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(Second) Kiriko's $40 Lunch Sushi Omakase, w/Photos

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The title’s a bit ambiguous as this was my fourth visit to Kiriko, but it's my second time having their lunch sushi omakase. You can read about the first time, which I really enjoyed, and the other two visits, which were not as great, here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/848518/.

After a disappointing time with their non-omakase lunch offerings, I'm happy to report that their $40 lunch sushi omakase is still a vast improvement from, and well worth the additional $16 over, their Deluxe Jou Sushi moriawase.

I arrived just after noon to an empty sushi bar and a few occupied tables of business men and women on their power lunches. I was seated the rightmost section of the bar with well-worn wood separating me and Shinji-san (I gotta be extra careful not to write "Shunji" during this review), instead of the usual glass case.

I was served the salad and miso soup first. A good start, but pretty standard. I did get one perfect cube of tofu in my misoshiru, which was very exciting, but I digress. After the starters, Shinji-san began my 10-piece sushi omakase with...

1. & 2. Hon Maguro Akami (bluefin tuna), Chutoro (medium fatty tuna), brushed with shoyu. The akami neta appeared to be a normal-size cut sitting on the shari, but it was deceptively thick. Not that I’m complaining, as the fish had a great flavor to it, strong but clean. The chutoro had a really beautiful gradient, running from medium-red to light pink across the piece. It was slightly chewier than the chutoro from my first visit, but still fantastic.

3. Tai (red snapper), topped with sea salt and lemon juice/zest. The flavor of the fish itself was very delicate and sweet, and (strangely but pleasantly) had an almost cream-soda-like undertone, kind of how uni often has a note of coconut to it.

4. Kanpachi (amberjack), brushed with shoyu. This was another thick cut of fish, which was flavorful with a hint of smokiness. Unfortunately, it had a little too much wasabi and was a little saltier than I would have preferred.

5. Homemade smoked salmon, topped with caviar. I paid special attention to this piece as the smoked salmon from my first two visits were very subtly smoked with little change to the texture of the fish, whereas the piece from the moriawase was over-smoked and more akin in texture to what one puts on bagels and cream cheese. Today's piece was definitely on the smokier side, not as delicate as the first two times, but it at least retained a little more of the texture of raw salmon.

6. Hotate (scallop), topped with sea salt and lemon juice/zest. It was a decent piece, a little more briny and less sweet compared to the piece from my first omakase.

7. Aji (Spanish mackerel), topped with kizami negi and grated shoga. The neta was deeply scored, so that as soon as I put the piece into my mouth, it fell apart. A little more “fishy” than last time, but not bad.

8. Isaki (grunt), topped with yuzukosho. This was the second time I've had isaki, and this time I could taste a distinct flavor different from tai and other shiromi, but I can't quite describe it. The yuzukosho did add a strong saltiness that luckily did not overpower the isaki like it did with the kinmedai from my first omakase.

9. Seared Toro (fatty tuna), topped with "unagi sauce" and "relish" (for lack of proper terms). The toro was prepared aburi, scorched with a blowtorch so that it looked almost like beef. It was an interesting contrast of flavors and textures between the sizzled, oily outer layer, the soft, fatty insides, and the sweetness of the sauce. It was amazingly good.

10. Blue crab hand roll, with cucumber. Sadly, the temaki was not as good as the first time. It looked somewhat smaller, which is fine as quality is more important than quantity, but was more mayonnaise-y than last time. The blue crab "salad" had small but noticeable pieces of the inner shell, the roll started to leak "juice" from its tail-end as I bit into it, and the temaki fell apart before the last bite.

I had pretty much the perfect blue crab hand roll the first time, so this was kind of a bummer way to end today’s omakase, but overall I still found the meal head-and-shoulders above the moriawase in quality, and I lucked out by being served two pieces of fatty tuna, with the chutoro at the beginning and the seared toro toward the end.

(I threw in a photo of the dessert menu, even though I decided to skip dessert today.)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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  1. [Mods, I started a new thread since my previous Kiriko thread was a few weeks old and hadn't had a comment in over a week, and it was getting a bit unwieldy to read and comment on. But feel free to move this thread into that one, if you'd rather keep it as one thread.]

    Additional thoughts:

    I was glad the that the fish varied a bit between my two times. That would have been my expectation, even with a fixed-price lunch omakase. The pieces both had in common were hon maguro akami, chutoro, tai, aji, homemade smoked salmon, hotate, and the blue crab hand roll. I would say the smoked salmon and the temaki were much better the first time, while the akami and tai were better today.

    As for what was different between the two visits, I was served hamachi, katsuo, and kinmedai during my first visit, as compared to the kanpachi, isaki, and seared toro from today. If I could, I’d probably trade the kanpachi for another piece of kinmedai instead.

    The shari was (pleasantly) barely warm like the first visit, which was not the case with the moriawase as every piece was served together, so the rice cools down on the pieces that were eaten later. I'm not sure I prefer warm shari in general, but I do prefer it at Kiriko.

    The service from the waitstaff continues to be excellent; I don't think my glass of ice water went empty for more than a minute. Comparing the two itamae (I sat in front of Tomo-san the first time), I would say Shinji-san was somewhat less conversational and seemed a little more intense than Tomo-san, who always had a smile.

