Review with pictures: http://www.rodzillareviews.com/2011/0...
"We were lucky enough to visit Kaito on a rare slower evening, making for plenty of interaction with Chef Kaz. The man is as knowledgeable as he is personable, we had a great time as he provided background on each dish for the nearly 3 hours.
1.Cucumber Seafood Salad
The amuse bouche of sorts. Slices of crunchy cucumber with pieces of whitefish and octopus marinated in sesame oil. Great texture and flavor.
2.Hotate Raw and Cooked Muscle
Scallop two ways. This was the freshest scallop I’ve ever had. I know this because it was still moving as Kaz sliced it for the sashimi prep. The less commonly used muscle had a texture akin to squid, and was grilled in a soy/sake marinade.
The halibut was adorned with freshly squeezed lemon juice and grated sea salt, a classic pairing for a delicate whitefish. The peppers alongside were too spicy for me. I can’t tell you type or scoville units, but it was much spicier than any jalapeno relishes I’ve had.
Japanese Amberjack - a bit more weight with a yielding texture and light almost buttery flavor.
A great piece of bluefin tuna came marinated in soy, sake, and fish broth adding to an already fantastic flavor.
I avoid surf clam at most places, it has a tendency to arrive dry, rubbery, and flavorless- not at Kaito. The texture was pleasantly snappy, but moist and sweet.
Gizzard shad was diced to soften the firmer texture. It’s a stronger flavored fish which Kaz mentioned “tastes like sushi to me, tastes like Japan.”
Crisp panko crust, creamy oyster interior, and a soy BBQ sauce to compliment. Awesome.
Monkfish liver pate is a favorite of mine and Greg’s. Often referred to as foie of the sea, I actually prefer this to foie pate. For those unfamiliar, it’s a mildy sweet flavor with a consistency almost like chilled butter.
10.Mountain Potato, Maguro, Nori
Kaz makes sure guests want to try each dish before he prepares them, but he was extra careful with this one. “White people don’t like it, I like it, you guy’s – I don’t know”. We both have an affinity for bizarre food, so we decided to try it.
I think the problem for most people must be the texture of the mountain potato. The flavor reminded me of a cross between a russet potato and jicama, but when heated it breaks down into a gooey pooridge like consistency. The starch was paired with that same great blue-fin, and accented with salty hits from nori and soy. Not my favorite of the evening, but it didn’t take us long to finish the bowl.
This Chutoro was actually taken from the back rather than the belly. Kaz noted that he prefers the medium fatty Chutoro to the fattier Otoro for nigiri, mentioning the latter has an overwhelming fattyness. The piece was incredibly rich without tasting like I just took a shot of oil. The texture was also phenomenal, I did use my teeth but I didn’t need to.
The lightly seared Ono had a meatier texture. I loved the way the tomato, cilantro, and pickled vegetables added a savory counter to the sweeter fish. If I HAD to pick one piece to have again, this would be it.
13.Anago and spine
Kirbie‘s recent review had me interested in eel spine. The spine was fun, but the sea water eel it came from was amazing. A more restrained sweetness than it’s freshwater cousin, and an incredibly melty texture – so soft it seemed almost spreadable. This was one where I actually did not chew.
14.Uni and Uni/Clam roll
The sweeter Santa Barbara sea urchin. Prepared as both gunkan nigiri and in roll form with clam. I rea
lly liked the pairing of two sweeter components with just a hint of briny flavor.
15.Otoro negitoro handroll roll
At this point Kaz could sense I was close too my limit. Though he had checked several times throughout the evening to make sure we wanted to continue, he finally threw in the towel for me seeing that I couldn’t go too many more rounds with Greg Shamu.
“Okay, last one – negitoro.” As Kaz prefers chu-toro for nigiri, he reserves Otoro for rolls. The incredibly fatty tuna was so tender that it was chopped and scraped away from the tendinous sheath with a spoon. Paired with scallion and perfect sushi rice, I really enjoyed this.
15 1/2. Cooked Otoro Gristle
As a special treat, Kaz took the reserved Otoro sheath which is too tough to eat raw, and cooked it with soy, sake, and garlic. Once prepared it transformed into something like a Japanese take on beef bulgogi..only better.
Even though I was beyond full, the end to the evening was bittersweet. The food, setting, and company made for one of the best times I’ve had (and it still would have been even if Greg didn’t foot the bill). I should warn anyone planning a visit that Kaito is a ruiner. I went in with high standards, but left a full blown snob. It’s going to be hard for anyone else to top Kaz. Kaito Sushi has gone from a must visit to an absolutely will return."
For inquiring hounders, the total for 2 was ~$240 no drinks and pre-tip. As far as I can tell, for the quality/care we received that's actually quite the deal.
We didn't set any limit ahead of time, though I'm sure that you can. Kaz checked several times to see if we wanted to continue. Further, as noted he checks to make sure you want something before he serves it, you're free to turn down anything - though I wouldn't suggest it.
130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024
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