Monday, May 5, 2014

Kiriko - 05/05/2014

11301 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, California 90064

I've known about Kiriko since the earliest days of my burgeoning lust for sushi. I even paid the place a visit one day after school back in 2008 and while I wasn't blown away I did remember enjoying the meal. Founded in 1999 by Chef-owner Ken Namba, Kiriko is often included in discussions about LA's top sushi restaurants. With dishes like seared blue fin with truffle butter and snapper in pesto sauce, Kiriko's menu seems to have a bit more cosmopolitan flair than most of its peers.

Tai - Snapper
The meal started off with fleshy ivory piece of snapper that evolves from snappy to creamy upon mastication. The fish had a bit more flavor than I was expecting but flavor really comes from the lemon and dusting of sea salt.

Akami - Lean Tuna
Toro - Fatty Tuna
Next up was a duet of tuna. The lean tuna was a bit watery and thin without the steely intensity of a top cut of tuna. The Toro was more impressive, tender and rich but not wildly oily.

Shima Aji - Striped Jack
The Shima Aji had a pleasing snappy texture. A bit on the lean side, the nigiri lacked the necessary oiliness that normally gives the fish a jellied feel and the nuanced oily flavor.

Tachiuo - Saber Fish
Next up was a relatively rare sushi, Tachiuo is otherwise known as Belt Fish or Saber Fish. The meat tends to be on the tough side with a slight sear giving the meat a hint of smoke that contrasted sharply with the fresh bite of the chives and ginger.

Katsuo - Bonito
Served alongside the Tachiuo, the Bonito had a similar woody flavor but is much softer and fleshier and finishes with a lingering oily flourish.

At this point our chef walked back into the kitchen leading to the first of several 10+ minute gaps in our meal. Now I don't mind if the chef needed to go to the bathroom, rail a waitress, or do a line of coke but the repeated delays really disrupted the flow of the meal. Amaebi - Sweet Shrimp
The amaebi came to the bar still twitching. The shrimp had a nice firmness and sweet steely tang but lacked the density and immaculate translucent appearance of the best amaebi preparations.

Mirugai - Giant Clam
Next up was a slice of Geoduck. Awkward shape aside the nigiri had everything I love about about Mirugai, the flesh was dense and crunchy with a potent dark briny sweetness.

Kinmedai - Golden Eye Snapper
The Kinmedai was easily my favorite piece of the evening. A quick flash of the blowtorch rendered and charred the fat laden exterior of the fish giving off an enticing brine tinged smoke and adding a delightful layer of complexity to the lithe Kinmedai.

Engawa - Halibut Fin
This was a thicker cut of Engawa than I was used to. The resulting nigiri required a bit more effort to chew but the sinewy toughness was satisfying in its own way. The bracing tang of the ponzu and fresh zest of the scallions provided a vibrant acidity to accent the fish's mild intrinsic flavor.

Uni - Sea Urchin
From the outset I was a bit put off by the runniness of the uni. Indeed the roe was sub par to most of my recent experiences. The flavor started out full of sweetness but develops a creeping bitter funk midway through.

Tairagai - Pen Shell Clam
Taragai is a relative rarity, more austere and complex than the ubiquitous scallop. The Pen Shell or Half Moon clam has a muted sweetness with more than a tinge of bitter brine and firmness between that of mirugai and hotategai.

Kohada - Gizzard Shad
A solid prototypical expression of Kohada, the fish lacked the shimmery luster the silver skin sometimes has but the flavor was spot-on all potent fish oils with a touch of vinegar-y twang.

Sake Tataki - Seared Salmon
Next we were presented with a gentrified version of the ubiquitous salmon. Presented as a Wild King Salmon the fish had an unusually keen sweetness coupled with a whiff of smoke and a lightly rendered fleshiness.

Anago - Sea Eel
Next up was a duet of sea eel. First up was a classic preparation with a dark sweet kabayaki sauce. Next up was a lighter version paired with a citrus salt that was cleaner and more dynamic

Takosakurani - Steamed Octopus Sashimi
The official omakase completed, we decided to order a couple things off the menu that caught our eye. First up was an octopus sashimi. The slivers of pristine white flesh had been lightly steamed which provides the meat with a bit of structure around a slick slippery core.

Aji - Spanish Mackerel
The Aji was on the mild side with little more than a hint of oiliness especially once taken with the chives and ginger. Texturally the fish was super tender, soft, pillow-y, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Aoyagi - Orange Clam
The Orange Clam was a touch thinner than I was expecting imparting a cartilaginous crunch to compliment the clam's earthy brine.

Awabi - Abalone
The abalone was one of the thickest and densest preparations that I've ever had. Surprisingly mild in flavor, the abalone required a bit more effort than I would have liked to bite through completely.

Toro Tataki - Seared Toro with Truffle Butter
Kiriko's menu actually features lean tuna with truffle butter but we opted for an extra level of decadence by substituting seared toro for the regular tuna. The result is a smoky buttery fish augmented with a touch of truffled luxury.

Toro Maki - Fatty Tuna Roll
We decided to close out the evening with even more tuna. A creamy chopped toro topped with fresh chives came bundled in a nori wrapper with warm rice. The combination has a touch of sweetness to start but ends with a creeping oily relish.

There were a few missteps in terms of fish quality, but the positives definitely outweighed the negatives. In terms of food, I'd rate Kiriko as a solid restaurant but clearly a step below the city's true stars. It was the uneven pacing of the meal that really threw me off, in addition to the first 15 minute delay we had another 20 minute gap later in the evening and at one point we were served six pieces of nigiri in little over an hour. While I enjoyed the meal the experience left much to be desired. If you do want to check out Kiriko, I recommend going on a weeknight or at an off hour, maybe you'll get better service than we did.

No comments: