Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kaz Sushi Bistro - 10/08/2010

1915 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 530-5500

Kaz Sushi Bistro is one of the names included any discussion of DC's best sushi restaurants. The chef, Kazuhiro Okochi worked at Sushi-Ko before leaving to open his own restaurant. Kaz Sushi Bistro offers two different tasting menus, one focused on sushi and the other highlighting the restaurants mix of creative hot and cold appetizers. Given the dichotomy, I felt compelled to try both menus.

Ultimate Sushi 01: Hirame, Engawa - Halibut, Halibut Fin
I forgot the topping for the halibut but the fish itself was a touch soft though the muscular texture of the abductor fin more than made up for that.

Chef Kaz's Tasting Parade 01: Tuna Napoleon
The tuna napoleon is Kaz's signature dish, the ground tuna comes mixed with onion and covered with a glistening sauce and the entire mixture rests on a savory crisp. The flavor and textural interplay between the fish and chip are enjoyable though not spectacular and the whole mixture is approachable enough that I can see how it has becomes the restaurant's signature.

Chef Kaz's Tasting Parade 02: Sea Scallop Sashimi
The scallop comes with a bed of pickled vegetables, fresh tomato, and chili slivers that add a potent combination of tang, spice, and herbaceousnes to the sweet dense bivalve.

Ultimate Sushi 02: Hiramasa - Wild Yellowtail
One of the most enjoyable pieces of the night, the yellowtail is firmer and oilier than the typical farm raised stock and the fresh wasabi sauce was strong enough to bring tears to my eyes.

Chef Kaz's Tasting Parade 03: Smoked Ankimo
It was with this course I truly started to appreciate Kaz's creativity. The ankimo was presented in two ways, as a pate wrapped in daikon and sashimi style with an ume gelee. The pate had a silky texture and gentle smoke complimented by the bracing bitter crunch of the radish. The second preparation was pure magic, the thick quivering slab of liver conveys a massive smoky sweetness gently kissed by a ripe stonefruit sweetness from the gelee.

Ultimate Sushi 03: Japanese Sweet Sea Scallop with Apple Sauce
This course also highlighted Kaz-san's flair for the unconventional. The apple sauce is a subtle thing, putting a slightly tart twist on the traditional sweetness of the scallop

Ultimate Sushi 04: Tuna with Foie Gras
I was curious about this course from the start. The foie gras has a consistency similar to a cream cheese albeit with a slightly richer mouthfeel. Though I didn't care for the texture, I did enjoy the way the fattiness enhanced the otherwise mild fish.

Ultimate Sushi 05: Hawaiian Walu
Called by several other names, this delicate white fish possesses a level fattiness on par with toro. Kaz serves this without any adornment allowing the full flavor of the fish to come through.

Chef Kaz's Tasting Parade 04: Lobster Miso Soup
Next up was a lobster soup that just didn't do it for me. The soup was thin with a light lobster flavor and the lobster itself had a disconcerting texture similar to steamed fish.

Ultimate Sushi 06: Aji - Spanish Mackerel
Aji has always been oe of my favorites and this exemplifies all the best qualities of the fish, dense, supple, and full flavored.

Ultimate Sushi 07: Wild Salmon
I forgot the exact origins of this salmon but the fish was noticeably firmer and had a stronger brine than your typical salmon.

Ultimate Sushi 08: Ikura - Salmon Eggs with Creme Fraiche
Salmon eggs are often an indicator of the quality of a sushi restaurant and these were superb, the chilled spheres burst with a clear scintillating brine. The addition of creme fraiche was a nice touch adding a pleasing thickness to the mix.

Ultimate Sushi 09: Chu-toro - Medium Fatty Tuna
The restaurant unfortunately did not have O-toro this evening but the chu-toro was a fair imitation possessing a texture and level of richness somewhere between tuna and true O-toro

Ultimate Sushi 10: Sake - Salmon with Mango Sauce
Next up was a more traditional salmon topped with a sweet mango sauce, a daring experiment that didn't quite work for me but I still appreciated the creativity behind it.

Ultimate Sushi 11: Botan Ebi - Spot Prawn with Yuzu Caviar
This was one of my favorite pieces of the night, though the shrimp looked just like a sweet shrimp, the chef called it a spot prawn. The yuzu caviar topping was one of the best pairings of the night though I would have liked it to have even more a of a presence.

Chef Kaz's Tasting Parade 05: Potato Wrapped Tilefish, Fried Soft Shell Crab, Scallop and Maitake Mushroom
Next up was a trio of cooked dishes, though each was individually enjoyable the sudden onslaught of fried food was a bit much to take. The tilefish was flaky though it was the french fry like sapor of the potato that was the star of the dish. The crab was a touch oily but the backdrop of bitter greens helped temper the heaviness. Last up was a fried cake of scallop and maitake where the earthy heft of the mushrooms was quite apparent.

Ultimate Sushi 12: Smoked Mackerel with Plum Sauce
Mackerel is an oily and heavy enough fish on its own and the smoking only accentuated the fish's natural essence. The plum sauce added a palpable ripe sweetness that was the perfect foil for the potency of the fish.

Ultimate Sushi 13: Pink Sushi - Beets
This might be the only restaurant I've ever been to that serves beet nigiri. Given my general disdain for beets I was expecting to hate this but the root vegetable sweetness of the beet was effectively held in check by the seaweed and soy.

Chef Kaz's Tasting Parade 06: Chilean Sea Bass in Soy Sauce
The bass is seasoned with a slightly sweet soy sauce, tender, flaky, and unreservedly rich. Though good, in contrast to some of the raw and cold dishes the hot food seems decidedly more conservative.

Ultimate Sushi 14: Ika - Squid with Olive
The first thing I noticed about the squid was the delicate scoring on the surface used to tenderize the squid. The ika itself was spot on, firm and snappy with a yielding creaminess but I found the vegetal tinge of the olive disconcerting.

Chef Kaz's Tasting Parade 07: Sushi
Halibut with Pickled Seaweed - Though the fish was a bit soft for my tastes, I appreciated the sweet & sour levity of the seaweed.
Tuna with Truffle - Absolutely superb, the truffle added a clear note of earth and musk but not so much that the fish was rendered invisible.
Yellowtail with Wasabi Leaf - A very good yellowtail especially with the wasabi topping, but the standard hamachi just couldn't stand up to the sublime Hiramasa served earlier.
Smoked Albacore - Kaz seems to have a penchant for smoking and he does so well, albacore has a clean flavor and texture very well suited to the woody essence of the smoke.
Sea Scallop with Prosciutto, Craime Fraiche, Chive - The prosciutto makes this dish work, adding a delicate salinity and chew to compliment the tender texture of the scallop
Seared Freshwater Eel - Quickly seared and covered with a light sweet sauce, simple and delicious.

Chef Kaz's Tasting Parade 08: Fresh White Peach Sorbet with Sesame Tuille
As I was served this dessert, Chef Kaz leaned over and said the secret behind the dish is that he picked the peaches personally. The sorbet tasted remarkably fresh with a light sweetness, perfect against the caramelized nuttiness of the tuille.

Housemade Plum Wine
At the end of the meal, the chef offered a delightfully chilled shot of plum wine as a digestif.

Kaz shows an unconventional flair especially when it comes to his sushi; rather than relying solely on traditional condiments like sushi and wasabi, Kaz uses an array of whimsical accompaniments. I enjoyed both menus though the Ultimate Sushi is probably the best way to experience Kaz's cuisine. Kaz Sushi Bistro certainly made a very compelling case for why it should be considered DC's best sushi.

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