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Kaito Omakase - First Experience

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Review with pictures: http://www.rodzillareviews.com/2011/0...

"We were lucky enough to visit Kaito on a rare slower evening, making for plenty of interaction with Chef Kaz. The man is as knowledgeable as he is personable, we had a great time as he provided background on each dish for the nearly 3 hours.

1.Cucumber Seafood Salad
The amuse bouche of sorts. Slices of crunchy cucumber with pieces of whitefish and octopus marinated in sesame oil. Great texture and flavor.

2.Hotate Raw and Cooked Muscle
Scallop two ways. This was the freshest scallop I’ve ever had. I know this because it was still moving as Kaz sliced it for the sashimi prep. The less commonly used muscle had a texture akin to squid, and was grilled in a soy/sake marinade.

3.Hirame
The halibut was adorned with freshly squeezed lemon juice and grated sea salt, a classic pairing for a delicate whitefish. The peppers alongside were too spicy for me. I can’t tell you type or scoville units, but it was much spicier than any jalapeno relishes I’ve had.

4.Kanpachi
Japanese Amberjack - a bit more weight with a yielding texture and light almost buttery flavor.

5.Marinated Maguro
A great piece of bluefin tuna came marinated in soy, sake, and fish broth adding to an already fantastic flavor.

6.Hokkigai
I avoid surf clam at most places, it has a tendency to arrive dry, rubbery, and flavorless- not at Kaito. The texture was pleasantly snappy, but moist and sweet.

7.Kohada
Gizzard shad was diced to soften the firmer texture. It’s a stronger flavored fish which Kaz mentioned “tastes like sushi to me, tastes like Japan.”

8.Fried Oyster
Crisp panko crust, creamy oyster interior, and a soy BBQ sauce to compliment. Awesome.

9.Ankimo
Monkfish liver pate is a favorite of mine and Greg’s. Often referred to as foie of the sea, I actually prefer this to foie pate. For those unfamiliar, it’s a mildy sweet flavor with a consistency almost like chilled butter.

10.Mountain Potato, Maguro, Nori
Kaz makes sure guests want to try each dish before he prepares them, but he was extra careful with this one. “White people don’t like it, I like it, you guy’s – I don’t know”. We both have an affinity for bizarre food, so we decided to try it.

I think the problem for most people must be the texture of the mountain potato. The flavor reminded me of a cross between a russet potato and jicama, but when heated it breaks down into a gooey pooridge like consistency. The starch was paired with that same great blue-fin, and accented with salty hits from nori and soy. Not my favorite of the evening, but it didn’t take us long to finish the bowl.

11.Chutoro
This Chutoro was actually taken from the back rather than the belly. Kaz noted that he prefers the medium fatty Chutoro to the fattier Otoro for nigiri, mentioning the latter has an overwhelming fattyness. The piece was incredibly rich without tasting like I just took a shot of oil. The texture was also phenomenal, I did use my teeth but I didn’t need to.

12.Ono
The lightly seared Ono had a meatier texture. I loved the way the tomato, cilantro, and pickled vegetables added a savory counter to the sweeter fish. If I HAD to pick one piece to have again, this would be it.

13.Anago and spine
Kirbie‘s recent review had me interested in eel spine. The spine was fun, but the sea water eel it came from was amazing. A more restrained sweetness than it’s freshwater cousin, and an incredibly melty texture – so soft it seemed almost spreadable. This was one where I actually did not chew.

14.Uni and Uni/Clam roll
The sweeter Santa Barbara sea urchin. Prepared as both gunkan nigiri and in roll form with clam. I rea
lly liked the pairing of two sweeter components with just a hint of briny flavor.

15.Otoro negitoro handroll roll
At this point Kaz could sense I was close too my limit. Though he had checked several times throughout the evening to make sure we wanted to continue, he finally threw in the towel for me seeing that I couldn’t go too many more rounds with Greg Shamu.

