Omakase at Kaz, Sushi-Ko, or Makoto?
I'd like to do omakase for my wife's birthday coming up. I've searched for (and found) posts here about these restaurants, and I've seen Sietsema's write-up from a year ago about omakase at these three places, but is there any wisdom based on recent experience that anybody here can impart?
Also, to optimize the experience, I'm guessing it's best to sit at the bar and hopefully have the opportunity to interact with the chef? Has anybody done it while sitting at a table?
Any advice relating to the overall omakase experience would be of great help to this omakase newbie.
Thanks in advance!
Maybe the price range is significantly different at the other places, but the chef's counter/omakasse at Sushi Taro was a transcendent, will-remember-forever kind of experience. We went a little nuts with the sashimi course and were still only upcharged about $15 over the base price.
I just tried omakase for the first time at Sushi-Ko, where my girlfriend and I went for our anniversary. Overall, the food was very good, although the decor was somewhat plain, and the experience was less interactive than I had expected.
We had reservations on a Sunday night, and I called ahead and asked to be seated at the sushi bar. The decor is pretty casual, so my first impression was of slight dismay that this was a little informal for an anniversary dinner.
I had done some reading about omakase, and how it is an interactive experience between you and the chef. We didn't really experience that, and our meal was much more like a regular tasting menu. We did get a sushi course (no sashimi) which was prepared in front of us, but the chef didn't engage us at all. However, there was another group at the bar that seemed to know the head chef, and appeared to have an experience much more like what I had expected.
All that aside, the food we did have was excellent. We had four courses (one of which was nigiri) plus soup and our choice of dessert for $60pp. They gave us two different dishes to share each course, and they were all excellent. The favorite was a grilled lobster tail served over spinach.
All in all, it was a great meal, though less of an "experience" than I had hoped. Also, Sushi-Ko is perhaps not the best choice for a "fancy" dinner out in terms of ambiance, though the food quality was impeccable.
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Makoto is really better known for their kaiseki, which is a little different from omakase. Kaiseki is a changing seasonal menu made up of small plates, usually with a variety of preparation methods, and not necessarily featuring a lot of raw fish. There's a whole Japanese aesthetic involved in the combinations and sequences, and I can't claim to understand it.
Omakase is more of a "chef's choice" and at a sushi bar, isn't likely to include anything other than sushi and sashimi.
We experienced gracious service at Makoto, but I agree that the facility isn't comfortable for a lot of people. My 6'2" husband didn't really fit at the tables, so we ended up at the sushi bar.
You may have found my post on Sushi-Ko below. My wife took me for my birthday in December. It was phenomenal. The chef and the wait staff definitely took a liking to us because we ordered omakase. It made us feel special. At the end of the dinner, the maitre'd/owner? came over to talk with us.
If you chose Sushi-Ko, try it on a week night when they aren't too busy, but when chef Koji Terano is around. When you make the reservation, tell them you want to order omakase and sit at the bar across from Koji.
I am really underwhelmed by Makoto... I went there once with parents and GF and was disappointed in comparison to every little izakaya I went to when I was in Japan. The chairs were uncomfortable, the food was good but not outstanding, and at one point the waitress refused to let my mother use soy sauce because "the chef says it doesn't go." REFUSED TO LET HER KEEP IT. As in, took away the dish of soy sauce.
I don't care how Japanese they *think* that is - I was annoyed.
I have never had the Omakase at sushi Ko or Kaz, though I like them both - but actually, I would suggest doing your omakase meal at Sushi Taro at 17th and P. The food there is always marvelous and you can ask for a tatami (if you want some intimacy) or sushi bar (and sit directly with the chefs) as opposed to a table. Bear in mind you'll have to reserve it at least a day in advance (and let them know you'll want omakase) but I really think that Sushi Taro runs among the best Japanese games in town.
I absolutely agree with your view of Makoto. They seem to think that degrading the customer makes them authentic. I know several stories like yours having to do with the rudeness and intrusiveness of the servers. In my case, on a cold winter's night after dinner, when I brought my shoes in from outside, and sat down to put them on, they hissed at me, "No shoes!" But of course those of us who have been to Japan know that this isn't authentic at all. It is just offensive.
It's interesting to see other people saying non-complimentary things about Makoto on the board. When I went for the first time not too long ago and posted what I thought was a fair review--loved the food not the restaurant--I got flamed. Anyway, if it were my birthday I wouldn't pick Makoto simply because it's not physically comfortable and it doesn't suggest special occasion--the lights are really bright, I was hot sitting at the bar which is near the cooking space and diners were seated too close for nice conversation.