To eat omakase at Kaz Sushi Bistro is to watch a little magic show--and to stretch your idea of Japanese cuisine.
In one small bowl, bites of salmon might be tossed with tabbouleh and crowned with what looks like fish roe but turns out to be tapioca beads stained with grape juice. In another course, smoked monkfish liver, rich and soft, is bound in sheer folds of daikon radish, cool and crisp. Uncooked tuna, red as raw beef, is splashed with soy sauce punched up with rosemary, a forceful herb rarely used in Japanese cooking.
Braised short ribs are a quiet comfort, but I prefer what follows: silken sable fish garnished with what your eyes tell you are peeled grapes but your taste buds might identify as gingko nuts. By the time the sushi course arrives, you shouldn't be surprised that the toro (prized fatty tuna) carries shavings of earthy black truffle and that the selection of mostly raw fish includes a bite of foie gras with clear wine jelly atop a tiny pad of rice. Dessert is a small scoop of bourbon ice cream surrounded by coffee-flavored tapioca in a martini glass. Fun!
Kazuhiro "Kaz" Okochi is a comfortable host behind the counter, fielding questions from the admirers seated in front of him--and showing no visible signs of displeasure when members of his audience commit a faux pas, such as rubbing their chopsticks together (which is considered rude) or drenching their sushi in soy sauce (which overwhelms the taste of the fish). Though I wish this restaurant passed out higher-quality towels at the beginning of the meal--these are paper and tend to rip as you use them--I'm pleased to see its pickled ginger is natural beige rather than dyed pink. Like a sorbet between savory courses, the ginger serves as a palate freshener between bites of different fish.
-- Tom Sietsema (April 24, 2005)