“Okay, last one – negitoro.” As Kaz prefers chu-toro for nigiri, he reserves Otoro for rolls. The incredibly fatty tuna was so tender that it was chopped and scraped away from the tendinous sheath with a spoon. Paired with scallion and perfect sushi rice, I really enjoyed this.

15 1/2. Cooked Otoro Gristle
As a special treat, Kaz took the reserved Otoro sheath which is too tough to eat raw, and cooked it with soy, sake, and garlic. Once prepared it transformed into something like a Japanese take on beef bulgogi..only better.

Even though I was beyond full, the end to the evening was bittersweet. The food, setting, and company made for one of the best times I’ve had (and it still would have been even if Greg didn’t foot the bill). I should warn anyone planning a visit that Kaito is a ruiner. I went in with high standards, but left a full blown snob. It’s going to be hard for anyone else to top Kaz. Kaito Sushi has gone from a must visit to an absolutely will return."

For inquiring hounders, the total for 2 was ~$240 no drinks and pre-tip. As far as I can tell, for the quality/care we received that's actually quite the deal.

We didn't set any limit ahead of time, though I'm sure that you can. Kaz checked several times to see if we wanted to continue. Further, as noted he checks to make sure you want something before he serves it, you're free to turn down anything - though I wouldn't suggest it.

-----
Kaito Sushi
130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

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  1. Great review, Rodzilla. Indeed, it's a game changer.

    Just a couple of comments to do a little bit of infill.

    On 2, the muscle is actually the Himo, or fringe. They'll usually also include the liver as well. I'm quite certain that there's also a very tiny touch of butter.

    On 3, the Hirame is also rested on a piece of Konbu (kelp) for a while, a very delicate procedure. Easily overdone, if rested too long it results in too strong a Konbu flavor overpowering the delicate sweetness of the flesh. The salt Kaz uses is a hand grated Himalayan Pink Rock Salt, chosen for its very mild (not very salty) flavor. The pepper paste is Yuzu Kosho, a traditional mix of Yuzu zest, chili pepper and salt. The trick is to use a very very tiny amount of it per slice of Hirame.

    On 5, that's called a Tsuke Maguro, which is one of the classic Edo Mae (original Tokyo-style Nigiri Sushi), dating back to pre-1870's when Tokyo was known as Edo.

    On 7, another "old school" pre-1870's Edo Mae item.

    On 10, that's a Tororo. The Yamaimo, or mountain yam, is not heated but rather just grated, which turns what otherwise would be a Jicama-like consistency gives it a "Neba Neba" (mucilaginous) texture. In this way Yamaimo can be used two ways, either for crunch or for "Neba Neba" texture, both of which are prized textures in Japanese cuisine.

    On 13, the spine is an Anago-sen, for Anago-senbei, or Anago rice cracker. Here the "rice cracker" is a reference to the texture, as, of course, it is just all spine. Only a Sushi shop that filets their own fresh Anago can have this dish, as otherwise the spines are left behind in Japan as "everyone else" orders pre-fileted (and frozen) Anago.

    At Kaito the Anago is served with a house-made traditional Tsume, which is itself a sweet and slow reduction of actual Anago. Most places just uses a simple syrup out of a bottle.

    On 14, that was most likely a pairing of Uni with Aoyagi, or orange clam. The part that is used with the Uni would be the Himo, or fringe, of the Aoyagi. (When Aoyagi is served as a Gunkanmaki, both the abductor muscle and the fringe is used...)

    On 15, Negitoro at Kaito is always made from the flesh next to the skin. It's part of Kaz' genius to use every part of the fish, as the meat there cannot be used conventionally with all of the gristle. Scraped away from the gristle, it's perfect for the Negitoro, which of course leaves the gristle, which becomes your item 15-1/2.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cgfan

      thanks cg, I was hoping you would comment.

      -For the hotate/ himo, I do believe the liver was in there (larger pieces in the picture)

      -On the halibut, believe me I used the tiniest amount possible, but that stuff is potent and I'm prone to indigestion.

