I have a soft spot for Kyubey.
It was one of my earliest exposures to high-end Japanese sushi. It was through Kyubey that I learned all the rules about eating high end sushi (and un-learned some American habits I had picked up). I learned not to put wasabi in my soy sauce; observed the proper way to eat sashimi; and watched some of the most incredible knife work I’d ever seen.
I also wrote a long, loooong post about Kyubey for round 9 of the food blog competition Project Food Blog, the pentultimate post before my final winning post.
For all of the above reasons, I’ve always had a soft spot for this restaurant.
It’s been years since I’ve visited Kyubey. I’ve become a much more sophisticated sushi diner (8+ years later), having now tried sushi from many of the top sushi masters in the world (Sushi Mizutani, Sukiyabashi Jiro, Sushi Sawada, Sushi Yoshitake) just to name a few. I wondered what I would think.
We revisited Kyubey this past February to find out.
Below is the entire chef's tasting menu that we enjoyed.
There were several "signature" dishes that I recognized, such as the live shrimp and the paper thin daikon shiso "sandwiches".
We started with ice fish and a simple custard.
Next was a simple white fish served with a bit of ponzu and seaweed.
Then came the kampachi (yellowtail), which was lovely.
I love bonito, or skipjack tuna, one of my favorite fish to eat in Japan, especially when it's ever-so-slightly charred.
Here, the chef sandwiched the bonito with garlic and onion inside, which was delicious.
I was not a fan of this next course, anago no kimo (sea eel liver). I found it to be quite bitter.
Next, the chef served us two "snacks": crunchy deep fried fish spines (surprisingly tasty!) and a deep fried shrimp head (eyes and all!). I was a bit squeamish about eating the head whole, which I think affected my overall enjoyment. The flavors were quite "shrimpy" (I think the head as the most flavor). I just had trouble getting over the psychological aspect of it!
Abalone was simple but sweet and flavorful.
I was quite disappointed with the next course, a single seared scallop wrapped with nori. The scallop was overcooked, tough, and devoid of flavor. To add insult to injury, the nori was super hot to touch, which made the entire experience a bit painful.
Thankfully, the chutoro was very good.
Unfortunately, the otoro (super fatty tuna) was a stringy and chewy in texture.
Grilled collar came next with a simple sauce of mashed daikon and chives.
I personally found the ika (squid) to be too salty.
Thankfully, the uni (sea urchin) was deliciously creamy and super sweet.
One of Kyubey's signature dishes is ebi, or the raw prawn. The chef begins by placing a live shrimp on the counter. After allowing it to jump around a bit, he quickly kills it in front of the guest. In a matter of minutes, the chef masterfully creates a nigiri piece out of the freshly killed tail. It's a bit disturbing, but the flesh still twitches for quite some time on the rice.
I extensively documented this course in my last post, so I won't belabor it here. Check out my prior Kyubey post to see a video about the whole meal, including the live shrimp.
I do really enjoy their signature palate cleanser, paper thin daikon (hand sliced!) with shiso and ume dressing. Check out the video in my previous post to see some impressive knife action.
Out came the deep fried head of the shrimp the chef had just killed moments earlier. I was getting a bit tired of shrimp heads at this point.
We ended with sweet and tender anago (sea eel), which was very good.
* * * * *
General Thoughts - Kyubey
Alas, Kyubey is not as good as I remembered it. My taste have indeed changed. Although it was still a pleasant experience, there were several courses that I found disappointing. Most notably, the sea eel liver was bitter, the scallop hand roll was overcooked and devoid of flavor, and the otoro was a bit chewy.
On the bright side, the uni was delicious and super sweet. The fresh live shrimp is still one of the best around (largely because it’s so fresh), and the chutoro was excellent.
I left thinking that there were several sushi places in the same price range (or even cheaper), that I thought offered better sushi. Having said that, everyone at Kyubey speaks very good English, and you do get to interact with the chef more (which adds so much to the overall experience). The sushi there is still very good, and if you value the overall experience, it’s still worth going.
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