    This is not to say Shinji-san was intimidating or unpleasant in any way. He explained what each piece was (and seemed a little bit impressed that I knew what isaki was) and answered my few questions in a friendly manner. Perhaps I just felt a bit disconnected today because of where I was sitting, not being able to see what Shinji-san was doing behind the solid block of wood, whereas I could watch Tomo-san prepare my entire omakase the first time. But no real complaints, and I’d gladly sit in front of Shinji-san again.

    6 Replies
    1. re: PeterCC

      I agree, you lucked out, 2 pieces of toro is probably $15-$20 during dinner service.

      1. re: prawn

        I know, I felt very lucky. I wonder if the toro was seared because it wasn't a cut that was good enough to be served fully raw. Regardless, it was delicious seared.

        (I've also wondered if the toro in toro negimaki is lower grade, or if it's just the trimmings that were left over from cuts for nigiri pieces.)

      2. re: PeterCC

        I might have to try Kiriko again based on this. At dinner, I've had HORRID service (multiple visits), but it sounds like at lunch, it's not so busy and you actually get attentive service.

        Thanks for the review and pics.

        1. re: vinosnob

          No problem. I agree about dinner service being not as good, though I've only been to dinner there once, and sat at a table. The service luckily wasn't horrid for me, but it was definitely much slower.

          I've been there for lunch three times each time at the bar, and the first time was the busiest, with maybe two-thirds of the place occupied. Service was a little "sloppy" that time (was served the salad after the first piece of nigiri and soup a few more pieces later), but it was still pretty good. The other two lunches, they were less crowded, and the waitstaff was very attentive.

          1. re: vinosnob

            Maybe only because I've had limited experience at Kiriko, but I thought my omakase dinner service was very good.

            1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

              taiwanesesmalleats, with your username, I was wondering if you've checked this thread out: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/850807

        2. Still flirting with lunch, I see. For heaven's sake, man, you need to consummate this and have the full monty omakase for dinner at Kiriko!

          It's like watching "Moonlighting" reruns here... (OK, I just dated myself with that reference)

          6 Replies
          1. re: J.L.

            If you want to pay me, I'm available for hire as a ghostwriter for sushi reviews. :-)

            I'll do it eventually. It's just really difficult in the evenings (that's why I haven't been back to Shunji in a while). I gotta arrange a babysitter (kids love sushi, but they'll bankrupt me if I take them to places like Kiriko or Shunji), and possibly a wife-sitter...

            1. re: PeterCC

              The amount of jack you've paid so far for your cumulative Nihonryori forays at Kiriko & Shunji alone (and these are just the ones you let us know about) would suggest that you're ready for a dinner jaunt.

              1. re: J.L.

                I'm an open (and verbose) book. You know about all my trips! :-)

                I'm not saying I wouldn't enjoy or appreciate the real deal. I'm just not sure I can sell my wife on the price, even if (or perhaps especially if) I'm eating solo.

                Also, I can get 2 to 3 (or more) lunch sushi omakase for the price of one "full monty", so I can extend the experience throughout an entire month as opposed having just one outing, even if that one time is truly manifold better.

                One thing I could possibly do sooner rather than later, to appease J.L., sushi connaisseur extraordinaire, is to do their full omakase during lunch. I would probably choose to set a $80 maximum (which is their minimum) but that way I can do a comparison with what I've already had there. Don't hold your breath on that happening any time soon though. :-)

                1. re: PeterCC

                  You misspelled connoisseur (which I'm not, by the way). Lunch, no matter how opulent, is still only "getting to third base" in my book.

                  Friendly advice (unsolicited, I'm aware)... At the frequency you eat out (and I know 'cuz you document it on the threads), stop bleeding money by not doing omakase or moriawase lunches for 2-3 weeks, and save that money for a bangin' dinner for you AND your wife. Dinner. You seem very passionate about sushi; your spouse will eventually need to understand the inherent price points for you new-found passion anyways. Who knows, maybe she'll share your love for sushi after the experience! :-)

                  1. re: J.L.

                    Sorry, "connaisseur" is the French spelling. I spent a few years living in Montreal (mmm, poutine). I don't speak French, but I picked up some francophone habits, e.g. I usually have to correct my own spelling of "theater" as I almost always type "theatre" first (I know, the British spell it that way too).

                    Can I call you an aficionado, then? :-)

                    Thanks, I do appreciate the advice, and the baseball-slash-sex metaphors. For what it's worth, the waitstaff says the full-priced Kiriko omakase is the same experience for lunch as it is for dinner.

                    Now that you've planted the seed in my head, I think I will plan to cut down on eating out for a few weeks and do a full omakase sometime in the next month, probably solo, and probably limiting it to the $80 minimum for my first time, as I mentioned before.

                    (See how susceptible I am to suggestion?)

                    My wife does love sushi, but she usually sticks with sake and hamachi (though I'm sure she'd love inada, warasa, buri too). Except for that one occasion when we splurged for it at Shunji, she won't generally go for omakase, as she wouldn't seek out most of the fish being served on her own (I know, that's part of the fun, for me).

                    So I have to be a bit strategic and strike at the right moment. Right now I'm just trying to warm her up to Kiriko. Her Sawtelle Sushi moriawase last time was unfortunately just as mediocre as my Deluxe Jou Sushi moriawase, so that didn't do the trick.

