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Oct 20, 2011 07:33 PM

Kaito Sushi-Solo Omakase?

My wife has offered a birthday dinner anywhere I want, and although Urasawa would be nice, Kaito Sushi seems more reasonable. Problem is, she isn't as adventurous as I am regarding sushi. I would love to do omakase, with an emphasis on the exotic, but she is more a "tuna, salmon, oyster" kind of person. Can I do omakase on my own? Should I request to sit in front of Morita-San's station? Will Chef Morita mind if I have someone who is more in love with 'salmon nigiri with ponzu and lemon' than a nice serving of uni or ankimo? Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!

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

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  1. Please forgive me if these questions are answered in earlier posts...I jumped the gun and posted before reading....

    1 Reply
    1. re: ac3197

      i've only eaten 1 time there and am fairly adventurous. i would highly recommend that you and your wife go. he always has some more exotic stuff, but he's also patient and engaging and can maybe get your wife comfortable to try some of it. more importantly, he does the "simple" stuff really well. his soy marinated tuna is unbelieveable and nothing crazy, but just an amazing piece of tuna. definteily sit at the bar and have fun. i love also that the omakase is pretty interactive. it's not just him giving you what he feels is right, but rather, he asks you what you like, makes suggestions, suggests spins on old favorites. truly a wonderful experience.

    2. To summarize earlier posts, Kaito will be incredibly welcoming of someone who sticks to the basics and/or wants rolls. Be forewarned, however, that she may come out of the meal with several new favorites if she has an open mind.

      I would be surprised if they would not prepare omakase for you while your wife orders specific pieces as they have been unfailingly gracious hosts every time I have been there.

      2 Replies
      1. re: JRSD

        Ditto everything JRSD said about Kaito - they're actually the very best place to go when you have a mixed party of Sushi experts and Sushi "novices". Both will be catered to.

        And yes, do ask for Kaz - many will wait to get a seat at his bar. Kaz, (Morita-san), has the station nearest the windows.

        BTW do be prepared, as Kaz really likes to kid around; between that and the language barrier, there's always a chance for some misunderstanding. Just know that it's probably unlike any other traditional Sushi bar that you've been to - they're serious about their Sushi, but not themselves, so be armed with a sense of humor and you'll have a great time. At Kaito you don't need to be on pins and needles, and especially in front of Kaz.

        And if he's true to form he'll carefully monitor your wife's preferences and actually suggest an item or two to push the boundaries. He's usually right on and many a customer has left finishing their meal with a broader palate than when they came, with their eyes newly opened to what Sushi can be.

        Please post on how it goes!

        1. re: cgfan

          unbeknownst to me at the time, i actually sat a couple seats down from cgfan on my one trip there. what really made me a huge fan of Kaz is that he treated me as well and was as focused on my experience as he was with cgfan, who is a regular there. not all sushi places do this and really speaks to Kaz' character.

      2. Morita-san has obliged us with omakase for two and not our third person, per her request, with no problem. I don't see why he wouldn't do the same for you and your wife. And, to reiterate what was posted below, he may try to get your wife to push her limits and try some new things. I never cared for giant clam or octopus until dining at Kaito. It's truly an experience, and I hope you both enjoy it as much as we have. Happy Birthday!

        1. just in case you needed any further input - yes. But your wife should trust Kaz enough to try a few new things. There are countless reports of people thinking they hated an item, and loving it after Kaz makes it.

          For what it's worth, I've eaten at both Urasawa and Kaito, and although Urasawa is the epitome of quality sushi. Most of the expense is on account of the ingredient price and presentation. If you were to compare a piece of say chu-toro from either establishment the difference would be a lot less than you might expect.

          11 Replies
          1. re: Rodzilla

            I recall Pablo sharing very similar sentiments as well...


            What always strikes me about Kaz is how humble and down to earth he keeps things; he keeps things so real. There's so many times that I want to shout out that Nigiri Sushi, at its heart, is a humble street food, done originally for convenience. It's fine to have "palaces" to Sushi that will chase down the most exotic ingredients at incredible cost, so long as we keep in mind that that's all a modern distortion.

            Personally I'd much rather go into the humble Sushi bars in Tokyo's neighborhoods than go into any of the "celeb Itamae" Sushi-yas. In my mind they're much closer to what Sushi is all about.

            1. re: cgfan

              Wow, I thought I had read everything there was about Katio on these boards, I guess I missed that. Pablo captures my sentiments exactly.

              I really hope when I make back out that way I'm able to sit with you CG, you're the most knowledgeable guy next to Kaz - having a meal with the two of your would be quite the experience.

              1. re: Rodzilla

                I ate at Sushi Kaito with a party of about 8. I was really looking forward to the food and as much as the food we did have was good, the horrendous service we recieved from the male server totally affected the evening. He could not recommend any items and some items we read in chowhound that we asked for, they couldn't make. Plus we couldn't appreciate his snarky attitude he had the moment we sat. I am sure I will be back for the food but not anytime soon.

                1. re: globalsurf

                  I'm sorry to hear that. I thought they only had one male server who was pleasant enough when I visited. I can assure you it would be a different experience had you sat at the bar. I suspect the inability to make the requested items was due to them not having the ingredients. Kaz will only serve what's in season.

                  1. re: Rodzilla

                    I've always found the service at Kaito to be very good. It'd be hard for me to take such a contrary assessment at face value without wondering what we're not being told.

