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New: Kyoto-style Japanese food at Naminami in Mountain View

  • j

Just happened by this new restaurant in Mountain View last night on Castro Street in the old Kamei location.

They serve Kyoto-style Japanese which is more elegantly prepared small plates (i.e. tapas) with lots of fresh seasonable vegetables fish and meat rather than the standard sushi or teriyakis. They plan to rotate the menu every 3 months.

The food was amazing - a "hotpot with beef and mizuna" was clear, smooth, the beef was great quality and definitely worth having again. From the deep fry menu, we had shrimp with sesami tofu wrapped in yuba (tofu skin). Absolutely amazing - and the tofu is made from sesame instead of soybeans! Even better was the dessert - strawberry and red-bean spring rolls - you have to save room.

We can't wait to go back and try some of the fish, more items from the grill menu, and more of the sesami tofu!

Grand opening is next week...

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  1. Super, thanks for posting! Here's another enthusiastic report -

    1 Reply
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      This type of cuisine is kaiseki; the japanese equivalent of french haute cuisine. It varies with the seasons. I had it several times when I was in Kyoto. Thanks for the heads up I will check it out when I come in April.

    2. It seems like naminami is a la carte. I've found that kaiseki generally means some sort of set menu (like kaygetsu in menlo park's kaiseki). Does naminami have a set menu?

      1 Reply
      1. re: thejulia

        A post in the other thread suggests that the cooking style might be koryori -

      2. do you need a reservation for this place?

        1 Reply
        1. re: nutmeg

          Chose this place to meet a couple of South Bay friends for a meal next Tuesday, and figured I'd get reservations just to be on the safe side... but I can't find a phone number. Looking on Google, Yelp, etc, yields no contact info, and 411 directory
          assistance couldn't help either. So I think we'll just wing it. For a Tuesday dinner at
          such a new restaurant, I can't imagine a reservation would be essential, but if anyone
          knows otherwise, I'd definitely be interested in contact info for the restaurant.

        2. This place kinda sounds like another izakaya restaurant. Does it have some similar dishes to the ones at Tantos or Gochi? The kaiseki meals are more ornate/beautiful and formal/traditional. This place doesn't sound like that. Will definitely have to try it.

          1. From THE DIGEST blog -

            Nami Nami Kyoto Style Japanese Cuisine [Peninsula]
            formerly Kamei Japanese House
            240 Castro St., between Dana and Villa Sts., Mountain View

            1. Hi jflesh,

              I don't think you'll need reservations. I was there this past Tuesday and while it had steady business, there were definitely empty tables the entire time.

              It was great!

              1 Reply
              1. re: thejulia

                I ordered kani miso, sesame tofu and shrimp wrapped in yuba and deep fried, miso cod, the stewed beef tongue, deep fried sardine with ume and shiso, and anko nabe (monkfish) for dinner. We also ordered three desserts, green tea blanc mange, brown sugar ice cream and fried crepe filled with strawberry, mochi and red bean.

                I highly recommend all of the dishes. You can also check out the pictures and a more complete review on my blog: http://brokedamouth.blogspot.com/2007...

              2. Enjoyed a visit to NamiNami in Mountain View last night. The menu is very exciting, and features a plethora of dishes I've never seen offered elsewhere. And while the dishes were generally good, my associate and I weren't blown away by all of them. Am struggling to recall every dish that we sampled, but will give it a shot.

                - We started with something similar in spirit to shrimp tempura, with the shrimp wrapped in
                a flat crepe-shape of tempura-like breading and deep fried. Inside the wrap and
                adjacent to the shrimp was a gooey gray substance that added extra
                moisture and had just a hint of fishiness and subtle salinity.
                Anyone know what this gooey stuff might have been? The texture was like a very
                soft tofu, but gray, and almost more like pudding. These were served
                with a tiny bowl of fine grain salt. Both of us thought it was quite good, though the
                battering was just a bit spongier than optimal.

                - Salted bonito stomachs came out next. These are red little soft stomachs that arrive
                in a bowl and are VERY VERY salty. The flavor reminded me a bit of eating anchovies
                straight out of the tin, but with less oily fish flavor and WAY more salt. Could only
                manage to consume a couple of these before the saltiness became too overwhelming.
                FYI I enjoy the saltiness of anchovies straight outta the tin, but couldn't handle the
                saltiness of the bonito stomachs. At least 70% of the serving was left uneaten.
                About half my carafe of sake was consumed in a matter of seconds.

                - Monkfish foie gras and daikon. This was awesome, and my favorite for the evening.
                These arrive as a pair of thick pale daikon rings with a generous plug of monk fish liver
                in the middle. And the presentation is very cool. From a distance the plate
                looked like it featured two surreal eggs, sunny side up (with the darker foie gras as the
                yolks). Highly recommended.

                - Kobe beef on magnolia leaf. This was disappointing yet one of the more expensive
                items on the tab. The meat wasn't especially flavorful or tender,
                and was gray all the way through. A few pieces had substantial gnarled chunks of
                fat along the edges. The sauce wasn't much more complex than a light soy
                with small mushrooms floating throughout, but the sauce
                was probably the best part of the dish. Wouldn't order this again at any price point.

                - Oyster in broth with miso and mixed vegetables. This was fine, and came
                bubbling away in a fire-heated bowl. Contained 4 very fresh and tender oysters.
                But the broth was bland and undersalted, and almost totally lacking in flavor. Wish'd I
                would have had one of those bonito stomachs handy to toss in to jazz it up, but
                those had been taken off the table.

                - Stewed beef tongue. Another big winner. Incredibly soft and tender, and certainly
                something I'd order again. Dining companion is more savvy in the world of beef tongue --
                apparently his wife prepares this regularly. He thought it was good, but wasn't as blown
                away as I was. I'd never eaten tongue before, and didn't expect it to be so moist and
                tender. Damn good by my standards.