                    Today, I noticed a wild salmon sampler listed on the specials menu, with at least three or four different species of salmon (some smoked) and one type of wild trout, which is right up her alley. Maybe I'll try to convince her to go tomorrow, get that and a hand roll (she doesn't eat much, another reason a long extensive omakase isn't a great fit for her), and hope that she ends up loving it.

                    This way, I prime her down the road for the idea of a full omakase there, to celebrate one of our birthdays or for our anniversary or some other occasion that'd warrant spending over $200 on a dinner for two.

                    1. re: PeterCC

                      Kiriko is fun like that. Whatever is good & fresh - they'll serve it! Enjoy your dinner for two!

          2. I forgot to mention that I asked Shinji-san yesterday about their ikura. At first he thought I wanted to order some, but then I clarified that I wanted to know how it was. Shinji-san said that it's off-season right now and that it will be better in the summer. I'm sure they had some in their case behind the bar, so it speaks volumes that he discouraged an $8 up-sell because I cared enough to ask.

            (I can't remember right now, and I can't find it in any of my other threads or comments, but I'm sure I asked another itamae the same question a few weeks ago and received a similar response. I think it may have been Tomo-san, and the reason I asked again about it yesterday was because I couldn't remember when exactly it would be in season again. So, good on both of them.)

            1. Like someone who is going on a diet but starting “tomorrow”, I’m procrastinating on following J.L.’s advice to save up for the full omakase at Kiriko for one more day. I took my wife back today specifically to try the wild salmon sushi sampler ($20), which was not on the menu the first few times I was there, so I wanted to make sure she had a chance to have it before it’s gone again. To round out her salmon obsession, she also ordered a salmon skin hand roll ($5).

              A glutton for punishment (and sushi), I decided to try one of the lunch specials again rather than spend another $40 on the lunch sushi omakase. This time, however, rather than ordering one of the moriawase, I took JudiAU’s advice from the other thread and ordered the three hand roll set lunch ($14.50). Since the set lunch was so reasonably priced, I added on an order of live sweet shrimp ($16).

              We were seated in front of Tomo-san, and after the salad and soup that came with my set lunch, we started in on the sushi...

              My wife’s wild salmon sushi sampler was made up of five beautiful pieces of salmon. Unfortunately for me, I only got to sample a few small bites:

              1. Fresh wild king salmon, which had a really clean and light taste, not overly oily or even though it has a higher fat content relative to other salmon.

              2. House-smoked wild king salmon, which had a nice smokiness from the applewood, and a tighter texture than the fresh wild king salmon.

              3. Smoked Copper River sockeye salmon, with a beautiful ruddiness to it, and a stronger, more concentrated flavor.

              4. Seared Norwegian ocean trout, brushed with shoyu, topped with kizami negi, shredded daikon radish, and a dollop of white sauce, which had a mild salmon-like flavor (the fish, not the sauce).

              5. Fresh Atlantic salmon, which I did not get to sample. :-/

              My wife seemed to like the fresh wild king salmon the most, and thought the seared Norwegian ocean trout was “interesting” (_not_ used pejoratively). Overall, she enjoyed these pieces of nigiri much more than the pieces from her Sawtelle Sushi moriawase last time. She also really enjoyed the salmon skin temaki, remarking that unlike other places, the pieces of salmon skin still had a decent amount of meat intact.

              (When we were leaving, she said she'd definitely come back to Kiriko with me in the future. Yay!)

              My three hand roll set lunch was also quite good. I had gotten the negihama (yellowtail with scallion), the unagi and avocado, and blue crab temaki. Each were expertly made and tasted quite good. In the future, though, I’d probably swap out the unagi and avocado and swap in a salmon skin instead.

              (Take this with a grain of salt, as it’s based on a miniscule sample size, but I definitely preferred the temaki that Tomo-san made to the one that Shinji-san made yesterday. The blue crab hand roll had none of the problems it had yesterday--well, except for a little bit of shell in the mix, which is not something influenced by how the temaki is constructed. I would still like to go back and order the three hand roll set lunch while sitting in front of Shinji-san before declaring a winner.)

              After I had finished the hand rolls, I watched Tomo-san dispatch two large, still-kicking shrimps. The nigiri pieces were delicious, sweet and clean and firm, and the wasabi really accentuated the flavor of the amaebi.

              The heads were sent into the kitchen, and came back crisp and golden red. They were actually much more plump than other fried amaebi heads that I’ve had in the past. One was full of tomalley, some of which actually bubbled out of the shell during the deep-frying, and the other was full of roe, which was a treat I hadn’t had in a fried amaebi head before.

              Since the heads came with a dipping sauce that had what would traditionally be kizami negi in it, and since I could see a bundle of the thinner, greener “scallions” in the cold case, I took the opportunity to ask Tomo-san if the negi they used was actually scallion or if it was asatsuki, which I had speculated it being since my first visit. He confirmed that they do use asatsuki, which he said has a better flavor while being less pungent than scallions.

              All in all, a successful lunch, as the goal was to turn around my wife’s opinion of the place. And I may have found a loophole so I don't have to stay away from Kiriko completely while trying to save up for their full omakase: at $14.50*, including salad and soup, the three hand roll set lunch is an excellent deal and a Kiriko lunch special I can finally get behind (or in front of).

              *Mine was $16.50 today, due to the additional $1 for the unagi and $1 for the blue crab.

               
               
               
               
               
               
               
              21 Replies
              1. re: PeterCC

                Thanks for the update. Yes, I should have mentioned the salmon skin roll as a good alternative too.

