I was in San Diego for work earlier this week and I decided to stop into Kaito Sushi for dinner one night. I read a lot of good things about this place on Chowhound so I expected a unique Japanese food/sushi experience. I went into the restaurant, sat down at the sushi bar, and told Morita-san to serve me what he thought was good. Here' s a list of my courses:
1st Course: Complimentary Daikon and Coleslaw Salad. Good well balanced flavor and a nice start to the meal.
2nd Course: Live Sea Scallop Prepared 2 Ways. I loved this dish. The scallop was sliced raw and torched lightly on each side to give it a little bit of crunch. The attached muscle was cooked in sake, butter, and soy sauce and it was extremely tender yet flavorful. It tasted like a properly cooked mushroom.
3rd Course: Halibut Sushi. Good sushi and incredibly fresh.
4th Course: Cooked Beef Tongue. Another great course. The beef tongue was seasoned lightly with salt and cooked perfectly. Very tender and probably my favorite part of a cow.
5th Course: Marinated Toro Sushi. The toro was marinated in soy sauce and sake and changed the flavor profile of the toro when it was in your mouth. Very good course.
6th Course: Kohada Sushi. This was okay. Nothing special.
7th Course: Shanghai Claim Sushi. It was okay as well. Nothing special
8th Course: Octopus (Tako) Sushi. The sushi itself wasn't anything special, but Morita-san took part of the octopus, sliced it up, and mixed it with soy sauce and green onions. The portion he sliced up was delicious.
9th Course: Freshwater Eel (Anago) Sushi. The fish was lightly heated in a toaster oven and it was outstanding. I also got half of a deep friend eel spine and that was excellent.
10th Course: Monkfish Liver. It's like the foie gras of the sea. Rich, tender, and outstanding. I'm glad the guy sitting next to me recommended it.
My meal with an Ashai SuperDry beer cost $87 with taxes before gratuity. Do I think it was worth $87? Yes and No. The sushi itself that Morita-san serves is no where near the quality of the sushi I've had at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan. However, I don't expect that because fish shipped from Japan or China to the US will never be as fresh as fish supplied to a local Japanese restaurant in Japan. The non-sushi dishes or sushi done in Morita-san's unique way (2nd course, 4th course, 5th course, 9th course, and 10th course) were outstanding and I would highly recommend them to anyone visiting Kaito. The biggest issue I have with the place is the cost (there are a lot of restaurants in the area where you would eat very very well for this price), but you will not find a meal like this anywhere. If the sushi courses were better, I would say that it is worth every penny spent. Also, the portions are typical of the ones in Japan so you have to go in knowing that they won't serve you a 15 oz steak.
The other thing I like about this place is the fact that Morita-san has a really neat personality and he takes into account whether or not you like a particular course so that he knows which direction to proceed with the next course. Also, he asks you whether or not you want to try something before serving it to you and he is more than willing to not serve something to you if you don't want to try it. Because there is no menu, it is difficult to know what is available because he has things in the back or in a refrigerator that you are not aware of.
Overall, I give Kaito Sushi 4 out of 5 stars. If my sushi courses were better, then I would give it 5 out of 5 stars. Morita-san has definitely honed his craft and he is a master at bringing new flavors to traditional Japanese food.