      Maguro - is tsuke maguro still referred to as bluefin? Kaz called it that.

      I thought the mountain yam was heated because it disappeared for a moment, I had no idea that it could have that consistency without some sort of heat reaction - but it was cold. Thanks, I will edit on my site.

      15. that gristle is amazing, he mentioned most people through it out. I would love to have to have a whole heap of it for some negitoro-gristle-don.

      1. re: Rodzilla

        Maguro, while strictly speaking means tuna, is usually understood to be bluefin when used in a Sushi context. But to emphasize that it actually is bluefin as opposed to other types of tuna, sometimes the word Hon-Maguro (real tuna) is used. (BTW an old term referring to Maguro is Akami, or literally "red meat".)

        Regarding the Tsuke Maguro, yes it is still a Maguro, but prepared Tsuke style. Kaz will usually decide at the time of service whether or not to serve the Maguro straight, as a Tsuke, or even as a Hagashi (a longitudinal cut where the flesh is taken between the fascia layers, resulting in a piece without any "grain").

        Certainly that gristle dish is a real eye opener, isn't it? BTW Maguro gristle is called Maguro Sugi.

        As to the Yuzu Kosho, one of my favorite uses for the condiment at home is for Zaru Soba, using the Yuzu Kosho in lieu of the Wasabi. Excellent when used in this fashion, it has a clearer, brighter taste that doesn't get at all muddy and hence is perfect when used with the Soba Tsuyu (Soba dipping sauce).

    2. Kaito has left me the sushi snob as well. Some on the board will swear to their graves on Ota, but the reality is that Kaito blows Ota away. :-)

      10 Replies
      1. re: daantaat

        Not sure if I've been turned into a Sushi snob by Morita-san... After all I'd happily eat at any other Sushi bar in the county...

        ...that is if there were any. (BTW what's Ota?)

        1. re: cgfan

          Sushi Ota in PB...

          It's not that the quality of fish is far inferior to Kaito if you sit at the bar and let them know what you want, but you'll probably pay 1.5-2x more for the same amount of food.

          1. re: karaethon

            I never sit at the tables, and still to me they're each playing in completely different leagues.

            1. re: karaethon

              are you saying Ota is more expensive than Kaito or vice versa?

              1. re: karaethon

                Sushi Ota is a great place if you're on a budget and not that serious about sushi. They have great chirashi lunch sets. It's not close to Kaito's quality, but much better than the vast majority of sushi places in SD. So it has a good niche where people who want to try out sushi for a special occasion and don't want to spend a lot should go. I'd recommend it if you're not crazy about sushi.

                -----
                Sushi Ota
                4529 Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109

              2. re: cgfan

                I guess what I mean by sushi snob is that since my palate has been elevated by Morita-san, I have a much more discerning palate when it comes to sushi and therefore, are a little more wary of just "any" sushi place. Kind of akin to my palate for good Jewish deli, dim sum and Cantonese food.

                1. re: daantaat

                  Actually I'm in complete agreement and was just trying to make a joke...

                  1. re: cgfan

                    I can see that now, but the sarcasm was definitely lost given the context of the conversation

                    1. re: karaethon

                      ;-)

                      1. re: cgfan

                        oh....thanks for clarifying!

            2. Thanks for the review ! Going there on the 5th for my first omakase ever ! Can't wait.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Rio Yeti

                this is THE place to do it from what I understand. Are you visiting SD from Paris? (I looked at your profile)

                1. re: Rodzilla

                  Yes I am.

                  I just got back from Vegas (posted a few reviews on the Vegas board), now in SD looking forward to try Kaito Sushi. If it's as good as it sounds, with this and "é" in Vegas, this trip will have been a culinary highlight !

                  -----
                  Kaito Sushi
                  130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

                  1. re: Rio Yeti

                    wow, just read your report - I've commented over there. Make sure to stop back in here to let me know how you like it!

