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Kaito Restaurant - Encinitas

We finally were able to make it to Kaito for a quick bite.
We have been dying for some good sashimi since we burned out on Nobu this summer. Kaito is superior to Nobu in many ways. Morita-san was super, he steered us directly to what was special and we ate it up! We started of with pike mackerel sashimi, I think he was testing us right away! Morita-san commented on too fishy? No way, this stuff was perfect. We then went on to perfect kohada sushi, ikura sushi, nasu sushi, blue fin toro sushi, negi toro because I couldn't get enough of this superb toro and finally finished off with an ume shiso with mountain yam. Standouts of the evening, fresh Ikura, wow, nothing like the chemical Ikura you usually end up with! Toro was amazing, sashimi can be pricey for this ($30), but well worth it! Morita-san also had live octopus but we didn't get to it this time. Tamago is made in-house and I have heard reports of real wasabi being served here too - next time! Unfortunately the uni has not been good lately so Morita-san is not serving it until he thinks it's good enough. Thanks to our good friends from Matsuoka and chowhound cgfan for recommending such a wonderful place! This is sure to be a regular spot for us!

Kaito Restaurant
1476 Encinitas Blvd..
Encinitas, CA
92024
760.634.2746

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  1. Thanks for the report Pablo. I will have to check this place out

    1. Great to hear that you had a wonderful first visit to Kaito!

      Actually I was there later in the day, as Morita-san let me in that you had dropped by. That day was a phenomenal one in terms of the tane that he was able to source. The sanma sashimi was phenomenal! But so was the kohada, the tako, and the hoya.

      Too bad you didn't have room for the tako. Though Morita-san always sources fantastic tako, softer and sweeter than what other sushi bars seem to get, occaisionally he obtains a special variety of tako that is as good as it is enormous. (One leg of this beast can just about run from tip to tip of one's outstretched arms!) That Friday was just such a night. (I also managed to get seconds of the tako as he still had some left over when I returned again on Monday.)

      That one magical day last Friday was probably the best amongst many spetacular visits that I've had at Kaito. All of the tane were near or at their best. Both the hoya and the kohada were the best that I've ever had, and the sanma, being the first time that I've had it raw, was the highlight amongst highlights.

      And good to hear of the restraint shown regarding the uni. It sounds like you're off to a pretty good start if he's already "managing" your meal like that on your very first visit! Normally that would take quite a long time to establish a relationship to the point where the itamae-san is dialed into your preferences and tasting skills.

      It's the same way with me, and it's something that I really appreciate. If he does not offer it to me it's for a good reason. (Of course that also means that the same uni will go to someone else, presumably to someone who cannot taste the difference...)

      A few pics of my Friday visit are already up at http://www.flickr.com/photos/akatayam... , to be followed soon by pics from the Monday visit. This joins a few earlier pics from Kaito, including a couple from just last Wednesday. (Lately I've been going there quite a bit!)

      1 Reply
      1. re: cgfan

        We were lucky on our first visit to sit right in front of Morita-san just before it became very busy. We told him it was our first visit and that Kaito was recommended by some good friends and that you had excellent things to say about his establishment. I think this was the secret password! However after looking at your fabulous pics, I hope I get the same from Morita-san after several more visits. He was wonderful, very calm, even during thick of things he would take time to see how we liked his offerings. Can't wait to go back there on Thursday evening. Thanks again for the great rec cgfan, probably run in to you one day!

      2. Wow truly great photos. What a variety, i have never had a few of those, what does Hoya taste like? Also what is the na no hana? I have nbever heard of that one before either.

        Pablo since you are the one who turned me on to Matsuoka, how does Kaito compare?

        5 Replies
        1. re: MVNYC

          MVNYC, Kaito is good, in all honesty I would say better than Matsuoka. Matsuoka suffered in the service area which I was able to overlook but many patrons could not. Haji-san had great specials, stuff like the pike mackerel, barracuda, and Matsutake mushrooms etc... Sake list is very limited at Kaito which strikes me as odd since they have a full bar available. Now we have Yumeya for sake tastings so I don't mind this at all. I miss Matsuoka, fortunately we were able to go at least five dozen times before he closed, I saved all his special menus (75 total)! Kaito is our new adventure and I am sure you will not be disappointed! Just hoping Morita-san does some barracuda, love that fish! Please post a report when you go!

          1. re: MVNYC

            Found this interesting tidbit on "Hoya" or "Sea Pineapple" aka:
            The sea squirt. A small slug-like creature that was previously best known for eating its own brain: once it has found an appropriate rock to set up home on it has no further use for its brain, and digests it. Supposedly a peach like texture, shell is leathery. Unique smell and taste. Can't wait to try this!

