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May 7, 2013 08:32 PM

Kiriko: A Photographic Retrospective

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This week marks a year since I first walked into Kiriko and ordered my first $40 lunch omakase. I documented many of my visits initially, but I quickly exhausted myself (and I’m sure some of you) with my write-ups, so I stopped last summer.

After the lengthy hiatus, I wanted to post something new on Kiriko, but rather than write another standard one-meal review, I thought I’d do a photographic retrospective of the past year. (Kinda goes well with the L.A. Magazine profile...)

Instead of trying to capture the flavors and textures with fancy words, I'll just give a quick description of the dishes I’m featuring and let the photos speak for themselves. (Yes, I am kind of copying J.L.’s “Photographic Essay” format, but why reinvent the wheel?)

I've loosely grouped the photos, for a bit of coherency. So without further ado...

>>> Bivalve, Crustaceans, Gastropods, and Cephalopods...

1. Aoyagi Nutaae: Surf clam salad with onions, daikon, various sea vegetables, and a miso, vinegar, and mustard dressing. From March.

2. Soft-Shell Crab Tempura: Live soft-shell crab from Maryland, served with sweet onion rings and a shishito pepper. From last month.

3. Amaebi Tartare: Raw sweet shrimp, topped with grated karasumi (salted mullet roe, a.k.a. bottarga in Italian) and fresh wasabi, served with the shrimp heads deep-fried. (One of my favorite dishes of all time.) From last August.

4. Baigai: Sea snails/whelks, served simply steamed or boiled. From last July.

5. Baigai Takenoko Salad: Sea snails/whelks, in a salad with fresh bamboo shoots. From March.

6. Sazae: Turban shell conch, served simply steamed or boiled. From last July.

7. Sazae Ceviche, with asatsuke (garlic chives), onions, and citrus. From last August.

8. Ika Somen: Squid “noodles” in its own ink, served with a small scoop of uni (sea urchin) ice cream and garnished with a tempura shiso leaf. From last August.

9. Hotaru Ika: Firefly squid, drizzled with a yellow miso sauce. From March.

10. Iidako and Takenoko Ceviche: Baby octopus and bamboo shoots, with roasted momotaro tomato salsa. Ken-san called it his "Bajapon" (Baja and Japon) plate. From March.

>>> Roe and “Stuff”...

1. Ikura: Fresh salmon roe, with fresh wasabi and daikon. From last August.
2. Ikura: Fresh salmon roe gunkan-maki. From last August.
3. Shirako Yaki: Grilled fish milt. From March.
4. Shirako in Ponzu. From March.
5. Tamagoyaki: Spongy egg omelet. From February.

>>> Nigiri...

1. Engawa: Halibut fin. From March.
2. Karei Engawa: Flounder fin. From March.
3. Chutoro Aburi: Medium-fatty tuna belly, seared. From last July.
4. Bintoro: (Wild) Albacore belly. From last August.
5. Bincho/Binnaga: (Wild) Albacore. From last August.
6. Kinmedai: Golden eye snapper. From March.
7. Aji: Horse mackerel, a.k.a. Spanish mackerel. From February.
8. Sawara: King mackerel, a.k.a. Spanish mackerel too. From March.
9. Uni and Ika: Sea urchin on squid. From last July.

Note: This retrospective is not meant to be a representative sample of what Kiriko had to offer this past year. I’ve tried a much larger variety of specials and sushi than I've shown here, but I chose to highlight these because they reflect what I personally like, which is a lot of shellfish, and also because I think these are some of the better photos that I’ve taken there this past year. Hope you’ve enjoyed them.

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  1. Nice. Thanks for sharing, especially liked the blog post.

    9 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Thanks! Do you mean you liked the formatting of the blog post (since the textual content is the same)?

      1. re: PeterCC

        Yes. I like pics and caption together.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Me too! :-)

          What do you think about the embedded captions in the images uploaded to CH? A bit of a pain to do, but I think they help (especially if a blog version of a post is not available). I just wish that it could be done on the site instead of me having to do it manually with multiple apps.

          1. re: PeterCC

            Embedded captions in Chowhound are nice but I seriously don't think it's worth the effort especially if you can link to a nice blog post like yours.

            Might be easier just to have separate replies to an OP with each reply having one pic and a description.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Unfortunately, not everyone has the ability or desire to maintain a separate blog, so it would be a nice-to-have for most posters here.

              I've experimented with the separate reply thing, though with groups of photos, rather than one reply for each (especially since CH likes to crash on me when I'm uploading more than a few pics at a time). It would get quite cumbersome in a post like this with 24 pics.

            2. re: PeterCC

              Sorry to geek out, but which multiple apps are you using? If you're handy with a command-line, ImageMagick can add captions with "-annotate", and it'll even resize, set levels and add borders (and the forum backend could conceivably use it to do all that too, if fed the appropriate caption).

              Anyway, love the format and the pics!

              1. re: stravaigint

                Thanks stravaigint, I will have to check it out. I've tried a bunch of different image editing tools to try to batch captioning, but none have really met my needs. Since I want to put text in three different "zones" (description in upper-left, restaurant name in lower-left, my copyright in lower-right), and since most tools I've found can't put more than one caption at a time, I'd have to run the batching three times, which can degrade the picture, even with minimal lossy compression.