                    1. re: Rodzilla

                      Thanks! I will definitely come back here to give my impressions, however I doubt I will make a dish by dish report such as yours or my "é" review on the Las Vegas board. For one thing I'm less knowledgeable about sushi, as in France all we have (mostly) is nigiri sushi, maki, sashimi; tuna, salmon, eel, snaper and shrimp... done. Except for the "new" creations which can be good but are not sushi. So by reading your review I'm just amazed at how rich the sushi world can be.
                      And secondly at "é" they give you a copy of the menu, which makes it really easy (and fun) to do a dish by dish review !

                      But I'll be back here nonetheless, and do my best at describing the experience.

                      1. re: Rio Yeti

                        No need to document, just enjoy. However, if you do enjoy learning about the food (as I suspect you do) Kaz is great. He's very open to questions, and will begin to teach you about each ingredient as he senses enthusiasm.

                        1. re: Rodzilla

                          Great to know thanks !

                          1. re: Rio Yeti

                            Though as most here know, Kaz is quite a joker. If you ask him where a specific fish came from, he'll likely answer "from Paris!"...

              2. Ok, here goes!

                Most of the dishes I had were the same as Rodzilla's, with a few different ones and a few I didn't have.

                Started of with the cucumber salad as well, although I am not sure ours had any protein in it... from the picture on Rodzilla's blog it seems the white fish and octopus pieces were little chunks, in this case I'm certain they weren't present in our salads, however there were different grated textures, so I'm not quite sure... Anyway, the salad was fresh and nice, but nothing I didn't have in other good sushi places.

                Scallop.
                I had the same dish as Rodzilla, except the cooked part had the orange coral with it (which I don't see on the picture on the blog). Ladies and gentlemen that's where I'll start the praise. The raw scallop was like nothing I have tasted before, incredibly smooth and tender, and with a mesmerizing sweetness (I know, if I'm using all the good adjectives on that one, I won't have any left for the rest...). Chef Kazuo said we could use a little bit of soy sauce but that he didn't think it was necessary and I totally agree with him, although it didn't taste bad with the soy sauce (how could it ?) I prefered to experience the delicate mild sweet taste plain.
                The cooked muscle, while a bit tough, was good and the coral excellent.

                Halibut sashimi.
                Amazing taste (at this point I started realizing how raw fish can really taste like). What struck me is how all the seasoning (lemon, salt, yuzu kosho) while very bright, acidic and spicy didn't overpower the mild sweetness of the fish. The dish worked perfectly, was balanced and vivifying.

                Amberjack
                The amberjack I had, was sashimi with lemon, a tomato cilantro sauce (I think), some spicy green pepper (sorry don't know which kind), and some "flying fish roe" (that is the roe of flying fish, not a flying roe!). This was probably my favorite... wait no, maybe not... hummm ok, I can't pick my favorite child, I hope you understand but I loved this dish, again the balance of all the ingredients, the contrast between the fish and everything else... This is the dish I would put in front of people who say "Sushi ? it's just raw fish, what's the big deal ?" This WAS a big deal !

                Cooked Ono
                Ono is supposed to be of the mackerel family... if it is, that's a very diverse family ! This fish was either slightly glazed or marinated in a sweet soy sauce of some kind, it's texture and look was like a very light and soft salmon. It was cooked all the way through and incredibly tender.

                Gizzard Shad Sushi
                Very strong taste. This fish is in the herring family, and you can taste that. I had the same nigiri presentation as Rodzilla's, except Chef Kazuo added some finely chopped marinated ginger inside the X cut of the fish. I found it odd as I often here "it's bad sushi etiquette to put a piece of ginger on your sushi", but I guess the Chef's the chief ! However the fish taste was so strong I didn't feel the ginger added anything to it.