                  2. re: globalsurf

                    Actually we also had a bout of horrendous service at Kaito a couple of months ago. I went with my wife and two generally well behaved kids. They both love Japanese food and my wife and I love sushi and based on the reports on CH we were excited to try Kaito. When we arrived there were a few empty tables for four and we asked the male server (didn't get a name, Caucasian, heavyset, ruddy-faced guy) to seat us. He said nothing and proceeded to make a place for the four of us at the sushi bar, asking a family of three to interrupt their dinner to "scootch" to make four spaces for us, as asked us to sit. We replied that we preferred to sit at a table as our kids would not be primarily eating sushi. He was visibly upset with our request and his response was "I just can't do it!. I've reserved them for others". It's hard in text to reflect his tone of voice but it was one of "How dare you inconvenience me with such a request!" He came across as angered and I was certainly put off by his tone, but happy to be at the sushi bar if he insisted. I understand that the tables were reserved, no big deal, but his tone towards customers really had no place in a dining establishment.

                    So we sat at the sushi bar for an uncomfortably long period without being acknowledged by the two sushi chefs nor being offered drinks. Finally an Asian woman came to take drink orders and the male server interrupted her to tell my kids that they could not use their iPods at the sushi bar. When my wife tried to discuss the reasons with him he snapped back "I won't allow it!" Again his tone was one of "How dare you question my authority!!". He was really making a scene in that small restaurant and I felt bad for the others dining there to see it. At this point I was fed up with his attitude and I quietly stood up and instructed my family to leave. Neither of the two sushi chefs interceded in the situation and we walked out quietly. It was not his request that they not use iPods, which is actually reasonable (though he did place us at the sushi bar) but his attitude towards people coming to the establishment to dine. I don't remember ever being treated so poorly in a restaurant. I'd originally planned to pen a CH "review" but took the general advice to never write something in anger. The entry above reminded me of the painful memory!

                    I would like at some point to go back to Kaito and hopefully the offensive server will have been sacked.

                    1. re: steveprez

                      really sorry to hear that, Steve. Your description sounds like the same server that I believe everyone has. I didn't take him as exceptionally friendly, and he even made one remark while checking our IDs for wine that struck me as a bit out of line, but I certainly wasn't treated that poorly. The rest of the staff more than made up for any lack of professionalism in my case, but yours sounds unacceptable.

                      1. re: steveprez

                        really sorry to hear about your experience, which I agree, is unacceptable. The said server (I think I know who he is), is still there and hopefully, word will get back to him, Joe and Kaz so this won't happen again.

                        1. re: daantaat

                          I have a hard time believing that they don't know what's going on in the front of the house. Kaito's an expensive place to eat, and my guess is they don't want kids playing video games seated at the bar as a potential disruption to other customers.

                        2. re: steveprez

                          Kids there are a regular sight, though never have I seen them with electronics. But coloring books and toys, yes. I myself have taken most of my nieces and nephews there at a very young age.

                          Perhaps the best you can hope for is that the said server is not there the day you dine next time, as the front of the house does do a small rotation throughout the week.

                          If you do return, know that Morita-san's Sushi is the best around, and for me it is he that defines the entire dining experience at Kaito. As often as I dine there the front of the house fades in the background for me. To continue to have his Sushi I have followed him now through 4 shops and will continue to follow wherever he goes.

                          So he's the real star of the show, the culinary genius in this operation, the one who single-handedly setup this amazing Sushi program and has raised the bar for all of San Diego. Make it to Morita-san's bar and I suspect that by the time you get served a couple of rounds of his Sushi, the past will all melt away.

                          1. re: cgfan

                            Thanks for the supportive comments everyone! Sushi is easily my favorite food when eating out and I would really like to get back to Kaito at some point. As I mentioned, I didn't really have a problem with not using electronics at the sushi bar, it was the attitude and behavior of the server that were so offensive.

                            In fact, personally, I'm a bit of a sushi bar 'purist' if there is such a term. To me, if you're sitting at the sushi bar, you should be interacting with the sushi chef and primarily eating sushi. Thus, I don't like sitting at the sushi bar with kids and typically don't take mine to the bar, nor do I like when adults sit at the sushi bar and order primarily cooked food from the kitchen, nor do I like sushi bars where you order sushi from a server and the itamae work silently behind the bar. Thus, I was also a little surprised to see kids at the sushi bar at Kaito. The nite we went there was one child of about 5 years old sitting at the sushi bar with his parents. There was also a couple that had brought an infant in a car seat/carrier and that was taking up a seat at the sushi bar. Fine with me if that's how Kaito wish to run their business, just a bit surprising.

                2. Thanks for the input everyone...I am truly excited about my meal and wish it wasn't 42 days away! Can I reserve a spot with Kaz in advance (far in advance)? I'll repost with my results, just hope I don't turn the wife into a high-end sushi fiend! It's much cheaper to have her thinking that Sushi Deli is the cat's meow.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ac3197

                    I'm supposing you can request Kaz, or just do your best to sit at his end of the bar. Joe (I believe) is very skilled and personable as well, you will be in good hands either way.

                    so long as you only go to Kaito for your high end sushi-fix, you should be able to keep some money in your pockets. It's not cheap food, but it's a lot less than you would pay for anything close to comparable.

                    1. re: ac3197

                      you can request to sit w/ Kaz when you make reservations. keep in mind that if they're busy, you may wait beyond your reservation time b/c they don't rush diners out the door.