                1. re: JudiAU

                  Thanks again for the recommendation.

                  Went back today for lunch. (This will be my shortest review on CH.) Place was near-empty when I arrived; waitress said to sit anywhere. Wanted to give Shinji-san another try on the temaki, so I sat in his section of the bar. But, like a dummy, I took the closest seat to the door, behind the solid block of wood again, which I still find cuts me off from the itamae and even the waitstaff a little.

                  I ordered the $14.50 three hand roll lunch set: salmon skin, negihama, blue crab (+ $1). Service had one bad blip--I had to remind the waiter that my lunch came with salad and soup, after I saw that someone who had come in and ordered after me had already got hers.

                  Glad to report all three hand rolls were well constructed. Had the negihama first; still really like that they use asatsuki rather than "regular" negi. Blue crab next; not quite as mayonnaise-y as the last time, and the roll held together well despite not being eaten right away. Salmon skin last; probably my favorite of the three, as they definitely use the house-smoked salmon to make it.

                  Still think I prefer Tomo-san slightly over Shinji-san, but no complaints. Left a $20 to cover the $15.50 + tax and tip. Highly recommended (instead of "good, quick, cheap: pick two", you get all three)!

                  (Before J.L. chastises me for going to Kiriko for lunch again rather than the full omakase, I'm basically treating this as a completely separate beast than going for omakase. After all, I could spend just as much on a "regular" lunch at Umami Burger or some other place, but I decided to spend it at Kiriko instead.)

                  (Oh, and for anyone who thinks I'm going to write a review for every little visit... Don't worry, no more reviews on the three hand roll lunch, unless something extraordinary happens during a visit. Today, I mostly wanted to report back that the first blue crab temaki that I had from Shinji-san was apparently not an indicator of how he makes temaki in general, which is just as good as Tomo-san.)

                  1. re: PeterCC

                    I wasn't gonna say anything, man...

                    I'm still too stuffed from my magnificent omakase last night whith Shinji-san at Kiriko (yes, I went into bonus rounds and bonus desserts; photos to follow).

                    1. re: J.L.

                      Please call Peter out J.L.!

                      Shinji-san and Tomo-san are equal IMO, but each has his own tendencies. Shinji-san leans closer to the fusion side, being quite handywith the blowtorch and saucing, etc. Tomo-san is more old-school, but has slightly better knifework. I usually alternate between the two.

                      1. re: chrishei

                        Hehehe - I've put enough pressure on poor PeterCC already...

                        My current Kiriko shokunin tally:

                        Ken-san: 8+
                        Tomo-san: 5
                        Shinji-san: 5

                        They're all gifted shokunin, IMHO.

                        1. re: J.L.

                          Heh, for a sec there I thought you were rating them.

                          My own tally is:

                          Tomo-san: 1
                          Shinji-san: 2
                          Table Service: 1 (I couldn't tell who was making our meal)
                          Ken-san: 0 (yet)

                          Would you recommend I request a specific itamae when I do go for my full omakase? It seems most natural to request Ken-san as he is the owner, but would it be weird to request Tomo-san?

                        2. re: chrishei

                          Call me out on which topic? For prefering Tomo-san over Shinji-san, or for doing lunch again at Kiriko? :-)

                          Already explained the going back a few comments upthread (and in response to TonyC in this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/851745). Between him and you (if this is what you're asking J.L. to call me out on), and J.L. (though, to his credit, not today), I better get to a real omakase, and fast. Heh.

                          As for the itamae preference, I haven't eaten there enough, or rather, had the omakase prepared by each (I assume that one itamae acts as the primary chef for the entire meal) to suss out the different strengths of each.

                          For me, it's more the attitude; while Shinji-san has never been anything but completely professional and courteous, Tomo-san seems to take that extra step to make me feel more welcome. For instance, even though I was sitting deep in Shinji-san's section of the bar today, Tomo-san came over and said hello and asked me how I was.

                          (I am not faulting Shinji-san at all. I'm a relatively shy person and would probably act more like Shinji-san than Tomo-san if the situation was reversed.)

                          1. re: PeterCC

                            I'm just giving you a hard time Peter :)

                            But a man of your knowledge and palate would definitely appreciate the full omakase at dinner.

                            And once you get Shunji-san to open up, he's quite the jokester.

                            1. re: chrishei

                              I figured you were. I'd like to think that I'm considered accepted into the community now that CH regulars have started (jokingly) giving me grief on stuff. :-)

                              You mean Shinji-san, right? I already have a good rapport with Shunji-san. :-) (God, I need to get back to that place! Just much harder to get out for dinner than it is for lunch.) Sounds like Shinji-san has to be more comfortable with someone before letting loose, which I understand as I am the same way.

                      2. re: PeterCC

                        After reading your reviews, I tried the Temaki lunch finally. Salmon skin roll is very good, as suggested. However, as a regular Kiriko customer, I did shock everyone in the house that I didn't order "sushi omakase" for lunch that day though. LOL.

                        1. re: LAmaggie

                          Heh, that's great! It's an amazing value, and either they'll lose a little money from me ordering that for $14.50 rather than the $40 lunch sushi omakase, or they'll make a little more money from me coming in more often than I would if I only ordered the lunch omakase, so it probably evens out.

                          Do you get the $40 lunch sushi omakase or the full-fledged ($80-$120, as warned on the menu) omakase? Have you ever gotten the $50 sashimi and sushi lunch omakase?

