On our recent trip to Palm Springs, Erin and I stumbled into Kiyosaku. Located south of the main drag, we went into the meal knowing very little. The reviews seemed mixed, with comments about the portion size and subsequent cost being the main concerns. If I’ve learned anything from my love of this craft, it’s that price and quantity are not the main factors. I will take a highly skilled itamae serving proper portions of high quality fish any day. Without getting overwhelmed in photos and descriptions, I wanted to mention just two things. First, the dish below, and second, the man himself; Kiyo-san.
The dish, Kiyo’s Original-Grapefruit Special, is in someways, what the restaurant is famous for. Kiyo-san even talked about his celebrity cred (photos to prove it), tv show appearances and so on. Created in house, Kiyo-san explained that the dish evolved over the years as he experimented with what fruit to use for the base. Using an orange ended up making the dish too sweet, while using lemons made it too tart. The grapefruit though, it was perfect. As we watched Kiyo-san break apart the fruit, slice the fish, and finish with his special sauce, it did seem like we were in for a treat. The grapefruit made this as bright and fresh as you could imagine, while the good sized portion of scallop, tuna and salmon had us digging our through for quite some time. It was a hit! Don’t kid yourself though, this appetizer was $25 bucks. So it’s not cheap.
As we ate through plate after plate of beautiful fish, it was really refreshing to hear Kiyo-san speak. If you’ve never ponied up to a sushi bar; finding one with an engaging, skilled chef is a real highlight. He spoke of the Japanese fish markets he misses so dearly, his youth, the celebrity Palm Springs visitors and so on. He even talked about how he will never serve tempura with his sushi because that belongs at a tempura shop. I had to applaud him for that. So very often, the new-age sushi we see around Edmonton is lacking that dedication. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for every kind of fat sauce, mayo drenched, deep fried sushi, but that’s not my bag. I want what Kiyo-san makes. Clean..fresh..fish. Lastly, I’ll leave you with Kiyo-san left me…an almost sad feeling. After 46 years in the business, the changes in fish (availability, cost, quality etc..) during his time have been more than enough to convince him that we will no longer see sushi in our futures. It was an interesting discussion, one I don’t want to dwell on, but the concerns of over-fishing & declining fish stocks are certainly important things to note.