For Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend got us reservations for the premium omakase at Kai Zan. The reservations were a month and a half out, so I had a lot of time to do research and get really excited for the experience. The premium omakase is ten courses, chosen by the chefs that day, ingredients bought fresh and skillfully incorporated throughout the menu. The restaurant is BYOB if you choose, and you just have to pay a $15 corking fee. The space itself is fairly small, so they allow you an hour and a half for your reservation, and strongly recommend on time arrival.
There are a booths and tables around the space, and then sushi bar style seating facing the kitchen. We got the kitchen facing seating, and I was so happy. I absolutely loved watching the chefs assemble each intricate course. It was also cool to see the other dishes that were being ordered besides the premium omakase.
We went with the BYOB option, and brought a bottle of cava, which paired really nicely with all the seafood. It was light and crisp, and didn’t take away from any of the incredible flavors. They do have a beer and wine list however, and sake! I think what I enjoyed the most was how they really kept to a rather small group of ingredients, and incorporated them into multiple dishes. It was smartly done, and I’d imagine cost effective too!
Now to dig into the dishes! Each course was fairly small in size, making for the perfect amount of food. The chefs and waiters were very on top of their timing, and each dish came out quickly and seamlessly. This probably has something to do with the seating time limit. I was a little worried we would feel rushed, but they did a good job of pacing the meal. Since there is no actual menu, I had to take some pretty in depth notes as the waiter described the dishes to us. I’ll outline each one in order:
1. Toro dip with wasabi, shaved daikon, and flowers, served with terra chips
This was the perfect dish to start out with. So fresh with the perfect touch of wasabi to add some flavor interest to your palate. They described this dish as their take on chips and dip, and I couldn’t agree more. I would gladly replace traditional chips and dip with this dish any day! Plating was beautiful as well, with the tiny purple flowers giving the dip some extra color and pop.
2. Butter poached lobster with mashed potatoes topped with anchovies, micro greens, orange zest, and flowers
I knew before the dinner that there was one dish that had mashed potatoes, because the restaurant had called ahead asking about my lactose intolerance. I was unsure how mashed potatoes could be incorporated into a Japanese style dish, but this was just incredible (and clearly beyond my imagination!) The base was a nice whipped and creamy mashed potato, with chunks of butter poached lobster mixed in. It was topped with tiny, crispy, salty, delicious anchovies, micro greens, orange zest and flowers. Again, another beautifully plated dish. The anchovies and orange added such a nice complement to the richness of the lobster and potatoes. I was a big fan of this dish, but lucky for me it was a fairly small portion or I would have eaten this for days.
3. Scorpion battered madai with roasted pearl onions, arugula, wasabi tobiko, and green tea broth
This dish was absolutely delicious. Such a unique idea and executed flawlessly. The madai (Japanese red snapper) tasted really fresh, and the scorpion batter was crispy enough where it didn’t get soggy with the broth. The dish was initially brought out plated without the broth, and the waiter poured it over the plate out of a kettle. The onions were packed with flavor, and the wasabi tobiko added a nice kick. I could have eaten a bigger portion of this one too! But they definitely knew what they were doing portion wise which I realized as I reached course number ten.
4. Daikon stuffed aji topped with chopped avocado and macadamia nut
I was skeptical of this dish when it came out—it looked fairly small and simple. However, the flavor was amazing. The aji (mackerel) was extremely fresh, and the daikon radish inside the fish gave a nice crisp crunch. The chopped avocado and macadamia nut topping was a really interesting choice, but it worked really well. The flavors were all very balanced, and left you wanting more.
5. Waygu beef pop topped with wasabi and micro greens served over a jalapeño scallion cilantro purée
The waygu beef pop was a fun and favorite dish of ours. The plating was beautiful, with the vibrant color of the puree on the bottom of the plate. The concept of the beef pop (a strip of rare waygu beef wrapped around a scallop), was a smart use of their chosen ingredients. It was a little hard to eat like a pop—I ended up mostly eating the beef and scallop separately. Besides that fact, it was really awesome. I loved the puree, it was the perfect amount of heat for me. I made sure to dip every ingredient into it. The asparagus was cooked nicely too. Overall, really cool dish.
6. Nigiri – waygu beef, stripped mackerel, lobster topped with uni, and toro belly
This dish was incredible. From the plating to the freshness, I was so pleased with the assortment of nigiri. Like I mentioned earlier, I really loved how they re-used the ingredients from the previous dishes throughout the courses, and this was a prime example. First was the waygu beef, so rare and delicious! Then the stripped mackerel, similar to the earlier dish, except served in a classic sushi style. Then the lobster—so awesome. The uni on top was incredibly fresh! I had read ahead of time that the uni was incredible, so I was glad they threw it into this dish. Then finally, the toro belly. So succulent and rich! Just an altogether tasty display. This was the point in the meal where I started to realize I was going to be pretty full by the end.
7. Seared Scottish salmon coated in nori powder with mushroom, sea salt, olive oil and balsamic, lemon, and dill
This dish had a nice, simple presentation, and a lot of flavor in the small piece of Scottish salmon. It was coated in a fine, nori (seaweed) powder, that had a subtle salty flavor to it. It balanced well with the bright citrus and dill flavors, along with the olive oil and balsamic. It wasn’t my favorite dish of the night, but the fish was fresh and tasted great!
8. Alaskan king crab with seaweed salad, golden berries, and sliced cucumber
This Alaskan king crab was very flavorful, and looked beautiful with all of the bright colors on the plate. The flavors were also bright, and the dish left my mouth with a kind of zinging sensation. The cucumber slices and seaweed salad had a tangy vinegar dressing on them, which was a compliment to the sweetness of the golden berries and the richness of the crab. I think this was one of my favorites visually, and the taste did not disappoint either.
9. Sashimi – toro belly, Scottish salmon, scallop, and yellow tail served with pickled cucumber, daikon, and mushrooms
This was our final savory dish before dessert. At this point I was pretty full, but so excited because I love sashimi! I actually knew what was coming because they had a small white board in the back of the kitchen with a one word description of each dish. This was a pretty big plate considering the smaller sizes of most of the other dishes. For sashimi, there were two pieces of Scottish salmon, two pieces of toro belly, two pieces of yellow tail, and one fairly large scallop. This was served along with an assortment of pickled vegetables, including daikon, cucumber, and mushrooms. In all honesty, I did struggle to finish this dish. I was so full but powered through because the sashimi was so fresh and delicious! I think my favorite was the salmon, but it was all wonderful. Beautifully plated too. A great way to finish off the savory courses.
10. Roasted Fuji apple and Asian pear crumble topped with powdered sugar
I was actually served a custom dessert that was not part of the original omakase menu, due to my lactose allergy. So, I got a really yummy roasted Fuji apple and Asian pear crumble, topped with powdered sugar. It was light, sweet, and perfectly roasted. I really didn’t need anything more since I was so full. It was a good touch of sweetness to close out an incredible meal.
If you are wondering what the normal dessert was – it was fresh vanilla bean ice cream served with a golden berry sauce and Asian pear:
From course one to ten, I was totally submerged in the premium omakase experience. I think it is completely worth the price, and a must for sushi/Japanese cuisine lovers! I was really impressed by the flavor, freshness, plating, and service. Make your reservation in advance, and be cognizant of the 1.5 hour time limit. We ended up being there closer to two hours, but I think if there would have been a need for the space, we would have been encouraged to hurry/leave. Overall, I loved the restaurant and the experience. I would like to go back and see what kind of dishes I would be served the next time!