                          1. re: PeterCC

                            They probably lose money from me ordering $14.5 rather than $40, since I don't go there often during lunch. LOL.

                            I tried everything in Kiriko : lunch sushi omakase ($40), sashimi and sushi omakase ($50) and full omakase for dinner. I usually get the sushi omakase ($40) if I go there for lunch. I tried may be once last year for the sashimi and sushi omakase (I think the price is just $4X last year). You got two plate of various sashimi (similar to what you get from Dinner omakase), and 5 pieces of sushi. I don't think I got a handroll for the sushi part, so ended up not that FULL. haha.

                            1. re: LAmaggie

                              Video game developer Andy Gavin posted photos of three of his omakase-at-lunch visits to Kiriko here: http://all-things-andy-gavin.com/2011...

                              The first visit seems to be the what-is-now-$50 sashimi and sushi lunch omakase, as it ends with four pieces of nigiri and it did (for him) end with a blue crab hand roll. However, he got way more than two plates of sashimi; instead if I'm parsing his photos properly, it looks like he got five plates, each with two or three different fish. That would be a great deal for $50, if it were true. I got the $30 assorted sashimi at dinner there once, and it was nowhere near as much sashimi as what he got.

                              On his second visit, he "ordered a more elaborate sashimi omakase, which is mixed in here with a simpler sushi/sashimi one." I think that means the pictures are of two omakase orders.

                              On his third visit, he says it's another "sushi and sashimi" lunch omakase, and this one looks closer to what I would expect for the $50 one, with two plates of assorted sashimi and a plate of four nigiri pieces and the blue crab hand roll, but he also shows pictures a plate of sake sashimi and a plate with hotate nigiri and uni gunkanmaki.

                              I think the simplest explanation is that he asked to add on to the fixed-price lunch omakase. If people are able to do that and order single pieces (like the hotate and uni), that's something I would be very interested in doing next time.

                              1. re: PeterCC

                                I am not sure how he got so many food for $50. I think his third visit make more sense, but I agreed with you, the hotate as well as uni should be add-on.

                                You can always add items after done w/ the fixed-price lunch. I did add the sockeye as well as asari nigiri after the temaki set. LOL.

                                 
                                1. re: LAmaggie

                                  Wow, the asari nigiri is beautifully prepared. Glad to know I can add on single pieces to the lunch omakase because there are things I want to try but don't want to get a full two-piece order. Don't suppose they let people order single pieces after the temaki lunch... :-)

                                  1. re: PeterCC

                                    I have never seen a sushi joint turn down single piece orders...you just gotta pay.

                                    1. re: ns1

                                      *shrug* I've very little experience at this level of sushi-ya, but the low-to-mid range places I've been to in the past would generally only do the standard two-piece orders when placed a la carte.

                                      One of the last times I was in Kiriko, I asked how much the live ama ebi was, and they said $16, two shrimp. They didn't tell me I could order just one, not that I minded having the second one. :-) Next time I go in for the temaki lunch, I'll try to order single pieces and see what happens. Not that I'm doubting you, ns1. :-)

                                      1. re: PeterCC

                                        For example, sushi gen does two per order by default. which is why you ask for 1 piece only ;)

                                        I bet you'd have far better luck with this at the bar versus the table.

                                      2. re: ns1

                                        Yes, try SUSHI ZO. After finish the whole course of omakase, the chef asked us if we want anything extra, whatever we requested he said no more (we asked for couple items), but then you saw him prepared what you asked for to the customer next to you after couple minutes. We were pissed.

                                        1. re: LAmaggie

                                          Yeah I'd never go back [to Sushi Zo if I had that experience]. JUST TAKE MY MONEY ALREADY.

                                      3. re: PeterCC

                                        the asari nigiri is awesome! ^^ Well, you know for dinner, you can also just do sushi omakase, which is not fixed-price, probably more expensive than lunch ($40), but cheaper than full omakase.

                      3. I went back for the temaki lunch again today, but after the discussion with LAmaggie about the the lunch sashimi and sushi omakase and what it consists of (based on photos from Andy Gavin's blog), I was overwhelmed with curiosity and decided to break my diet-from-omakase and try it for myself.

                        I was given a choice of seating, and though it felt a little awkward walking past Shinji-san, I sat down on the next-to-last chair at the bar, in front of Tomo-san, the same seat where I had my first lunch sushi omakase, my first meal at Kiriko. After salad and soup (they didn’t forget this time), I started with the sashimi courses...

                        1. A plate of two fish: one piece of house-smoked salmon, wrapped around a slice of mango, topped with caviar; three slices of wild kanpachi topped with asatsuki, yuzukosho, and a vinegar gelée.

                        The salmon was more smoked than I would have liked; I think the first few times I had the house-smoked salmon--barely, but still distinctly, smoked--must have been the exception rather than the rule (unfortunately, imo). The mango looked perfect, but was very ripe and therefore almost cloyingly sweet, and overshadowed the fish a bit (and the caviar completely; I can't even remember tasting it).

                        While I understand kanpachi is already considered shiromi no sakana, the color and texture of this wild kanpachi was more like tai or hirame than the kanpachi I've had in the past. The difference between the wild and farmed kanpachi was greater than that between inada and hamachi (haven't had buri yet to compare to hamachi). The wild kanpachi also had a very different taste and texture, again closer to tai or kinmedai, and was probably the best part of the meal.

