Sherman's Food Adventures: Okeya Kyujiro

Okeya Kyujiro

I've had many expensive meals in my lifetime (I'm fortunate, I realize that), but honestly, this would be the most I've ever spent for myself and Viv on one meal.  With the urging of Mijune, I booked Okeya Kyujiro for Viv's birthday dinner recently.  She raved about the food and dining theatre provided by the experience.  Now this experience would cost $325.00 each person not including beverages, tax and tip.  Turns out with all that, we got close to $1000.00 for this dinner.  So was it worth it?  I guess you are about to find out!

So, the place only seats 16 people max around the sushi bar where you can see the considerable amount of staff curate all 25+ courses of the Omakase meal.  We started off with the Clam with Dashi Jelly.  This was a subtle dish that featured buttery soft clam meat that was naturally sweet with only the slightest of brininess.  As expected, the jelly was equally subtle with its signature umaminess and sweetness.  This was an excellent intro to the meal as it whet our appetites in the lightest way possible.

Speaking of light, our next course featured a Scallop Chawanmushi with ikura and a touch of freshly-grated wasabi.  Silky, sweet and aromatic, the chawanmushi was so made with such precision that there was barely a lick of excess moisture.  Rather, it was all egg that was super airy and buttery smooth.  Once again, this was an exercise of balance rather than exhibiting strong flavours.  The scallop on top was buttery and sweet while the ikura provided pops of brininess.  That little dollop of wasabi added just the slightest bite to the dish.

From here, the meal started ramping up in terms of impact with the Sawara (Smoked Spanish Mackerel) with ponzu.  The meatiness and and smokiness of the mackerel was so apparent, yet still not out-of-balance.  I found the texture to be robust, yet delicate at the same time.  Exhibiting a touch of bright and appealing fishiness, the smokiness brought a rich savouriness.  Things were kept light with the tang from the ponzu.

Next, we were served a beautiful piece of Blue Fin Tuna (Akami) Nigiri with Japanese mustard atop brown sushi rice.  Although not the fattiest parts of the fish (Otoro & Chutoro), this was still buttery soft with the clean taste of the sea.  It was lightly brushed where it further enhanced the fish with a sweet savouriness.  Underneath, the brown rice was firm and chewy while not hard either.  It was very lightly seasoned so that the blue fin tuna remained the star of the show.  However, the small amount of Japanese mustard afford some bite.

From this we moved onto a piece of King Crab Nigiri with tomalley that brought things down a notch with more gentle flavours and texture.  Naturally, the fluffy texture of the king crab was a contrast to the chewy sushi rice and crisp nori.  The sweetness and brininess of the crab was refreshing compared to the last 2 pieces of nigiri.   This was a nicely planned break before the next course.  Umaminess and sweetness was provided by the tomalley on top which helped bring more impact to the crab.

Progressing from the last 2 nigiri offerings, we moved onto the Lobster Tempura with sudachi juice and seaweed furikake.  This was comprised of a substantial nugget from the lobster tail.  As such, it was meaty, sweet and had all of the succulent bounce texture we associate with lobster tail meat.  The tempura batter was super thin and subsequently light and crispy.  It was not greasy, yet the meatiness was a good transition to the next item.

That next item was something more rich in the Brown Mushroom Soup.  Although there didn't seem to be any cream added, the soup itself was cooked down enough to be thick and full of body.  Normally, mushroom soup can be earthy and woodsy, but this one was far beyond that with a mushroom flavour that hit us in the face.  Calling it impactful would be an understatement.  It was also seasoned just enough where it enhanced the flavours without overshadowing the main ingredient.  I also enjoyed the mushroom pulp in terms of texture.

We moved back to mackerel with Saba Bou-Sushi (Seared Mackerel Pressed Sushi).  Unlike the previous mackerel course, this one was more pure tasting.  What I mean by that is, without the smoke, we got much more the natural mackerel essence.  This brown sushi rice paired well with this as it created a consistent robust bite from first chew to the last.

If you ever questioned the luxuriousness of this meal, it would be answered partially by the next course.  It featured a Flounder Nigiri with monkfish liver, flounder fin and topped with caviar.  Due to the more firm texture of flounder, it is usually a touch chewy, but in this case, it was surprisingly tender.  This was possibly due to the thinness of the slice.  It was lightly sweet.  Adding some more taste of the sea, the ankimo was firmly buttery.  As expected, the small piece of flounder fin was more delicate.  Of course the caviar added some brininess.

Continuing on with nigiri, we had the Shima-Aji next which was buttery and sweet with more impact than the flounder.  It was slightly fatty which made it tender and required very little chewing.  Again, it was brushed with nikiri which added some more sweetness and a touch of light saltiness.  It didn't need much though as it was flavourful on its own.

I expected there to be Miso-Marinated 
Gindara (Black Cod) somewhere during this meal and I was glad to see it served here.  It was classically marinated with sake and miso while beautifully seared.  We found a piece of Japanese ginger to compliment the fish.  Buttery and flaky, the fish was perfectly prepared.  As much as black cod can be forgiving, there is still certain levels of execution and this was on point.  There was just enough seasoning to compliment the fish while the Japanese ginger provided tanginess without the usual sharpness of typical ginger.

As we were progressing through each course, we began checking off the expected luxurious ingredients and sure enough the Hokkaido Uni appeared next.  It was served seaweed jam atop brown sushi rice on a spoon as well as Gunkan with nori.  There was no doubt how fresh this uni was where it was creamy and sweet with the essence of the sea without any funkiness.  The seaweed jam atop Bafun Uni added a jolt of umaminess that was a nice contrast to the pure taste of the nigiri.

