Last night, while wandering up and down Sawtelle, we popped into Kiriko and had a really wonderful meal. I have read good things about this place and have peered in the window a few times and noted that it was an attractive space, but this was my first meal.
First observation: the place is really comfortable and nicely done. Although many people on Chowhound say things like, 'the funkiness just adds to the charm' when they reference places ranging from Hide to Sushi Sasabune, what I am hearing is, 'well, we like the food and just don't care that it looks like a dump.' Well, I can understand that attitude and have had similar thoughts, but Kiriko made me realize that sometimes, I really like having great food in a place that is actively pleasant to sit in.
Second observation: the head sushi chef and the wait staff are actually friendly. They smile, they joke with customers, they can be engaged in conversation and they answer questions. Also a refreshing change from Sasabune and many other sushi places that can be intimidating for the uninitiated.
On to the food:
we started with miso and a seared albacore salad. The miso was fine, nothing extraordinary, but my girlfriend loves to start her meals with miso. The salad was extremely flavorful. The fish was nicely seared around the edges and each piece came with a lump of ???, well I don't know what it was, but it had s light gingery bite that went well with the fish. The greens were fresh and dressed in a sauce that seemed like a nice rendition of the fairly standard Japanese salad dressing.
We then ordered sushi. I overheard the sushi chef talking about how he had changed the type of wood he uses to smoke his salmon. That discussion ensured that I would order smoked salmon sushi. I also saw Japanese red snapper on the menu and I had to have it. We asked our waitress what was good today and she went off to consult with the chef. Their pick was salmon eggs or yellowtail. We don't like salmon eggs, so yellowtail it was. We also ordered spicy tuna toll and a cucumber roll. I know there purists who deplore spicy tuna rolls, etc...but I like them and I just don't care if it is authentic - I want tasty!
Well, these all came out and were beauthifully presented. And man, were they fine. The snapper was served with rock salt and a zesty squeeze of lemon - that nearly knocked me out it was so good. The smoked salmon made my girlfriend ooh and ahh - and that is a major accomplishment since she does not like salmon. The yellowtail was buttery and very good. Maybe a slight step down from the other two sushi orders. The rolls were also excellent - the spicy tuna roll includes matchstick cucumber giving it a nice crunch to balance out the spice. We then ordered another spicy tuna because it was so good.
We did not save room for dessert. Apparently this was a mistake because Kiriko makes their own ice cream and sorbets - a meyer lemon sorbet and a chai tea ice cream sounded really good. Oh well, next time.
Obviously, I was extremely thrilled with my meal. The tab was $52 with no drinks. I saw the bill and I had to laugh because the total was less than for 1 person at Sasabune. While I really enjoyed my fish at Sasabune, in my eyes, it is not worth more than 2 times a Kiriko meal. In fact, this meal likely ensures that I will not return to Sasabune. Maybe I am a heathen since I like my nice atmosphere, my miso and my spicy tuna, but if that is true, so be it. Kiriko sure rocked last night.
11301 W Olympic Blvd
(although the entrance is on Sawtelle)