                Eel and eel spine.
                Chef Kazuo explained to us how most sushi places get frozen freshwater eel and drown them in sweet glaze. He told us that anybody can cook that in the microwave for 20 seconds. His seawater eel however, he gets fresh, which allows him to cook it precisely in a small oven then glaze them lightly with a brush, and of course serve them with the crunchy eel spine. Even though Kazuo shouldn't be dissing other sushi places (bad itamae, bad itamae !), I agree that most eel I've had before tasted like reheated stuff. This was nothing like it, fresh, tender, super tender actually, and the spine was a nice crunchy bite contrasting with the sushi.

                Chutoro
                As mentionned before, this is from the back of the tuna, not the belly. And if there is one piece of muscle from a sea creature that could bring me to believe in god, this one would be it. Not only did it melt in my mouth, but the aroma of the fish seemed to come in layers as a complex wine does. When Chef Kazuo made one of those for my 21 year old sister, he said jokingly that she was spoiled to be able to try this. Honestly, I felt spoiled too.

                Clam
                Rodzilla's description "snappy, moist and sweet" fits perfectly for this "duo of clam" (from what I understood he uses two different parts of the clam rapidly cooked in hot water). However I did find mine slightly rubbery. This sushi was better than any sushi I ever had elsewhere, but the evil roots of the spoiled sushi snob that started growing inside me influenced the way I felt about this dish. Good but not great.

                Marinated chutoro with moutain potato and some sprouts
                Again from the back of the spiritual leader himself (I'm talking about the tuna, not the chef), this piece of fish was marinated on the spot in a mix of soy sauce, sake and fish broth for about one minute. This dish was very intricate and Chef Kazuo joked (or did he ?) that if I ask him to make this on a crowded day he won't have the time. So the layers were: sushi rice, wasabi, a piece of green (like a salad leaf, not sure what kind, the same he uses as an ornament for some of the dishes), the marinated tuna, a thinly cut slice of mountain potato, some sprouts and finally all was held together by a little piece of nori. I enjoyed watching the precise preparation and beauty of the accomplished sushi, but I felt all the greens and vegetables, while adding a nice freshness and texture, distracted a bit from the taste of the fish. So I focused very hard (not so hard actually) to be able to taste the fish, and God (what did I tell you?) was it good !

                Because I'm a pig, and I just enjoyed each dish being a surprise so much, I had to go for a last one although I was full...

                Uni.
                Sea urchin is good, briny, delicate, buttery but like foie gras it's not something that you want to gorge yourself with, when you're already done eating (get it ? gorge, foie gras ...?). I can't really judge this dish because I felt it was too much for me at that point.

                Granted this was a slow night (only a few of us at the bar), Chef Kazuo was really likeable, friendly and upbeat. For some reason he doesn't think Paris is an attractive place (although he's never been) and asked me a couple of times if I really like living there. I do, I love living there, I love the atmosphere of the city, the food in many places, the art, cinema and culture present everywhere, but I do not love the sushi. Thanks to Rodzilla, CGfan, all the chowhounds and of course Chef Kazuo Morita, I have discovered that raw fish can truely be a delicacy, that Anthony Bourdain is not a phony when he rolls his eyes of pleasure after a bite of rice and fish.
                It's not just rice and fish, it's precision, it's a hundreds years old tradition that just a few people do right and try to pass along in order to enlighten us.

                I am honored to have been enlightened... although now I've turned into an effing sushi snob!

                27 Replies
                1. re: Rio Yeti

                  and I thought you said no elaborate documentation :p

                  great recount of the meal - I believe the leaf was/is shiso. Chef Kaz smacks it before he puts it down, correct? I believe that's to release the flavor/aroma

                  I'm very glad you got to experience it as I did on a slower evening - you deserve it as you're one who would really appreciate it.

                  1. re: Rodzilla

                    Yes, I lied.

                    The leaf was indeed shiso, thanks for reminding me of the name.

                    And thank you for your kind comment :)

                  2. re: Rio Yeti

                    Wow, a great and well-written report! It was a joy to read...

