Japanese Isakaya-style restaurants are among my favorites.
They’re always full and people talk and shout while eating…
They are comfortable and intimate … Neither the customers nor the waiters put on an air…
The prices are affordable … People often socialize there after work…
They resemble the bistros and brasseries of the French…
And in some ways the tapas bars of the Spaniards…
And the enoteche of the Italians …
Most of all, though, they resemble Turkish meyhanes!
We felt a little bit intimidated when we first saw the isayakas under the railroad in Ginza in Tokyo, but it wasn’t long before we abandoned our touristic hesitance! We exited one of them with great joy after gathering up the courage to enter.
And we’ve continued to frequent them after our initial experience.
Kusakabe in San Francisco is also an isakaya, but it looks nothing like the ones in Tokyo.
It only has five tables and a bar!
And a Michelin star!
The Japanese exhibit their rich cuisine with various nuances outside their homeland.
Teppanyaki and shabu shabu restaurants are popular in the States and Germany, while sushi restaurants abound in France.
The cornerstones of the cuisine are the same: Rice, soy and seafood.
The taste is diversified and enhanced in accordance with the creativity of the chef.
In my opinion, this “differentiating richness” is how they surpass the cuisines of the Italian and French.
The set menu at Kusakabe is omakase – which means whatever the chef serves!
What the chef served up was enough to show how much this mongrel of an isakaya deserved its Michelin star.
Everything we were served, from the caviar to the truffle, were sumptuous dishes made with masterfully blended ingredients.
And, naturally, they came with very elegant, simple and delightful presentations.
The Shigoku oyster with French Daurenki caviar was especially delectable enough to make the French jealous, while the Ezo Awabi Tempura with sea urchin soba risotto could put the Italians to shame.
The only thing I can’t get used to in Japanese restaurants is chopsticks.
I’m opposed to them for two reasons.
First of all, I haven’t been able to get the hang of them despite all these years. I can’t do something even my 3-year-old granddaughter has mastered!
Second, I don’t consider them attractive. Do you like it when people eat things that should be cut into pieces with a knife but chew through them with difficulty?
Thankfully, they don’t force anyone to use them and give you cutlery if you ask for it!
But when you finish your set menu at Kusakabe (with either your chopsticks or a knife and fork)… What if you’re still hungry? Omakase consists of eight different dishes, but each is as small as birdseed!
They only offer the à la carte menu to those who are still hungry or want to sample different dishes after they finish the set menu… Only then do you finally get the freedom to choose the dish you want!
And the chef seeing you off by shouting at you is like just another thing to savor on the dessert menu…