New kaiseki in San Mateo
A friend of mine told me there is a new kaiseki restaurant in San Mateo, in the Crystal Springs shopping center (intersection of De Anza and Polhemus). It's called Wakuriya. He ate there last week and said it was fabulous. The chef/owner is apparently from Kaygetsu. I live near there, so I've seen them working on the place the last few months (it took over part of Crystal Springs Fish and Poultry). I'm looking forward to eating there soon, and was wondering if any of you hounds have tried this place yet?
Thanks for the update. Just read the glowing reviews on Yelp and can't wait to try it. My husband and I went to Kaygetsu's fourth anniversary dinner on Saturday and even though it was superb, it was stupefyingly expensive with wine and sake! They gave a nice gift to all parties, though: a book called "Untangling My Chopsticks" by a New York woman who went to Kyoto to study kaiseki ryoori. There can never be too many kaiseki restaurants, and Wakuriya is much closer to us in Half Moon Bay than Kaygetsu. :-)
Here is a question that is likely best answered by Wendy-san.
My wife and I live in Japan (me for 31 years, she for 59 years) and she adores Kaiseki, being Japanese, unlike me. Kaygetsu sounds interesting, but I would be more interested in "California Kaiseki" meaning that, rather than a duplication of what we can get in Japan, a truly California regional kaiseki, with specific ingredients and approaches not normally part of the Tokyo kaiseki experience. Would Kaygetsu be offended with such a request? This would be a fun thing for Japan visitors like us. Comments?
Do you mean that you would ask Kaygetsu for something on the spot? I'm not sure if they can be accommodating like that since they specialize in a set menu, though you can sometimes order a la carte. And I would say that Kaygetsu is definitely a Kyoto kaiseki experience. I'm thinking you might have better luck at one of Hiro Sone's restaurants (Terra in St. Helena or Ame in SF). I've only been to Terra. Or perhaps the new Yoshi's restaurant on Fillmore in San Francisco, which I have yet to try, but which has gotten rave reviews, though it could be rather traditional. Let us know if you discover something special.
I am not that knowledgeable about kaiseki (though I have had it once, at Kaygetsu, and loved it despite the price) but the food at Yoshi's does strike me as being a very good fit with what Tripeler is seeking, ie a 'California Kaiseki' style, and I do recommend it (if price is not a big issue, it is expensive). Indeed, when we first sat down the server came over and informed us that the menu was 'Kaiseki' style.
not trying to justify what the server said, since I am not that familiar with kaiseki, as I said...but my point was more that some of the dishes may be in a similar style, not that the format overall is followed: in that regard, can you clarify what the 'kaiseki' course at the Ritz means? Is it one course, or is it a set series of courses? if the former, is there something about the one course that makes it more 'kaiseki' style than Yoshi's? (since, as you point out, true kaiseki is a set meal in a certain progression).
that said, I guess I would expect something that would be called "California Kaiseki style" not to neessarily follow a certain set progression, given Californians reputations for doing their own things...
I could well believe that the quality of the food at the Dining Room is better than at Yoshi's (even though the food at Yoshi's is very good) and I'd love to hear more about it, thanks!
Would also be interested in more info on your dinner at Wakiyura, particularly since it is new. Perhaps you can do a report?
115 De Anza Blvd, San Mateo, CA
I'll give my report in a separate reply.
The reason why Yoshi's isn't really kaiseki is that there is no progression of tastes or thoughts on how the various dishes may (or may not) go together. While some of the dishes they have may be found on a kaiseki menu, most are simply various Japanese cooked food dishes that you can order at random - much more like an Izakaya or Yakitori style restaurant in Japan.
Regarding the Kaiseki meal at the Ritz Dining Room. This is something Ron also did at Masa's when he was chef there before joining the Ritz Carlton. It is a series of dishes - and entire meal - planned by the chef to provide a series of tastes, textures and visuals to stimulate one's eyes, mouth and nose in a smooth progression - which is the essential element of "kaiseki style" meals. It has several Japanese elements - such as a sashimi course with light yuzu citrus oil sauce. Other chefs who do this are Hiro Sone at Ame, the chef at Bushi-Tei in Japantown, and Richard Reddington at Redd in Yountville. interestingly enough, I believe Richard also worked at Masa's for a while and did a "kaiseki" style tasting menu when he was there. I'm not sure what is happening at Masa's these days, but they may also have a kaiseki-style influenced tasting menu again.
I just had a kaiseki dinner at Kyoya a couple weeks ago (plan on posting on it soon), and both my fiance and I thought it was better than the kaiseki dinner at Kaygetsu. So I wouldn't say there are only two choices in the Bay Area. BTW the Kyoya kaiseki experience needs to be special-ordered ahead of time, but I believe that's the same at Kaygetsu as well.