                    BTW on your second to last dish and perhaps your earlier Chutoro, unless Kaz specifically mentioned that it was a Chutoro more than likely it was Maguro, and more specifically Tsuke Maguro. This Edo-mae style marinates the Maguro in a way that deepens the flavor and amps up its mouthfeel, overall just creating a more luxurious texture. One of Kaz's favorite sections to order is just behind the head of the Bluefin, along its backside. Perhaps that is what you were referring to as its back.

                    In your second round at the Maguro you basically had a reconstructed Yamakake Maguro, a wonderful dish that combines Maguro, Yamaimo (though grated for Yamakake), Kaiware, Nori and Wasabi. I think this one Nigiri is genius. (If you ever have the chance to visit them again, you might want to ask for a Yamakake Maguro to understand the culinary reference, one of my favorite "non-Sushi" items to order at the Sushi bar...)

                    1. re: cgfan

                      Thanks for the kind words and precisions.

                      Kaz did not precise (from what I can remember) the name of the toro. He just said it was toro but takes it from the back of the fish instead of the belly... so you may be right, don't know.
                      And thanks for the Yamakake Maguro explanation !

                      I have to say, one thing that I found weird considering the overall quality, is the wasabi. Kazuo uses premade wasabi paste instead of grating fresh wasabi. It didn't have a huge impact as he only uses a little in the nigiri sushi, and I didn't add it to my soy sauce, but I was surprrised nonetheless.

                      1. re: Rio Yeti

                        While it comes out of a tube, the Wasabi used at Kaito is a 100% grated Wasabi of very high quality grated from the root. Much better than the grated Wasabi that one can find in the Japanese markets, in the past I've purchased some from Kaito to use at home.

                        (Note that most of the tubed Wasabi even in the Japanese stores is just common horseradish, though a few of them are a blend with real Wasabi. If you know what to look for you can even find a 100% grated Wasabi in a well-stocked Japanese market. (It will typically be labelled as "100% 本わさび". The key is in both the "100%" and the "本" ["Hon"] for "real", to find the authentic Wasabi product...)

                        Though rare, I've been to Kaito a number of times where they'll use fresh-grated Wasabi root during service.

                        1. re: cgfan

                          Great thanks for clarifying this !
                          When I get back to France I'll try to find the real stuff, cause the green tainted horseradish (although the one I bought in France did contain something like 10 to 15% real wasabi)... well I'd rather by white horseradish instead.

                          1. re: cgfan

                            Gotta agree with you. I love the wasabi at Kaito -- sometimes I just pick up a bb sized piece and pop it into my mouth. Way better than most sushi bars.

                      2. re: Rio Yeti

                        I think we're in for a long overdue pilgrimage to Kaito! Great report!

                        1. re: daantaat

                          New York City poster here, in town for a night and wanted to thank everyone on this board for a fine recommendation. I won't belabor the point that the sushi here is wonderful - I had to try the scallop, marinated maguro (loved this and couldn't stop ordering it. the marination does wonders for the texture I think, as i've never had regular tuna so buttery in mouthfeel), the chutoro (agree with him that o-toro is sometimes overkill) and the anago (tempura).

                          I also tried, at his recommendation, the sea pineapple, which was an experience. Kaz described as a cross between uni and oyster, but it had a firmer texture like abalone, but was more tender and soft parts you could really bit through. Didn't have much flavor, but I really enjoyed the texture.

                          The real standout for me, oddly, was an inari pocket stuffed with a rice / unagi mixture, topped with finely chopped egg. I loved it and was sad that it came too late in the meal and I couldn't have another.

                          Anyways, thanks for helping one out-of-towner have a memorable meal.

                          1. re: FattyDumplin

                            Oh so that was you... (I was at the end of the bar, back to the front windows...)

                            Glad you enjoyed your meal, and you're spot on regarding the what the Tsuke technique does to the Maguro...

