Seated at a reserved table for two near the wide-open kitchen manned by chef Ryuji Kimura and one other chef, the menu (all Japanese with short translations of some dishes) was described to us in full detail by one of two wonderful female servers. One menu included a set list of meals from Soba to Udon to Tempura to Rice dishes while the second entailed a list of sushi options and daily inspired appetizers gathered at local markets. Some of the options ranged from ultra-high-end such as Bluefin Oh-toro and brined Berkshire Pork cheeks while others such as eel stuffed
with diced lotus and arrow root simply reminded me of the sorts of dishes described by those who've dined at Masa Or Ursawa. After much debate we made our selections and began a rollercoaster tasting at a perfect pace while marveling at dishes brought to other diners.
Course one consisted of six perfectly poached whole baby octopus in a lemon ginger dressing. While the appearance alone was off-putting to my mother, the flavors were a perfect combination of brine and sweet with a fleshy yet smooth texture that dazzled.
Course four consisted of Ebi Tukariage, an enormous sweet shrimp which was flash fried and meant to be consumed head-to-tail along with tempura lotus root and arrow root and a ginger soy sauce. Crispy yet smooth, sweet yet meaty, this dish was as fun to look at as it was to eat. Certainly not for the faint of heart I must say the head and carapace certainly had a different taste and texture from the body or tail, but like everything else I'd strongly recommend the experience if it were available.
Our mains arrived next. For myself I opted for the warm duck soba which paired thin buckwheat noodles in a salty broth with fatty duck breast and thin scallions. Definitely better than any soba I've experienced in Columbus and on par with the versions at Nobu SoHo or Lily Toronto....knowing the quality of everyting, next visit I'll certainly opt for the mixed Soba with Japanese Eggplant and Hot-Yam.
Dessert, like the rest of the meal, was truly unique. Though multiple options from Japanese grapes to green tea icecrea to a peach boiled in red wine were available, we opted for the Azuki Shiratam - Glutinous Rice flour dumplings with anko sweet beans and the Sasadango - sticky red bean filled rice balls wrapped in bamboo leaves. While definitely not YOUR traditional desserts, these options are apparently very traditional in Japan and both were unique and equally pleasing to the eyes and the palate with the Shiratam unlike anything I'd ever experienced....something like the flavor of Boston Baked Beans combined with fluffy jello balls and the Sasadango like a fruit roll-up perfected.
moment you enter the door to the moment you leave (for us, 2 hours and 20 minutes) the experience is challening yet simplified, complex yet refined, formal yet fun, and all-in-all wonderful. If this were "a sushi bar," it'd be the best I'd ever been to.....alas, it will just have to settle for best Japanese place that also happens to serve sushi. Fantastic.