So we got some refreshing reprieve from the uni coming from the gindara, now we moved onto something heavier with the Deep-Fried Taro with ankimo cream.  Creamy without any chalkiness, the taro ate easily.  It was coated in the thinest of tempura batter that was crispy and light.  As aromatic as taro can be, the ankimo cream provided that natural sweetness that brought things down a few notches even though it was quite creamy.

On cue, we were brought right back down with the refreshing Persimmon topped with Mashed Tofu.  This was far from complex, but it was thoughtful in terms of placement in the meal progression and also how it tasted.  The floral sweetness and subtle honey flavour of the persimmon was at the forefront as the mashed tofu was mild and creamy.

So far, with all of the things we had been served, the whole ingredient was displayed for us prior.  For instance, with the Golden-Eye Snapper with lemon and seaweed salt, they paraded it around showing us how fresh and stunning the fish was.  Well, it was truly beautiful in terms of the sweetness and slightly firm texture.  It had a slight smokiness due to the searing of the skin.

Presented in a hand-carved cucumber flower, the Moro Kyu featuring moro-miso with black bean was a fermented and umami delight.  Naturally, there was plenty of deep saltiness to go around, but the cucumber helped balance that off.  There was also some sweetness to go with the savouriness with this little bite.  Best of all, the crunch from the cucumber was nice texture after several courses of soft items.

Interestingly, Viv didn't know what she was eating in the Cod Milt with ooba leaf tempura and uni sauce.  I just had to have a giggle to myself about it.  This was lightly tempura fried and appealingly crispy while the milt was creamy and sweet with just a touch of the sea.  I thought the addition of uni sauce added even more seafoody sweetness.

Now in this picture, you might figure it is just a simple Miso Soup.  Yes, it was a miso soup, but with snow crab and harry crab shell infused elements.  Hence, this was intensely sweet and briny.  Furthermore, this paired well with the usual fermented umaminess of the miso soup to create depth of flavour while at the same time being naturally sweet.

Back to the nigiri, we had the Bluefin Otoro which was super fatty and buttery.  As you can tell in the picture, this was melting as it just sat there at lukewarm temperature.  That meant this literally dissolved in our mouths on contact.  The natural sweetness and appealingly fishiness came through with brightness despite the fattiness.  Good thing there was some chewy rice underneath.

The hits kept on coming with the Freshwater Eel that was butchered in-house just before being grilled and sauced.  The result was a super fresh skewer of buttery eel.  It was subtle with natural sweetness that was further enhanced by the caramelization from the grilling.  There was just enough sauce to compliment in a sweet and savoury fashion.

The top-notch ingredients continued with the A5 Wagyu Beef from the Miyazaki 
prefecture smoked with cherry blossom & black salt.  This little bite was so decadent and sinful, but also thoughtful in its simple seasoning.  The fattiness of the beef was at the forefront with aromatics and meatiness.  However, the small amount of salt added just enough seasoning to compliment the smokiness.
As if we could top any of the previous dishes, the Ikura Don with snow crab, bluefin tuna, bonito, seaweed and freshly grated wasabi was such a treat.  Naturally, the sushi rice was perfect in texture while the luxurious items on top was literally the icing.  We had the butteriness of the bluefin while the pops of the sea from the ikura added a nice brininess.  Such simplicity and it was all about the natural flavours and sweetness.

Although we'd already had some beautifully grilled freshwater eel, we were also served some tempura-fried Anago Nigiri.  Yet another example of premium ingredients prepared expertly, the eel was buttery soft while the light and crispy batter acted as a wonderful textural contrast.  Just slightly sauced, this was all about being subtle.

On the topic of simplicity, we were served a piece of Tamago next.  As basic as this is, there are so many bad versions out there.  Well, it is by no surprise that this was prepared with care.  Hence, it was fluffy, not dense and had all of the soft and velvety textures we'd expect.  Furthermore, it was sweet and delicately seasoned.

Our final savoury item was the Seafood Ramen featuring a clean and sweet broth with the intense umaminess of the freshly-shaved bonito.  We also found gold flakes that continued the luxurious theme of the meal.  With an intricate design, the kombu fan was a little surprise sitting in the broth.  As for the noodles, they were al dente with a nice chew.
Onto the dessert course, we found a Phyllo Apple Pie, White Bean Paste, Vanilla Ice Cream with raspberry sauce and Crown Melon (Japanese Musk Melon).  Everything on this plate was about simplicity (used this word many times!) and subtle flavours.  The apple pie was sweet and very light while the heaviest item was the bean paste, which was also lightly sweet.  The best part was the small piece of crown melon as it was super juicy, floral and sweet.

Lastly, we ended off this epic meal with the Green Tea Ceremony, which was part of the overall dinner theatre.  I can't stress enough how memorable this meal was.  This might sound outrageous, but the quality of the ingredients, expertise in preparation and entertainment value are probably worth more than $325.00pp.  I'm sure this will go up in price (as with everything else these days), so if you feel spendy and want to celebrate something special, Okeya Kyujiro is a Michelin-Star restaurant that is legit.  

The Good:
- Quality of the ingredients
- High level of execution
- Entertaining

The Bad:
- Well, yah it is going to cost you
- Due to the need for you to eat the food in its optimal state, each course comes pretty quickly


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