I hadn't been to Kiriko in way too long, and reading about it on this board recently made me realize that I've been a moron to not go more often especially since I could probably get there for lunch on a reasonably regular basis. My husband and I wanted to have a celebration dinner for something that happened last week (any excuse for a blow out dinner) so he reserved the sushi bar at Kiriko.
We arrived and were greeted warmly by Ken (chef/owner) and his wife whose name I do not know but she is always there as well. We ordered cold sake from their interesting list - Urakasumi, $22 for the large serving - and a large bottle of Sapporo. The sake was nicely served in one of those bamboo containers accompanied by beautiful cut glass sake cups. We asked for omakase, which we have done for dinner there a few times before, and we were off and running.
1. A large plate containing nice-sized portions of three separate items: steamed abalone with some steamed green beans and a light sauce; baby squid with a yuzu/miso sauce; and raw octopus pieces with peeled and blanched octopus tentacle pieces, julienne shiso, real thinly sliced small cucumber, with a nice dressing. All three were spot-on combinations, fresh and light.
2. Japanese grouper sashimi with sea salt and a hint of citrus, and a lobster salad served in the lobster tail shell consisting of lobster chunks, greens, and tomatoes that tasted oven-dried. Again, fabulous combination of flavors and textures.
3. A hot dish that my husband said was one of the best things he's ever tasted. Panfried monkfish, smallish medallions, with ankimo sauce and pine nuts scattered atop. The sauce was rich and nicely spicy - it contained chili paste as well as sesame oil. We wanted to lick the plate.
4. Then he started us with sushi. One piece each, in this order:
Wild baby yellowtail
Homemade smoked salmon topped with pickled kelp and osetra caviar. I asked what kind of wood he used to smoke the salmon and he replied that this batch was cherry wood, and that he sometimes uses apple also. This piece of sushi was smoky, salty and sweet all at the same time. Superb.
Japanese red snapper with sea salt
Fresh salmon eggs - not the usual salty, gooey mess, but instead smaller eggs, each with its own firm texture. From wild salmon.
Freshwater eel without any sweet sauce but instead to be dipped in soy sauce. The fish was served very hot.
Then, my husband wanted a salmon skin hand roll and I wanted uni. So he had his salmon skin roll which looked good but I didn't taste it. My uni was perfect uni texture and taste.
Then, to finish, we each had seared toro which we always get there. I recommend this to anyone going there, I always get this last. Obviously, the toro is seared, but it's topped with some yuzu and also some jalapeno that is either roasted or otherwise cooked. The combination of flavors, heat and texture is so unique.
We knew from prior experience that Ken makes his own ice cream (and sorbet, as it turns out) and we had been discussing this with him as we got closer to dessert. He said he makes the ice cream in 1 litre batches and always makes the base fresh each time.
First, we had Meyer lemon sorbet which was tart and refreshing and served as a perfect palate cleanser after the richness of the seared toro sushi.
Then, we had a scoop of white truffle ice cream, and then a scoop of the Chai ice cream. The white truffle was perhaps one of the strangest things I've ever had. I can't say that I really was enamored of it, but my husband liked it quite a lot. The Chai was very strong and spicy.
Ken also had three other flavors which we did not try but we've had a couple of them before and can vouch for them: sesame and ginger. The third was roasted sweet potato.
By then, we'd been there a couple of very enjoyable hours. The total was slightly less than $200 including tax and tip. The alcohol was probably $30 of that. So, it was not inexpensive but to us it was well worth it.
They now have a web site (link below) that has lots of pictures of the restaurant as well as a scan of the current menu which is about to change, plus a scan of the sushi list. This restaurant is part of the Olympic Collection although it's on the Sawtelle side. You can park in the Olympic Collection underground parking and they will validate.
I think Ken is continuing to do very creative dishes with raw and cooked ingredients and that he is a true chef, not just someone who slices raw fish and puts it on rice. I would highly recommend Kiriko.