While it's good to have a reservation at Kaygetsu, it's not necessary to special order the kaiseki -- this is basically what they do. I haven't been to Kyoya in many years; I'm glad to hear they are a viable choice. I wonder if their kaiseki is as expensive as Kaygetsu's? I have never been to Kappa in Japantown. For anyone who has, is this considered as a kaiseki place or something less formal?
I wouldn't call Kappa's offerings kaiseki. The owners I'm told are from Hokkaido. The website says the style is koryori or small plates.
Another option is Mountain View's Kappo Nami Nami. They have a seasonal omakase dinner that needs to be ordered in advance, and based on many flickr photos I've seen, that meal is much cheaper and better value than Kaygetsu's (within the $50 mark or so), and while it is technically not kaiseki, the presentation and use of imported Kyoto ingredients (like the pickles/tsukemono like chorogi that looks like a tiny piece of pink poo) makes the experience as enjoyable and as authentic.
Last I checked the full kaiseki course at Kaygetsu is now over a C note (used to be $90), especially after the executive chef departure. Add that to Menlo Park real estate and you have some very pricey brand name Silcon Valley elite kind of kaiseki.
I also love Kaiseki, and have been enjoying kaiseki style Japanese food for over 20 years here in the U.S. and in Japan. in fact spent 10 days over New Years in Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and the Noto Peninsula eating one great meal after another with Japanese friends from that area who are real "foodies".
I've know Toshi-san and his wife Keiko-san at Kaygetsu for years. I don't think that it would be easy for them to do a "California Kaiseki" for you, as most of the ingredients have to be ordered in advance, and most people coming to the restaurant are looking for Japanese food, not a California take on Japanese food.
Having said that, there are many fantastic restaurants in the Bay Area that are very influenced by Japanese style that offer tasting menus. Of course the idea for tasting menus in western cuisine came from the Japanese Kaiseki style.
If one wants a "California" kaiseki, I would recommend Chef Ron Siegal's "kaiseki" course at the Ritz Carlton Dining Room in San Francisco - which is quite Japanese in style, but with a local orientation. Chef Siegal was the first American to defeat the French Iron Chef on the original Iron Chef program, by the way. You could also try Sone-san's Ame in San Franciso, and Bushi-Tei in Japantown in San Francisco - both have tasting menus that are Japanese/French/Calironia fusions - and all quite good. On a somewhat more distant note, Manresa in Los Gatos also offers one of the best tasting menus in the Bay Area (and therefore the U.S.). Chef David Kinch is mostly influenced by Catalan, French and California cuisine, but you can find many interesting Asian influences in his dishes. Manresa actually has their own gardens that they use to provide produce for the restaurant.
All of the above would be the equivalent of Michelin starred restaurants (and in fact, most already are Michelin starred) - and all are very big proponents of using local ingredients and whatever is freshest in the market for their ever-changing menus.
Went to Wakuriya last night. The food was great -- food comparable or maybe a little bit better than Kaygetsu, and my husband and I both enjoyed the atmosphere a little bit more than kaygetsu. It's a bit more casual, and I highly recommend sitting at the counter. We were sitting near where Mika was working and she was very helpful. Wakuriya will be changing the menu on the first Wednesday of every month -- so we had their second menu.
I had the six course dinner and my husband had the nine course meal. I can't remember all the details, but the courses were something like -- starter -- seared white tuna with a mizuna leaf salad, appetizer -- 4 different appetizers, all cold. Fava bean soup, an octopus dish with tomatoes and japanese turnip, sea bream with sticky rice and something else, and petaluma slow cooked chicken.
The sushi dish had sweet shrimp, some kind of tuna and I can't remember what the last fish was -- a white fish served with lime.
Steamed dish was an egg custard with potatoes and clams
Deep fried dish was a tempura with a snow crab and portabello mushroom wrapped with a tofu skin, and then there were individual pieces of asparagus, eggplant, and pumpkin
Granita was peach and sake flavored
Broiled dish was tasmanian sea trout -- one of my favorites
Rice dish was a choice of eel or sukiyaki with egg, dashi and some vegetables, with a side of wonderful rice.
Dessert was flan with a few little things on top -- strawberry ice cream, green tea/ almond milk flavored gelatin, fresh fruit.
Our server did forget one of my courses, but they deducted all of the alcohol from the bill. We tipped to replace the cost of the alcohol because we thought it was such a wonderful experience, but when they put the credit card in, they deducted the entire tip!
Just a wonderful experience -- I highly recommend it.
This is the May 2008 menu, exactly what I had tonight.
