OK, so he's a big, famous chef. I get that. Lots of hype via "Iron Chef," etc., etc. OK, I get that, too. But . . . .
My wife and I went there today for lunch. It was "interesting."
We liked the decor . . initially. Part of the problem with the restaurant, however, IS the decor -- with cement floors and (pretty bare) cement walls, no thought was given to acoustics, apparently. The result is lots of reverberation, excessive noise, and raised voices even when it's just the two of you.
The lunch menu offered some interesting dishes, and we took advantage of them . . . octopus carpaccio, toro tartare, and three different kinds of house made kimchi. The octopus ranged from so fresh and tender that one might be forgiven for thinking it was put through a tenderizer (it wasn't!), but then other pieces were, while not "tough," were definitely on the chewier-side of the equation. The tartare was so finely chopped as to be more like a mousse; it was served with a (sort of) shovel and an assortment of accompaniments: a paste of nori, fresh wasabi, sour cream, green onion, guacamole, and tiny rice crackers. Both of these appetizers were very good.
The kimchi was, as well, but wasn't as the server described it when setting it down on our table. There were three separate "pots" placed on the table: kohlrabi, eggplant, and Nappa cabbage . . . or so went the description. In reality, it was kohlrabi, Nappa cabbage, and daikon (?).
But let's back up a moment. When we ordered our food, we also ordered one glass of Champagne (Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs) and a small (300ml) bottle of daiginjo sake. Waiter takes our order, leaves, comes back -- out of the sake. No problem. It happens. So I order a different bottle of daiginjo sake.
A server (not our waiter) brings the Champagne. The three appetizers (described above) arrive, brought by a different server. Eventually our waiter brings the sake, when we're halfway through our apps. He pours some for Lynn and I, and then takes the 300ml bottle away -- to keep on ice. Now this might be fine for some diners, but *my* problem with that is that, if I want more, I am dependent upon the waiter seeing that I need more (or me catching his eye), then the waiter has to go back and -- when he is free (i.e.: not picking up hot food, not serving another table) -- get the bottle, come to our table, pour the sake, go back and put the sake back wherever he kept it, and then get back to whatever he needs to do next . . . In the meantime, I may be wanting a sip of sake for as much as five minutes or more. Sorry. Doesn't make sense to me.
Now, the waiter DID ask if we wanted a second glass of Champagne, while we were finishing our appetizers. I said yes, but asked him to wait until the sushi and sashimi arrived. No problem . . . except our sushi arrived and the Champagne didn't.
Lest you begin to think it was just our waiter, let me also point out that another table was left with dirty dishes for over 30 minutes, and a service tray was left sitting on the (otherwise clean) table next to us for about 20.
The sushi/sashimi was quite good . . . very fresh. But the extra charge for the "live octopus" (mizudako) certainly wasn't worth it -- that was the most disappointing sushi. The unagi (freshwater eel) was good, albeit oddly cold. The uni (sea urchin) sashimi was served in cucumber cups, providing an unexpected crunch, as well as taking away (unfortunately) part of the deep sea “essence” of the urchin. The fluke (hirame) sushi was excellent, and the hotate (scallop) sashimi was truly outstanding.
Interesting Point Number One: the wasabi was fresh with the toro tartare, but not with the sushi. What’s up with that?
Interesting Point Number Two: I don’t know about you, but this is the ONLY restaurant I have ever been to where the price on the menu is for ONE piece of nigiri sushi, not two. So what may appear at first to be a reasonable for the sushi is in fact VERY expensive!
And the miso soup we ordered to have in between the apps and the sushi?
Never arrived . . .
So, two people, three appetizers, six orders of sushi – wait, I guess that was 12 – two glasses of wine and a small bottle of sake. $235.44 plus tip.