So last week I teased you with a few shots of the gorgeous deliciousness of Kusakabe. Did you drool? I drool just thinking about it.
The first time I ate at Morimoto Napa, my friend and I promised to bring our sushi lover husbands back because we knew they’d love it. Well, that still hasn’t happened, BUT as soon as I heard Kusakabe had earned it’s first Michelin star, I knew we needed a double date there. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
The restaurant is fairly small, so reservations are definitely recommended. About half the seating is along a sushi bar (they refer to it as the chef’s table). If you can get seated there, do it. Not only do you get to watch all the sushi making and torching action, but you’ll also get to interact with the chefs. We lucked out and were sat in front of the super friendly Chef Ngai. The guy was a total ham, as you’ll see.
Kusakabe offers an Omakase menu of eight courses. Near the end of the meal they give you the a la carte menu, so you can supplement more pieces (yes, each is offered per piece of nigiri) if you’d like more. Their menus are dated and change based on what fresh fish they’re able to get.
Chef Ngai told us that they try to have an assortment of Japanese/Korean fish (which they have shipped in) as well as local fish so that patrons from around the world can try something they don’t normally have access to. It definitely was the best assortment of fish I’ve ever had. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen Japanese Barracuda on the boards of any of my usual haunts.
shigoku oyster with french daurenki caviar and four kinds of chef’s assorted le petit plates
bone marrow gelee with soy sauce, black snapper ball sushi with key lime, toro tuna flakes with sesame rice
We eat sushi several times a month, but I must admit that I’m normally a sauce covered maki roll orderer, so a meal that consisted mostly of nigiri was a pretty big switch up for me. I was a bit surprised and thoroughly impressed that I was not bored. Each course brought different textures and flavors using little more than the fresh fish and perfectly seasoned sushi rice. I truly had no grasp of the range of textures and flavors possible until this night, and I know that there’s way more out there that I haven’t tried!
The second course alone took us from melty fatty tuna to firm and chewy halibut muscle to smokey bonito each one unlike any sushi I’ve tasted/felt before. The last one was especially fun for me since I never bothered to consider what bonito looked like in fish form. I’ve always just had it in flake form on top of agedashi tofu. It’s like when I first visited a pineapple plantation and realized that pineapples grow on bushes not trees. Mind blown. ;P
In between sushi courses they brought out a couple warm dishes as well as a few petit plates. I have to say that while I did enjoy the the warm dishes (the mushi was particularly delightful), the sushi won the night.
The torch also won the night. 😉
My favorite dishes of the night were
– deep ocean uni : super soft and sweet. Anyone who says uni is an acquired taste has not had uni this good.
– wagyu beef nigiri : raw beef as sushi? Yes. It worked, and it was awesome. (technically, it was lightly torched)
– zuke chutoro : meltingly delicious and slightly salty and savory from the soy sauce cure. I could have had just this all night and walked away happy.
– kan buri : the slightly firm texture and smoke flavor won me over. The fish we had is only available in the winter (according to Ngai), so if you make it out here in the winter and it’s on the menu, GET IT.
This was my first Michelin level sushi experience, and it defintely exceeded my expectations. I have a deep appreciation and respect for the fine palates of master sushi chefs. The flavor and texture differences between the different types of fish were so subtle in some cases, and in the menu we received, they even highlighted difference between sections (ie. muscle vs belly) on the same fish. Respect. For real. Also, the knife skills!
The service we received was really great, too. Chef Ngai chatted with us the entire time, and he and the other servers were not only able to answer my questions on specific ingredients, but they did so with a smile. Chef Nori was on site as well (you can see him in a couple of the shots above), and I do regret not asking for a pic with him. I’m always shy about things like that.
At the time we went, the Omakase menu at Kusakabe was $95 per person. The A la Carte sushi/sashimi menu ranged from $6.50 – $14.50 per piece. You can order maki and hand rolls, too, for an additional charge.
Now that I’ve had a taste of this master chef sushi, I’m really itching to try Sukiyabashi Jiro (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame) in Japan! Who wants to come? 🙂
Have you had fine sushi before? Or are you a sauce-covered-maki lover, too? 🙂
Looking for fine eats in San Francisco?