                            Funny about the Inari. I joked with Kaz when he mentioned that one to me; I associate that with my childhood and family picnics. But as always Kaz upgrades it into an entirely new experience.

                            1. re: cgfan

                              Haha. I figured you had to be a 'hound - nice to meet one in person. It was really a great meal. I couldn't stop eating - I had 3 or 4 pieces of the maguro because it was so different from any other I've ever had. Now I wish I'd had the Yamakake version that you describe above.

                              The Inari was a treat. Lucky you, if that's what you were eating at family picnics!

                              Enjoy your upcoming trip. Happy to refresh any of my recs... although, I'm sure others on the NY board will be more "in the know" than me.

                              1. re: cgfan

                                cgfan - when were we going to visit together?

                                1. re: karaethon

                                  Going tomorrow night if anyone else is going to be there

                                2. re: cgfan

                                  Hello cgfan.

                                  Thinking about heading up there tonight, and wanted your advice on ordering. Omakase (two of us at $50 pp) or just on our own? I like the relaxation involved in omakase, but as you can see, we're hoping not to drop more than $200 for dinner with tip and drinks.

                                  Is this possible/worth it?

                                  Cheers.

                                  1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                    I'm not CG, but I don't think that will be an issue. I forget the exact price of the meal I know the two of us ate for under $200.

                                    1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                      Kaito normally has come in around $70/person for us, including a couple of beers.

                                      1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                        $50/pp is certainly possible w/o drinks, though I'd guess that w/o drinks it'll be roughly around the 35th percentile point. To be sure it might be best to somehow tacfully let them know what you want to come in under.

                                        Regardless, I'd go with an Omakase. Remember that you can at any time call uncle, and unlike other Omakases there is not a fixed course and amount. It is very much customized to the diner, be it preferences, dietary restrictions, or budget.

                                        Otherwise if you're comfortable with potentially going a bit north of that amount you can just relax and take it easy. However since you also mention a $200 total, that should be drop-dead easy to do on Omakase at Kaito.

                                        1. re: cgfan

                                          Thanks, people. I guess $50 was a bit of an arbitrary starting point. Sounds like under $200 is totally possible.

                                          Hara heta...

                                          1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                            actually, if you found a way to go over $200 sans drinks I would be pretty surprised.

                                          2. re: cgfan

                                            Finally making it to Kaito felt almost the same as getting bar mitzvahed or something: a lot of mental prep to join in on just another day in the life of the congregation. And a real congregation it was: lots of happy, interested people transfixed on the goings on over the counter. We had seats with our backs to the windows, and could see it all.

                                            Not sure if Morita-san being objectively tipsy helps his knife-skills, but it certainly helped him put on a very cool show. He even asked me for a big beer- overtly cheeky, but something I was happy to do after eating a bit of his food.

                                            Ate a lot of the things listed above (including the homemade inari filled with his unagi gohan, topped with super-thin omelette ribbons and salmon roe- wow), but there was no anago or tuna cartilage. Hopefully next time.

                                            So much was good, but I was happiest with his simple and perfectly crafted nigiri- his chu-toro, kanpachi and the beautiful kohada can't be topped based on my experiences.

                                            At the end of the meal (after a closing bowl of their type-specimen miso soup), I asked for my all-time favorite tek-kyu maki, and he obliged with a huge freebie of excellent maguro, Chino cukes, wasabi, one of his hand-popped shiso leaves all bundled up. Perfect.

                                            Their rice is exceptional. Koshihikari with red vinegar- done right, this is the foundation for the best sushi I've eaten here and in Japan, and they do it right at Kaito.

                                            Out the door for about $175 omakase for two with booze. Beyond worth it.

                                            Cheers!

                                            1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                              thanks for reporting back, glad to hear you had the (expected) fantastic experience!

                                              I agree, nigiri are by far the best - and I actually prefer the chu-toro over the o-toro (as does Morita-San) too bad about the anago, and tuna cartilage..but I'm sure you'll be back. When they do have it, don't forget to claim the spine!