                        2. A plate of one cephalopod and two fish: hotaru ika, lightly streaked with dressing; kinmedai topped with lemon juice, sea salt, and lemon zest; kanpachi carpaccio, topped with vinegar gelée and jalapeño slices. Served with freshly grated wasabi, which was excellent with each.

                        The hotaru ika were larger than ones I had previously at other places, and I could discern the quill in the chew, but it just introduced an additional textural contrast to the barely chewy body and creamy insides.

                        The kinmedai was nearly as good as it was the last time there, but two things kept it from equaling my past impressions of the fish. First, it was not prepared aburi, seared with a blowtorch, which concentrates the flavor of the delicate strip of skin left on each slice; second, it had stiff competition in the wild kanpachi above, and the latter barely won out.

                        The kanpachi carpaccio, like the house-smoked salmon wrapped around mango, appears to be one of Ken-san's signature dishes. It was very good, with the the various toppings adding something different to the flavor and texture mix. But like the kinmedai, the kanpachi could not compete with its wilder cousin for top fish.

                        I was then served the five pieces of sushi on one plate:

                        1. Maguro - big eye tuna, per Tomo-san. I’m not sure I can discern the differences between big eye and yellowfin, but it was clearly not the bluefin I’ve been having recently. It was almost supermarket tuna sushi in taste and texture. (Is yellowfin closer to bluefin, or do I just think so because of the similar name?)

                        2. Sake - fresh salmon sushi; a tasty, if unremarkable, specimen.

                        3. Albacore, topped with asatsuki and toasted slivers of garlic - another decent but standard piece of sushi, though the garlic made it stand out a little.

                        4. Toro, seared - as great as it was last time I had it, but the sauce drizzled on top was just a little too sweet.

                        5. Blue crab hand roll - I guess that solves the mystery of whether blue crab hand roll comes with the sashimi and sushi lunch omakase. It has to be a coincidence, or maybe just psychosomatic on my part, but I swear the blue crab hand rolls, when I have it on days I sit in front of Tomo-san, are better and less mayonnaise-y than at other times.

                        I realized after the moriawase experience that I do not prefer multiple pieces of nigiri (beyond two) to be served together. The shari gets cold in the pieces eaten later, and the flavor and even texture of the fish changes the longer the wait between being sliced and eaten. (Yes, this is old news to you sushi-tsu.) So I was disappointed that the sushi “courses” of the omakase was actually just one course, all served together, and the pieces were noticeably smaller than in the sushi-only lunch omakase.

                        Overall, I definitely prefer the sushi lunch omakase over the sashimi and sushi lunch omakase. I like the experience of having the itamae place a individual piece of nigiri on the geta and savoring each on its own. The pacing was also "jumpy" in that I was served three plates, rather than 10 individual pieces, over the same period of time.

                        Also, while I enjoyed the wild kanpachi tremendously, I don’t think I’d spend the additional $10 over the $40 lunch sushi omakase for two small plates of sashimi and five fewer pieces of sushi. I might as well spend another $30 on top of the extra $10 and go for the full omakase (I know, it just _starts_ at $80), which I fully intend to do, sometime after my crazy 24-hour food tour.

                        Oh, after seeing the picture of the uni ice cream that J.L. posted in his recent review of the full omakase (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/852226), I had to try it for myself. The $11 order was larger than the portion that came with the omakase, as one might expect of an individual dish of the stuff. The presentation was simple but beautiful, with the texture of the scoop of ice cream looking like the texture of uni itself, and the salsa gazpacho gleaming like it held gems under the surface. The flavor was quite heady, with gazpacho’s cool mellow heat both bostering and tempering the the sweet and bold flavor of the uni ice cream. The nori tempura added a contrasting texture to the whole dish. I would definitely order it again or hope it’s still being served when I get around to experiencing my first full omakase at Kiriko.

                        In the meantime, back to the straight and narrow of the $14.50 temaki lunch set.

                         
                         
                         
                         
                         
                         
                         
                        5 Replies
                        1. re: PeterCC

                          Sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy the sashimi and sushi omakase that much. Smoked Salmon with mango and caviar is one of my favorite Kiriko dish. I believe the vinegar gelee that you mentioned are "yuzu gelee". When I had my sashimi and sushi omakase long time ago, my sushi was served individually. However, it may be because Shinji does know that I am not in a hurry like the other lunch customers. I agreed that the wild kanpachi (from Kagoshima) tastes different from the farmed one. I had the sushi, not the sashimi on Thu night.

                          The uni icecream is huge for $11!! compared to what I had for omakase two weeks ago. I also noticed another interesting facts, I think this is the third or forth time that I went to Kiriko the day before you did. :P

                          BTW, I think Bluefin tuna > Bigeye tuna > Yellowfin tuna in terms of price.

                           
                          1. re: LAmaggie

                            Don't get me wrong, it was more enjoyable than the sushi/sashimi I've been eating all my life, except for the big eye tuna, which was on par with the average places I frequented.

                            Tomo-san definitely said it was a kind of vinegar that made up the gelee, and the tartness did not have a strong citrus component, but for all I know it could have had both yuzu and vinegar in it.

                            (Did you mean the gelee on the wild kanpachi or tr carpaccio? I wasn't sure, but I think they were different and the one on the carpaccio may have been yuzu as it did seem more citrus-y than the gelee on the wild kanpachi.)