                Right now, I actually an iOS app called Phonto to caption my pics taken on my iPhone. Phonto can remember set text (like my copyright), can place captions in multiple corners, has a nice set of fonts and easy drop shadowing. That's what I used to caption the pics for this post. It's still time consuming but less frustrating than the desktop apps I've tried to use, but I'll definitely give ImageMagick a try!

                1. re: PeterCC

                  ImageMagick is like the Swiss Army knife of batch conversion tools. You can apply multiple annotations with one command.

                  For example, to produce something similar to what you uploaded:

                  convert original.jpg \
                  -gravity northwest -annotate 0 'Engawa' \
                  -gravity southwest -annotate 0 '@KirikoSushi' \
                  -gravity southeast -annotate 0 "@2013" \

                  That'll need some tweaking for drop shadows though. See here for lots of examples:


                  Okay, we go can back to talking about food now...

                  1. re: stravaigint

                    Thanks for the info, from a fellow geek. I'll definitely try it out.

      2. Great pics!

        I would *die* to go through all that in one sitting. Especially the Bincho and fresh so so good.

        1 Reply
        1. re: prawn


          I would too, but (un)luckily(?) these were spread throughout the past year (though keen eyes may notice that I kinda took a break during the fall through the end of the year--and the reason why the photos start from last July is because I didn't want to rehash anything I posted already, and I was still posting reviews through early summer last year).

        2. nice pics, it's funny seeing you write this retrospective, since we were all here when you popped your cherry haha

          sorry to beat a dead horse, but what's your avg tab there?

          14 Replies
          1. re: ns1

            Popped you cherry. Hahaha.

            We all appreciate your posts.

            Now I really want to try the soft shell crabs and the bottarga.

            1. re: ns1

              Thanks ns1. I dove head first into the whole "real" sushi experience this past year, and while my wallet's not been happy, I have! :-)

              My average tab is relatively low, since I go for lunch. Unless I go on-the-cheap with the $14.50 three hand roll set, I almost always opt for the $40 lunch sushi omakase. You can't beat the price for 9 pieces of nigiri, which always includes 2-3 pieces of fish from their specials menu, like the above seared toro or kinmedai, and ends with a blue crab hand roll that normally costs $8 on its own. I sometimes add a special or two for a do-it-yourself quasi-omakase meal that averages $50-$60.

              1. re: PeterCC

                Yeah, I hear you. $40 is not half bad if you even consider that really crappy sushi is not that much cheaper (i.e. sushi stop, i'm looking at you - though a lot of people seem to love sushi stop if the lines are any indication, but mcd's does have lines at peak times too).

                1. re: PeterCC


                  Bc of you, I think I went here a few more times than I should have. Bank account is really really really hurting. and so is that wallet.
                  But it's good stuff.

                  For the other hounds that have been going for a few years now, if I'm not mistaken it got to be more of a heavy hitter in the past couple years, is that correct ?

                  1. re: kevin

                    I got the impression that it was always a relatively heavy hitter but because they also cater to the low/mid-end (lots of lunch combos, spicy tuna/salmon rolls, etc), as opposed to places known only for their high end, that it wasn't as apparent...?

                  2. re: PeterCC

                    that's not a bad strategy, given the amount of incredible pictures you have there...

                    So how many times do you think you've gone, in total?

                    1. re: ns1

                      I need to look at my photo set; I have photographic evidence of each meal. I would say probably at least a dozen times in the past year, most likely more.

                      1. re: ns1

                        Okay, I just counted, and I've been to Kiriko 24 times in the last year. Now, as I mentioned before, many of those were just the $14.50 three hand roll lunch set, just so y'all don't think I'm dropping a ton of dough at the place.

                        All of that is due to the fact that they are open for lunch--more affordable, convenient, no need to arrange babysitters, etc. By comparison, I've been to Shunji (which is still my favorite "sushi" place) "only" 11 times in the past year (and no, I didn't do the omakase each time, or even half of those times). If Shunji had lunch service, my wallet would have been in big(ger) trouble this past year! ;-)

                        1. re: PeterCC


                          Wow, even I haven't been to Shunji's that many times.

                          Though with his joint, you would still be looking at a minimum of close to $90 per, without even thinking about that omakase.

                          Am I correct on that ?

                          1. re: kevin

                            Unlike some people *cough* chrishei *cough* I can show some restraint. I've had just the $50 sushi special (10 piece nigiri + 1 hand roll) a few times. Once or twice I went in just to have a special (like the fresh bamboo with uni or the foie gras saikyo-yaki before the ban) and a few pieces of sushi. So I've been able to get out of the place for under $40 on more than one occasion, though I consider those more of a quick tasting than the full experience (but it still counts as a visit).

                            1. re: PeterCC

                              It's a serious condition you know...

                              1. re: chrishei

                                Amen, brutha. Ain't no cure for the "everything on the menu" blues...

                                And I'm not seeking treatment for it anytime soon. :-)

                                1. re: J.L.

                                  I'm probably only in Stage 2. You're in Stage 5 J.L. But yeah, it's been eating away at me, and it's not going to stop anytime soon :)

                                2. re: chrishei

                                  Wow - 24 times. Strong work. This is the sincerest form of flattery.