                                              1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                                Salty, I almost went in that day, but instead rolled in the day after - they had an incredible lineup of items from market - Shirauo (Japan - whitefish), Kohada (Japan - gizzard shad), Kinmedai (Japan - golden eye snapper), Amadai (Japan - red snapper), Yari Ika (East Coast - pen squid), Sumi Ika (Japan - ink squid), Hotate (Hokkaido - scallop), Anago (Japan - saltwater eel), Saba (Japan - Spanish Mackerel), Aji (Japan - Horse Mackerel), Iwashi (Japan - Sardine), Kanpachi (Japan - Skipjack), Matsushita Uni (CA - sea urchin), Aoyagi (East Coast - orange clam), Hon Maguro (Mediterranean - bluefin tuna), Chu-toro (Mediterranean - medium fatty bluefin tuna), Sake (Scottland - salmon), Tako (Japan - octopus)- and I'm sure I'm forgetting some items in this list...

                                                I'm guessing they must've had around 22 items that day, all of it incredible!

                                                1. re: cgfan

                                                  And I hope you ate all of it. Looks like I was a day early. Wasn't unhappy with my selection, just have the desire to go again soon.

                                                  Really enjoyed watching Morita's colleague cutting his daikon paper thin katsuramuki style, layering the resulting long sheets and slicing the next day's daikon tsuma. What's his name? He actually took me through a full description of everything they had in the case while Morita-san was taking a "break."

                                                  1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                                    He goes by Joe, but his name is actually Ryo. But with Ryo being a particularly difficult name to pronounce, no one really calls him that.

                                                    SR, speaking of prep, you might be interested in the series of videos that I took at Kaito, most of it occurring during their daily prep - http://tinyurl.com/KaitoTV (Most of this was shot during a time when I had to go iodine-free for several weeks; not sure if it helped matters videoing what I then could not eat, but I guess I couldn't just stay away either...)

                                        2. re: FattyDumplin

                                          Glad you enjoyed! I'm curious as I've never had sushi in NY but have read about some of the well-known spots. How did it compare?

                                          1. re: Rodzilla

                                            I'll be totally honest... Having had two kids in the past three years, my wife and I have been pretty out of the food scene and sushi has definitely fallen by the wayside. We tend to order from neighborhood-y spots, which clearly pale in comparison, which is why whenever I do travel for business, I spoil myself :)

                                            That being said, when I compare Kaito versus my rememberances of places like Ushi Wakamaru and 15 East (probably 2 - 3 years ago) the quality is clearly at a similar level (I honestly haven't had better Maguro or Scallop anywhere and Kaz definitely has some interesting preparations) but the variety was a bit more limited. I won't be able to do a NY comparison justice, but based on other recent cities I've splurged on sushi, you guys are really lucky!

                                        3. re: daantaat

                                          Thanks I'm glad you enjoyed it!

                                      2. Super excited, we are headed there (first time) this weekend for a friend's birthday. Does anyone recall the quality of the sake list. I can't find a copy online. It's a celebration so we want to drink some heaters - do we need to bring our own? Thanks

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: palmdoc1

                                          heaters??

                                          1. re: Ed Dibble

                                            Forgive the slang. Outstanding bottles.

                                            1. re: palmdoc1

                                              We didn't order Sake, but if I recall correctly the selection was quite limited. You're best to bring your own.

                                              I take it you're doing the Omakase as well. You won't be disappointed.

                                              1. re: palmdoc1

                                                I am no expert, but I have had decent cold sake there. Don't remember which brands were available.

                                          2. Okay fellow Chowhounders, this sounds like a great place to take my significant other. She loves sushi, but she's deathly allergic to shellfish (has the epi pen and everything) - omakaze is out right?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: jmtreg

                                              Just inform that about her allergy and they will not serve her shellfish...