            1. re: MVNYC

              MVNYC, we went again last night. Blue fin maguro from Boston was almost chu-toro quality, out of this world. Also had katsuo sashimi that was slighlty seared, excellent! What really made this last experience so special was real wasabi! What a great treat!

              1. re: Pablo

                Well Pablo, that just sealed the deal, i will be heading up sometime within the next week. Thanks again and i will report back

                1. re: MVNYC

                  Be sure to sit with Morita-san. I haven't had time for omakase yet, but let him choose for you, you won't go wrong!

            2. MVNYC: Thanks for the feedback on the photos!

              As to hoya, I find it quite hard to compare it to anything else. As Morita-san might say, "hoya tastes like hoya"... When it's at it's best it has a very clean and mild acidity to it, combined with the texture of scallops. For me I seem to like it only when it's at it's very best, and at those times it's great just by itself.

              Others who like it seem to have more lattitude with it than I, (but there are actually very few people who do like it, even in Japan), but to me it's like walking a cliff: unless it's at it's very best it quickly develops some off/funky tastes quite readily.

              Na no hana is Japanese for rapeseed flower. It's used seasonally in Japanese cooking, and is quite regional. When they bloom it looks very much like our hillsides when the mustards are in bloom - yellow.

              For those who have seen my earlier post where I mentioned the Japanese drama called Shota no Sushi, there is a whole episode devoted to "na no hana". (BTW in case you're interested here's a YouTube link for a playlist that I created which has the 1st 5 episodes from this drama [w/English subtitles] - http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list... . However this playlist does not include the "na no hana" episode.

              )

              As I say in my earlier post about this drama: "To really understand and develop an appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes and to see the real magic that a true itamae-san creates everday, I must recommend that every sushi lover go see the Japanese drama series (available with English subtitles) "Shota no Sushi". Although the dramatic sequences are unintentionally comical and over-dramatized, the rigorous training portrayed, the attention to the minutest detail and the near encyclopedic knowledge of fish are all real. (If you're interested you should be able to find a copy on eBay for not very much...) It's composed of 17 episodes an hour each, and each and every episode reveals an incredible truth about sushi technique or secret that's fascinating as it is important. It's basically a drama that has accidentally turned into a documentary!"

              5 Replies
              1. re: cgfan

                cgfan, I can't wait to try this sea pineapple! Maybe Morita-san will offer it to me one day. I hope!
                Thanks for tube link - I love the show! I was able to find a few more episodes with a p2p client. The high drama is hilarious!

                1. re: cgfan

                  cgfan, Morita-san had a Hoya for me last Friday! Maybe I am some crazy gaijin, but I really liked it! I am not sure how to describe it yet, I may have to get it again! Also had great Matsutake mushroom and asari soup. Excellent Kohada, melt in your mouth Toro, Ikura, Sanma sashimi. It only gets better every time we go! On another note, I only have 3 more episodes of Shota to watch. Going to miss it. Let me know if you need the rest to post to the tube.

                  1. re: Pablo

                    Great to hear of your visit. Actually I had heard from Morita-san later that evening that you had dropped by and had your first taste of Hoya. Glad you liked it - he's probably wondering by now if there's anything at the sushi bar that you don't like. (You may have already had these before, but on the small list of "challenging" foods that you can get at a sushi bar would also include natto and shirako. If I recall correctly you have already had shiokara, so so far you're passing with flying colors!)

                    As for myself I wasn't feeling too hungry at the time, but I did have the toro and sanma, along with a few other items.

                    I again returned the following night, again very late and having just a couple of items. Not my usual pattern, as I normally start my meals there anywhere from 7-8p, and stay until closing...

                    Regarding Shota, I'm not sure if you'd already seen your Flickr mail or not... I don't know if you were able to find all of the episodes already, but if not, perhaps that would help. (Were you referring to the last 3 episodes of the entire series, or just to the last 3 episodes that you were able to find?)

                    (BTW in addition to Shota, there are many, many other Japanese "doramas" that focus just on food, in addition to the whole subcategory of "gurume manga" (gourmet manga). While generally the former can be found in English the latter generally are not... (An entire article was written on the "gurume manga" phenomena in the excellent publication Gastronomica.)

                    1. re: cgfan

                      cgfan, the natto maybe a challenge! Shirako I have done before, but not at Kaito. Please recommend some other "doramas". I have been looking at jem.d-addicts.com they seem to have a good selection of shows. My flickr mail, thanks! I don't check on a daily basis.

                      1. re: Pablo

                        JDorama.com is a good source, as is Wiki.d-addicts.com.

                        Your question suggests a good opportunity to create a new thread, as I just know a limited number of them. Here's the link to the new thread:

                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                  1. re: PGB

                    What email are you referring to?