyable. once you taste this stuff, you might not ever accept the cheap, powdered stuff again.
foie gras and scallop sushi. served on a nugget of white rice, this was such a winning combination of creamy, buttery foie and a completely different kind of creamy, buttery scallop. topped with a bit of nabeyaki (sweet eel sauce), this dish was truly amazing and easily the highlight of the meal.
soy marinated tuna. we were instructed not to use soy sauce with this course. the tuna was already salted from the marinade. the fish was firm almost a bit rubbery, but not in an unpleasant way. it was very interesting to experience tuna this way.
amaebi with uni sushi. i have to admit that i'm not a big fan of amaebi (sweet shrimp). i usually order it at a sushi bar if they'll deep fry the heads and i'll try to pawn the shrimp off on a dining companion or i'll reluctantly eat it just to get rid of it. it has an unnerving creamy texture that i don't like. today i learned it can be enjoyable with uni on top. the uni tonight (on a monday btw) was so sweet and fresh. i'd eat amaebi any day if it were served like this.
copper river salmon sushi. a much deeper orange than regular salmon although it's not apparent from this photo. simply prepared with yuzu and a little sea salt. was instructed by the chef not to use any soy sauce. a great ode to the "simpler is better" school of thought.
anago and toro & takowan maki. the steamed sea eel (left) was tender and rich with nabeyaki and hon wasabi on top. hori-san said he orders the sea eel whole from japan and cuts it himself. the maki doesn't look very enticing but the buttery toro combined with the crunchy takowan (japanese radish) was a tasty combination.
after twelve courses, i cried uncle and then the desserts came out...
black sesame creme brulee. i never met a creme brulee that i didn't like and ground black sesame adds a wonderful nuttiness to it. totally yummy.
yuzu sorbet. very good too. the sorbet was smooth with a great mouth-feel and the yuzu (japanese citrus) added fantastic citrus-y and floral tones. it was refreshing and great summer dessert.
green tea tiramisu. good but not great. i wanted more floral green tea flavors from it. it was delicate and very hard to offend.
hori-san said he has more creative freedom at his new home. i'm glad i don't have to deal with kirby traffic and village parking to visit him now. also, totally excited that i have a new restaurant to add to my rotation of restaurants open on monday.
and i've been saying that the "don't eat seafood on mondays" axiom that bourdain propagated with his book kitchen confidential really doesn't apply to houston. tonight i think i proved my point.
p.s. i asked hori-san if there is any good ramen in houston and he said no.