                - Duck with mango and sweet mustard. This was a generous plate of duck served as cold,
                thin slices, alternated with small pieces of mango. A small swirl of mustard -- and
                what may have been the puree of a red fruit or berry -- was off to side on the plate as
                sauce. Quality of the duck meat was top notch. Consistently tender, no skin, and no
                big lumps of fat. Essentially all meat. But even then the tenderness was amazing.
                Dining companion proclaimed this as his favorite, and likened the texture to pate,
                which wasn't far off. Super tender. I also enjoyed it, but the side sauce was just a bit
                too sweet. With the mango and a fairly sweet duck meat, the addition of an almost
                confectionary mustard / fruit puree seemed excessive. Something spicy or salty would
                have satisfied me more. And given some of the other items on the menu, this one seemed
                tame and by-the-numbers.

                Generally found the watiers to be very good and friendly, though the kitchen may
                still be working out some kinks. Our soup was the second to last item to arrive, and we sat
                for a good 25 minutes waiting for this after we completed our previous entree. And I overheard a few other tables asking the waiters "when the next dish might arrive". Yet the
                restaurant was only half full. Still, they're new, so this kind of issue is almost expected, and
                totally excusable.

                Both of us left very full, and the bill was around $100, plus tip.

                Am looking forward to returning and trying some additional items on the menu. All the items we sampled were above average (excepting the kobe, ironically), but the hit rate
                for deep satisfaction still hovered around 60%. The novelty factor is huge though, and despite some of my gripes, the meal was definitely memorable.


                8 Replies
                1. re: jflesh

                  jflesh, the gooey stuff was the sesame tofu. delicious!

                  were the salted bonito stomachs on the "sake tasting" menu? i think these are our equivalent of salted peanuts, just good snacks to counteract the alcohol. i got "crab butter" which was super salty and fishy too. would have been better off as a spread probably.

                  i'm glad you liked it, i'm planning a return trip already!

                  1. re: thejulia

                    Ahh, sesame tofu makes sense and explains the "tofu-like" property I
                    noted (!). It was delicious indeed. Am guessing the subtle fishiness I
                    picked up when sampling the fallen dab on the plate probably came
                    from keeping close company with the shrimp.

                    And, yeah, the salted bonito stomachs were from the "sake tasting" menu. And much like your comment about the crab butter, I also thought these guys would have been more enjoyable if paired with some kind of mild-flavored carrier to dilute the salt. As a bar snack, it was about one step away from a big bowl of kosher salt.

                    May inquire with the waiter next time to see if all of the "sake tasting" items are this salty...


                    1. re: jflesh

                      Jflesh, also, the wrap around the shrimp and sesame tofu was yuba (tofu skin). If the whole thing weren't deep fried, it'd probably be healthy! Outside of this dish and the beef tongue, i really liked the deep fried sardine with ume and shiso. I also recommend the desserts, especially the green tea blanc mange and the brown sugar ice cream. I was so full after that meal.

                    2. re: thejulia

                      The bonito stomachs sound like typical izakaya fare also known as shiokara, basically select seafood marinated in its own bile juices, designed to be very salty and to be downed with lots of alcohol. The common version is with squid (ika). Not my thing for sure. I'm sorry but I'd have to take stinky tofu over this :-).

                      Crab butter is a rather PC way of calling kani miso. Some say brains, and others say something else. An acquired taste but can be superb. The only other place that had this I knew of was Sushi Sam's in San Mateo where he serves Japanese snow crab nigiri with kani miso on top (sourced to a can from Japan).

                      On another note, Nami nami's owner told me today during lunch that their beef tongue stew is very popular and he said that the tongue is marinated in miso and cooked in a broth for some time. He also recommended the mango duck which already has a lot of coverage on this board, and the renkon manjyu which is on the menu and supposedly in the form of a "bun" (basically stuffed and if I am not mistaken fried, not to be confused with mochi/manju that is sweet).

                      1. re: K K

                        Thanks KK, I thought that the kani miso might have been tomalley, but brains (or whatever that slightly grainy stuff is) makes more sense!

                        1. re: thejulia

                          If you google search Kani Miso, the lowdown on it is that it is crab guts, with a little bit of brains, and if it is a female crab in certain seasons, crab roe as well.

                          From: http://www.stippy.com/japan-eating-an...

                          "Kani miso (カニみそ), is a grey/green coloured paste, and usually you’ll get a good-sized spoonful or two from a single crab. Ask a Japanese person what they think kani miso is and more often then not the word ‘nou miso’ (脳みそ) will come up (i.e. crab’s brain). However this is a common misconception.

                          The truth is far more horrific, the brain size of an average size crab is little more than that of a pea, and kani miso is whatever is left after all the white meat is taken out of the crab - a nasty looking concoction of internal organs such as livers and pancrease, intestines, their contents and just a little bit of the actual brain."

                          The taste of kani miso really isn't terribly different from eating the "brains/guts" or "butter" of a cooked lobster or prawn head, if you are into that flavor.

                          Capriana, thanks for the tip on kani miso at Nijiya. I see you've used it for home cooking via your blog.

                          1. re: K K

                            Besides kani (crab) miso, u can find Ebi (shrimp) and Lobster miso in japan. Nijiya carries both kani and ebi miso.
                            I make my own version of kani miso by adding miso, sake, soy sauce, sugar and mirin to cooked dungy crab brain. This makes a very nice sauce for cold tofu.

                        2. re: K K

                          You can find kani miso in a small bottle @ nijiya maket about $8.
                          eat it like ice-cream with a small spoon, it tastes very good just by itself with beer!!!