                            1. re: PeterCC

                              Damn, that uni ice cream sounds good. It is supposed to be dessert or is it just called uni ice cream?

                              Where's jl's original review of it?

                              And now I might just be overdue on visit to Kiriko, though I have limited sushi dollars these days, and may hit up Shunji's on pico again, or just save and save and save those dollars and pennies (pennies do help too, it all adds up in the end) and just go whole hog on urasawa one time.

                              1. re: kevin

                                Okay, technically J.L. did a "pictorial essay" rather than a written review, which is linked in my comment above, but here it is again: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/852226.

                                I think it could serve as either dessert or, as it's listed on the menu, cold tapas. The gazpacho is savory, and I personally would lean toward the dish being a starter.

                          2. re: PeterCC

                            Yeah, I also hate the one all on one plate style, I like it once piece at a time. or if it's a place that serves sushi in a pair only, then that way too.

                          3. This is probably old hat to the Kiriko vets out there, but for those not in-the-know, Kiriko has a Japanese version of their specials menu. It's not just the Japanese-language version, rather it has more items listed than the English specials menu.

                            I had my three hand roll lunch set today and decided to order a few pieces of nigiri off the (English) specials menu. I successfully ordered single pieces of nigiri, as LAmaggie and ns1 said one can (the waitress first said they usually do two per order, but she could put it in as single piece orders). So, from the English specials menu, I tried a piece each of the following fish:

                            1. Ishikarei (stone flounder), which I've never had. As I expected, was very similar to hirame (halibut) as they're both flat fish. Pretty standard shiromi-dane, but it was very fresh and clean tasting, and the sea salt and yuzukosho seasoned the piece well ("no soy sauce", as Shinji-san instructed).

                            2. Aori ika (bigfin reef squid), which was a _lot_ chewier than I expected, after having it be actually a little too soft at Mori. I don't know if it was the cut I got, but it seemed even chewier than "normal" ika sushi.

                            3. Tachiuo (saber or scabbard fish), which I've also never had. It reminded me of albacore, but without the melt-in-your-mouth quality that some like and others dislike. Instead, it had more substance to the flesh, and was better than albacore (and I don't dislike albacore).

                            The waitress then came over, said "These are the recommended fish from our Japanese menu", and showed me the not-so-secret menu. She went through each one, skipping over the ones that I already had. There were several, at least four or five, that were not on the English menu, including kohada (gizzard shad) and iwashi (sardine). It seemed that many of the fish not mentioned on the English menu were hikarimono, which is a shame, because those are some of my favorite neta. Maybe they think those fish are too strong for western palates.

                            Having been shown the menu, I felt like I had to (okay, I wanted to) order something from it, so I got one item off it, and one that I saw Shinji-san serve the people sitting next to me:

                            4. Iwashi (sardine), which, despite being a relatively small cut, did pack a big punch. The texture was amazing, melt-in-your-mouth but not the same way as toro. It was fatty and fishy, but in a good way, at least to me.

                            5. Squid "leg" (tentacle), which was from the aori ika. The piece I saw served to the people next to me were further up the tentacle, more of a solid piece of "leg", whereas I got a piece from the end, suction cups and all. It was very good, with the sauce a sweet and smoky counterpoint to the brininess of the squid, which was not raw, but blanched (I think). Surprisingly, the "leg" was much more tender than the piece of raw aori ika nigiri I had earlier.

                            I'm happy to report that the "curse of the wooden block" may be broken. The only seat at the bar when I arrived was behind the solid block in Shinji-san territory. He was working like a madman to fill the orders of a large table of business men, and what looked like a family of three at the bar ordering a lot of a la carte pieces, as well as the two people next to me, who I'm pretty sure were having the full omakase.

                            It took me a while to get just two of my three hand rolls, but I expressed sympathy for how busy Shinji-san was, and he softened and opened up a bit (Tomo-san was also busy, but also sporting his typical cheery attitude and came by to say hi to me as well). In fact, Shinji-san and I bantered briefly on the aori ika "leg", with him remarking that the squid legs were very big, and holding up the remaining legs of the squid for me to see (it was huge, the full length of the tentacles were probably more than a foot long).

                            Anyway, didn't mean to turn this into a review of just five pieces of nigiri. Just wanted to share for those not in-the-know about the Japanese menu, and I'm definitely going to ask what's on there that's not on the English menu next time I go in.

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: PeterCC

                              Oops, forgot the pics. I took two of the Japanese menu (the three-line section above the words in red ink was the "recommended fish" as the waitress put it), and would love a translation of the various fish if anyone's inclined.

                               
                               
                               
                               
                               
                               
                              1. re: PeterCC

                                It's funny. This is another time I went to Kiriko the day before you did. I had the Aori Ika as well as Tachiuo yesterday night. I always like my ika with uni. When Shinji prepared the Aori Ika for me, I asked him to add the uni on top of it. When I ate it, then I know why he didn't put uni from the beginning. It's extremely chewy. It took me so long to finish it. LOL. My serving of Tachiuo is different from you, even though both are prepared by Shinji. That's why I love Kiriko. Can always get different items whenever I go there.

                                Btw, how much is your bill? 5 extra nigiri is about $25? then you probably pay around $40 for your lunch. You think it's better this way than getting the $40 sushi omakase ?