Saki zuke (starter)
seared shiro maguro with shimeji mushroom sauce and mizuna leaf salad with Kyoto schichimi pepper oroshi daikon
-uni and ikura okawa (on steamed mochi rice) w/wasabi cream sauce
-simmered Petaluma chicken with snow pea and karashi (J-mustard)
-chilled soramame (fava bean) soup with rice cracker
-nama tako (octopus sashimi) with kabura (J-turnip), tomato with ume dressing
On mono (steamed dish)
- asari clam in creamy chawanmushi with potato and mitsuba leaf
Tsukuri (sashimi) - hirame, hon maguro, amaebi
Agemono (deep fried)
- kani toji-age (deep fried snow crab & portabello mushroom wrapped with yuba), with veg tempura and tentsuyu (tempura sauce)
Hashiyasume (granite, palatte cleanser) - fresh peach and sake sorbet
Yakimono (broiled dish)
- Tasmanian ocean trout Wakasa-yaki (sake based dashi sauce) with shredded ginger, shiso leaf, kaiware, and yamamomo (mountain berry) on the side
Gohanmono - suikiyaki beef or unagi yanagawa (boiled up unagi in dashi sauce with egg) with steamed rice and tsukemono
Dessert - parfait with flan, kuromitsu jelly, strawberry icecream, green tea mousse and seasonal fruits.
Finally made it!
The food is wonderfully flavorful and very well executed but IMHO pretty skimpy for the price - from my memory the servings at Kaygetsu are a bit larger.
I only had the 3 course - loved the flavors of the starter - which in my case was a seared albacore (very fresh and tender but previously seared) with a wonderful combination of flavors of ground diakon, tender crispy greens (not sure what type),
zensai (appetizer) - was fabulous - with some small quibbles. I'm not a fan of octupus - that said the small pieces were not chewy and had been just briefly ?poached - but were tasteless - the whole salad section had no taste of an dressing (altho I had seen it tossed with one- sitting at the counter gives one a view of everything, not romantic but interesting - well maybe once.) Chicken was tender flavorful - just wish there was a tad more mustard. Uni with mochi rice (not sea bream tonight), wasabi cream, ikura was good but uni alto it looked really fresh had a bit of that not fresh (from the sea flavor) but just a touch of the "off" flavor, salmon eggs couldn't be tasted. Wasabi cream was good (can you tell I like spicy?) but given the extremely small portion of uni it really overwhelmed the other flavors. Mochi rice created a lovely textural contrast - but again a much tinier amount of this would have been more in balance - or well, more uni and ikura would also have helped the balance so one could actually taste everything.
The tempura was cooked to perfection but I couldn't taste the crab at all. Artfully done, tiny serving, and the most amazing sauce- would love to have soups, broths if the fish soup base they use for this is any indication!
The people next to me had the chawan mushi (which is not a favorite of mine) and I have the say the smells emanating from it were intoxicating! - smokey lovely odors which made me want to try it.
The space is tiny but lovely and the service couldn't be nicer (if a bit overwhelming for one server and one main chef). I sure hope they make it but I can't quite figure out how the economics will work given the small number of tables, limited hours, etc. I guess that accounts for the high prices and small portions (even by kaiseki standards), but I can't help but wonder if they would do better if they opened for lunch - even with a limited menu and/or offered extra courses a la care at dinner (eg I would have liked an extra course but not 2 plus desert which was my only option either 3 or 6 courses).
We also made it during the week and had the 6 courses. We were actually fine with the portions, but I am good with smaller portions in any case. I could see, with 3 courses, it might leave you wanting more.
It is not inexpensive but there is great thought and care that goes into each dish. (example, the mountain berry that went with the trout was perfect compliment to both the dish and the concept of this Kaiseki)
The service was very solicitous. There is a nice selection of Sakes that we enjoyed trying and they were helpful in choosing with us. Perhaps a one or two components of a dish were a bit complicated, but overall we enjoyed the heck out of it.
I had a similiar thought on the economics. Its a small place with a somewhat casual atmosphere not reflected by the prices. At the same time, there are touches to the experience (a gorgeous wood pepper shaker as one of several potential examples) that are so wonderfully Japanese that it adds greatly to the experience. I really hope they do well, and we will be back soon for round two.
I absolutely agree that there are lovely Japanese touches - and beautiful presentation with clearly a lot of thought (I saw the chef test the temperature of a plate he was using for a cold dish - it was too warm so he chilled it with ice before using it) and care.
The staff couldn't be nicer - and yes I will probably end up paying over $100 for dinner (when I am hungrier 8 course plus a glass of wine will probably get there). It's just that doing that and having to sit at a counter just doesn't seem like it is the ambiance I want. Nevertheless it is a gem and I really do hope they make it. I don't know much about sake so don't know if the mark up on the alcohol (limited wine selection also - pricey but may be appropriate for the quality?) will give them enough profit to survive. I sure hope so :)