Kampai House Chef Back in His Element

The head chef of the late Kampai House in Sunnyvale has resurfaced at Hamon Washoku, a new upscale Japanese restaurant in San Carlos. Trained in kaiseki, this guy’s skills were wasted on the fusion concept of Kampai House, says PekoePeony, but he’s a perfect match for the more traditional preparations showcased at Washoku.

The focus is on elegant, seasonal foods, and the menu changes every three weeks or so. When PekoePeony visited, the current season was “88 days,” or the time of snapper and tea planting, and plenty of dishes featured snapper—there was even a basket of halved snapper heads at the bar.

This isn’t a sushi restaurant, but they do have a limited raw bar with offerings like madai uni ($16), snapper sashimi wrapped around uni, served with real grated wasabi. The smooth snapper and rich uni make an excellent pairing. Hon maguro sashimi ($20) consists of eight good-sized pieces of very fresh tuna sashimi, served over ice.

Ai-gamo ($19) turns out to be perfectly seared pieces of sliced duck, plus raw giant scallions, shiitakes, and shishito peppers. It comes with a couple of dipping sauces, one sesame paste-based (goma), the other oil-based, but both are rather too subtle for PekoePeony.

Madai shirae ($13) features a piece of snapper atop fresh tofu, topped with ume (pickled plum), sliced lotus root and what tasted like bonito. Simple and beautifully presented, this gentle dish is saved from blandness by that touch of ume.

And those snapper heads make a star appearance in madai arani ($20), where they’re braised in sweet soy sauce and served with slice burdock root. The head meat is extremely tender and soaks up the sauce, which is neither too sweet nor too salty.

The overall ambiance is very serene, even spa-like. The subtlety even extends to the restaurant’s exterior, which is easy to miss. (Look for the long white curtain with a name in Japanese.) They serve dinner only.

Hamon Washoku [Peninsula]
741 Laurel Street, San Carlos
650-631-8020

Board Link: Hamon Washoku in San Carlos. Anyone been?

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