                                The Japanese menu is not new, they only give to Japanese customer as well as the chefs to read. I always steal the Japanese menu from Shinji and compared, most of the items were listed on the English menu. Kohada can be found on the regular sushi menu. Anyway, there are some items that are not printed on both menu. LOL. I love Kanimiso (crab roe/paste) and I always have to ask. ^^

                                 
                                 
                                1. re: LAmaggie

                                  LAmaggie, I take it you read Japanese then, if you're comparing the two menus? I wasn't thinking the Japanese menu was new; I figured it's been around, specifically for the Japanese customers. I was calling it a (not-so-)secret menu jokingly.

                                  I really don't recall seeing the kohada on the English menu, and it would have been one that I would picked up on, as I generally take note of any fish on the specials menu that I've already had. Iwashi was also definitely not on the English menu, as I would have remembered it, and the waitress specifically called it out.

                                  For example, I remember isaki on the menu today because I had it both at Mori and on a previous visit to Kiriko; I also remember being surprised at the price of the isaki sashimi today, $35 for a _half_ order, $70 for a full.

                                  As for what's on neither menu, I keep forgetting to ask for asari, and I haven't seen it on the English menu. Have you seen it on the Japanese menu recently, like when you had it with your omakase? Also, I'll have to remember to ask for the kanimiso next time too.

                                  The aori ika was really a shock for me, as it was night and day the difference in chewiness between what I had today and what I had at Mori. In my Mori review (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/849433), even Porthos said he loved the aori ika there (at Mori) because it's "creamy and sweet and you don't have to chew and chew and chew like other ika." Now that made me assume that all aori ika was like that, but either Mori has a different preparation method or serves a different cut than what I (and you) received at Kiriko.

                                  Wow, you must be a Kiriko expert; yes, the 5 extra pieces were exactly $25, so it was right at $40. I'm not sure which way is better, this or the $40 lunch sushi omakase. The reason I did it this way was so I could pick 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5) fish off the specials menu that I've never tried. While I'm sure to have gotten at least one or two new fish with the omakase, I also get lots of repeats, like tai, aji, hotate, house-smoked salmon, so I wanted to broaden my horizon a bit.

                                  Let me know next time you go so I can plan to go the next day, okay? :-)

                                  1. re: PeterCC

                                    The isaki on the menu said "WILD", so I guess that's why it's $35 (half of the fish) and $70 for the whole fish?

                                    Asari probably is a seasonal thing? When I had it, it was on the menu, or may be not, I don't recall. It's not part of the omakase, I just asked Shinji what's good today and he said I should try Asari, which he knew I didn't try before.

                                    May be this aori ika is a special one? based on the photo from Kiriko facebook, it's a 7lb ika!

                                    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fb...

                                    1. re: LAmaggie

                                      I saw that pic on Facebook too! :-) I thought they were always large squid, based on the English name, but according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigfin_r...), they range from 1.5" to 13" in size, so that's a big range. Maybe Maru-san at Mori gets smaller ones. *shrug*

                                2. re: PeterCC

                                  おすすめ握り = Recommended Nigiri
                                  First row: ishikarei(stone flounder), Kanpachi (amberjack), Katsuo (Bonito), isaki (grunt),
                                  Second row: King Salmon (Smoked), Copper River King Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, iwashi (Sardine), Kohada, Tachiuo
                                  Third Row: Anago, Kobashira (Baby Scallop), Aori Ika, Live Amaebi, Negitoro Handroll

                                  1. re: LAmaggie

                                    Cool, thanks! The two salmon were not listed under the daily sashimi section of the specials menu, but I knew they were available as the salmon sampler was listed. As I mentioned, iwashi was not listed, nor was kohada (to the best of my recollection) today. Kobashira was only listed as part of a sunomono-like dish; I wish I would have thought to ask if they could do it as nigiri, since apparently they can.

                                    1. re: PeterCC

                                      I had Kobashira Nigiri yesterday night, but then I forgot to take a pic before I ate it. >_<
                                      It was my first time having it, it's good but I guess I like Hotate more. Actually I like Hotate yaki more (not nigiri). :) LOL. Hotate yaki probably is another hidden menu item?

                                      I got your the pic of the regular sushi mean, which has listed Kohada (JPN) M.P.

                                       
                                      1. re: LAmaggie

                                        Ah, I was wondering if it was just on the back menu. Wow, did you just happen to have the pic already, or are you a super-spy who snuck into the resaurant last night just to take a pic? ;-)

                                  2. re: PeterCC

                                    Wow, I never knew they had an only in Japanese menu.

                                  3. re: PeterCC

                                    Weird about the aori ika. The aori ika at Mori is always soft, creamy, and sweet. I dislike ika that you have to chew for minutes.

                                    Was the version at Kiriko scored? Sometimes that makes a big difference.

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      Yes, it was scored at Kiriko yesterday:

                                      http://www.chow.com/photos/777209

                                      The one I had at Mori was also scored, though not in a cross-hatch pattern:

                                      http://www.chow.com/photos/763867

                                      I think it may have just been a different cut. The aori ika I had at Kiriko definitely had the chewiness of the outermost layer of a squid, but then most ika pieces generally consist of that. Perhaps if the aori ika is large enough, Maru-san could have filleted the pieces he serves from the inside of the squid up to, but not including the outer "ring" and avoid the chewiness altogether.

                                      1. re: PeterCC

                                        See? You can tell the difference between higher quality pieces! :)