Omakase is a special word to me. So special that it almost entices me into a dream state of Japanese food. Meaning to entrust, omakase is in simplest terms, allowing the sushi chef to build a custom meal. And while this could become a catch phrase with sushi chefs who end up offering one fixed menu for every diner and labeling it as omakase, it’s about finding an itamae with the skill to build the experience toward your tastes. After all, how can you entrust a complete stranger if they have no idea what you want to eat. Ask questions. Get boundaries. Understand the palate. It’s amazing how much information a well tuned sushi chef can get from his diners by just interacting.
With seemingly little to no interest by restaurants back home in Edmonton to offer this style of meal, I knew my Vancouver experience would at some point, include the often dreamed about omakase. With the crew over at Foodosophy talking about Kimura, Kim and I ended up messaging back and forth until we booked ourselves in. Arriving for our 5:30 seating, Kim, The Binster, Sarah and myself were seated as close to the bar as possible. I could tell Kim was a bit bummed we weren’t right at the bar, but our table worked quite well for the group and allowed for a more natural conversation instead of lining up and shouting across each other.
Up first was a small bowl of Japanese Stewed Vegetables, which was followed up with a trio of appetizers; Kabocha Squash, Grilled Sardine, Jellied Pig Ear/Foot. The stewed vegetables retained a bit of bite, and all of the offerings maintained their clean natural taste. This was in contrast to the kabocha squash on the trio plate, which had a slightly sweet flavour from and the added goodness of sesame seeds. The sardines were split in two. Both pieces seemed quite meaty, with no sign of the flakiness I sometimes find in canned sardines. Finally, the jiggly brick of jellied pig parts. With the pig cut into small pieces and braised/stewed? long enough, the savory jelly was surprisingly easy to consume despite the sum of its parts that scare many…including Sarah.
I could see Itsuroku Kimura opening up oysters for our next course, and heard Sarah let out a gasp. As she’s not a fan of these salt water treats, I was a nervous for Sarah that this dish might disrupt the night. What arrived was a Trio of Oysters – Caviar, Inkura, Tobiko. That’s right, each of these fresh, smooth, and amazingly clean orbs of goodness were topped with individual portions of fish eggs. All of them were a success at the table with even Sarah coming out actually finding herself enjoying these.
Salmon Carpaccio was next to the table. Combined with a sesame and soy dressing and sitting below a sprinkling of micro greens were two different types of salmon; one a deep rich red and the other more of that typical orange. Each of the types was also cut slightly different. The combination of flavours, and kick of the sesame oil made this an enjoyable dish.
Monkfish Liver (ankimo) was presented to us next. The base of squid ink and light topping of nut oil and onion finished the dish. Know as the foie gras of the sea, this luxurious slice of liver lived up to the hype. I hear that many people have mixed reactions to ankimo, but I do suggest you take a crack if you ever see it on the menu. If it’s anything like at Kimura, I don’t think you would regret widening your food experiences.
With an oyster course already on the table, I was surprised to see another soon arrive. In what may have been the flashiest presentation of the night, our dishes were sprayed down by edible gold. It was actually quite cute to see both servers laugh and giggle when Itsuroku Kimura decided to give our dish the faint paint job you see below. Fried Oyster – Okra, Beans, Mushroom. The oysters crispy exterior was taken away by a quick toss in a bowl of liquid (sauce/dressing?) before being plated. I found the smooth clean flavor replaced with a mix of fried flavours I find hard to describe. The result was good, but as a fan of fresh oysters, I personally think the flash and preparation were better.
With a slight pause happening after the fried oyster, I snapped a picture of the man himself preparing our next dish; Crispy Risotto Cake & Shrimp. The rice wasn’t exactly what I think of when risotto comes to mind, but both edges had a pretty darn perfect, toasty crust. Working quite well with the softer center, my only complaint might have been the shrimp which was just a little past done on my plate. But with the elaborate presentation and combination of textures here, I think it’s still safe to give him full marks.
The wait staff soon brought 4 covered bowls to the table and Kim yelled, “Chawanmushi!!!” Translated as tea cup steam, the smooth savory egg custard included a piece of chicken, mushroom and noodle. The warm base was very comforting to me, and I think I could have easily went 3 or 4 rounds with it.
With our bellies warmed and everyone at the table feeling a little belly bulge, we received our last savory dish; Assorted Nigiri – Oshi-Zushi (square), Red Tuna, Tuna Belly, Flounder, Surf Clam, and Uni. The fish was amazingly fresh and clean with an appropriate amount of topping already painting on (see below). Wonderful rice put together with an experienced hand, great fresh fish (including flounder!!) added up to perfection. Exactly what I look for in a nigiri experience.
Finally to close our meal, Green Tea Ice Cream. Clean, simple and cold, I sat back and ate the small bowl with a big smile.
We came, we saw, we conquered. The meal, which was a bargain at just $40 per person, set the bar that much higher for me. The combination and creativity alone, along with dishes like ankimo and flounder made this one of the freshest and most memorable Japanese meals I’ve ever had. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I was surrounded by friends, the service was phenomenal, and Itsuroku Kimura himself was a hit. If it was just based on this meal, I’d never hesitate to go back.