Sunday, May 05, 2024

K's Bistro (Costa Mesa, CA)

K's Bistro
735 Baker St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Sun 05/05/2024, 07:25p-10:30p

K's Bistro Exterior

A little while back, I was on the prowl for a new sushi omakase spot in OC, and stumbled across K's Bistro. It's the creation of Shoji Hijiya, who's perhaps best known as the Chef/Owner of Kanpai in Westchester. Born in September 1963, the Shiga Prefecture native immigrated to the Los Angeles area in 1985 and cut his teeth in Bel Air before opening Kanpai Sushi Bar & Grill in June 2003, in partnership with Miho Okamura and Sayuri Hijiya. The place was a hit, and eventually spawned a second Westchester location (April 2015), as well as an outpost in Santa Monica (February 2019). K's Bistro, meanwhile, grand-opened on May 19th last year, and its success actually resulted in the original restaurant being renamed K's Bistro by Kanpai back in September.

K's Bistro Interior
K's Bistro takes over the former home of Kazunari Kobayashi's longstanding Ikko, which shuttered in early 2023. The restaurant features the same layout, but the decor has been dressed up a tad. Shown above is the view from my seat at the rightmost position of the sushi bar. That's my itamae Stanley-san (an alum of both the original and second Kanpai) in the middle of the photo, while on the left is Riichi-san.

K's Bistro Menu: Appetizers, Grilled, Deep Fried Tempura, Rice & Soup K's Bistro Menu: Sushi, Special Sashimi, Kushi, Dessert K's Bistro Menu: Rolls, Special Rolls K's Bistro Specials Menu
As for the menu, it's centered on sushi (both proper and American-style rolls), but also features an array of cooked/appetizer dishes and a decent-sized kushiyaki lineup. The omakase is priced at $100, while the "special" omakase (the subject of this report) is $150. Click for larger versions.

K's Bistro Beer List, Sake List, Shochu List & Beverage List K's Bistro Wine List K's Bistro Premium Limited Sake List
Beverage-wise, you get a handful of Japanese beers, shochu, a small wine list, and a decent selection of sake, including some more limited bottlings. Corkage is $30. Click for larger versions.

K's Bistro Place Setting
A basic place setting greets you at the bar.

Hirame Carpaccio
1: Hirame Carpaccio
The evening's first course was a halibut carpaccio, a dish that I feel shows up a lot at Orange County sushi spots. Nevertheless, it was a pretty effective start, with the tender slices of flounder pairing well with a tangy ponzu-based dressing and pricks of yuzukosho-fueled heat.

2023 Hatsukame 'Ai' Daiginjo (初亀 愛 大吟醸)
To drink, I opted for a bottle of the limited edition 2023 Hatsukame "Ai" Daiginjo (初亀 愛 大吟醸) [$150], which comes to us from the city of Fujieda in Shizuoka Prefecture. The sake was crafted from Yamada Nishiki rice sourced from Hyogo, polished to a seimaibuai of 40%. Aromas here featured fresh, fleeting fruit backed by a ricey umami. Taking a sip, I found the brew rather invigorating, with bananas and bubble gum up front, while a spicy alcoholic heat came in later and lingered.

2: Zensai
A plate containing four small appetizers was then presented. Counterclockwise from the lower-right:
  • Slick, fatty cuts of salmon were crowned with a surprisingly "pickle-y" homemade relish, though the raw onion was even more effective as a counterpoint to the lushness of the fish.
  • A potato salad was dressed with olive oil and pepper, though I would've liked it creamier and tangier.
  • Kinpira gobo showed off a really satisfying savoriness and crunch.
  • Tofu skin and spinach were prepared in what seemed like an ohitashi-like manner, and I appreciated how the bitterness of the veggie played with the loads of umami from its broth.
Fresh Wasabi, Gari
The arrival of hon wasabi [$3] and ginger signaled the start of the nigiri portion of the meal.

3: Amaebi
Sweet shrimp had that snappy-creamy consistency I was looking for, but needed a heftier application of soy and wasabi. Meanwhile, that deep-fried head was spot-on, and was as satisfying as always.

4: Kinmedai
Golden eye snapper (a.k.a. splendid alfonsino) is one of my preferred sushi neta, and it was a nice change of pace to see it in a non-seared presentation today. The fish was delightfully textured, and I enjoyed the accents provided by both the shiso and yuzukosho, but again, I wanted a heavier dosing of soy to up the umami factor.

5: Mirugai
Jumbo clam (geoduck) featured a crunchy, yet yielding consistency, along with a growing, potent brine.

6: Chawanmushi
The requisite egg custard made for a cozy interlude, and I was particularly smitten by its inclusion of some super robustly-flavored boiled shrimp.

7: Engawa
Halibut fin was definitely a highlight. I loved its initially supple texture, but which got chewier towards the finish. Also key was the fish's charring, which worked hand-in-hand with the piquancy of that kizami wasabi.

8: Sunomono
A vinegared salad comprising cucumber, myoga, seaweed, and what I believe was satoimo served as a zingy palate cleanser.

9: Tairagai
Pen-shell clam demonstrated a pleasingly tender-but-crunchy texture, while its clean, creeping brine was offset by citrus and the sushi-meshi. And speaking of the rice, it tended to be on the cooler, more neutral side, not drawing attention to itself, though at times, I wanted to see more aggressive use of vinegar.

10: Nodoguro
Akamutsu (blackthroat seaperch) is my favorite fish, so I was happy to see it on the menu tonight. I reveled in the interplay between the fish's fatty, luxurious character and its sear, all while the yuzukosho offered up a long-lingering heat.

11: Tarabagani
What I believe was truffle butter complemented the sweetness of Alaskan king crab without getting in the way.

Uni, Ikura, Shiro Ebi
12: Uni, Ikura, Shiro Ebi
Tongues of Hokkaido sea urchin were as luscious as I expected, their sweet salinity marrying easily with the stronger brine of salmon roe, all while the white shrimp and rice softened the flavors at play. The amount of soy and wasabi utilized was just right, too--a definite crowd pleaser.

Kamatoro no Tataki
13: Kamatoro no Tataki
Taken from the cheek of the tuna, kama toro is a relatively rare sight at sushi-ya, so it was a treat to have it tonight. The fish was meltingly tender, its unabashedly fatty, super savory qualities linking up rather well with the overarching musk of truffle, all while the shari toned things down a notch.

2023 Juyondai 'Honmaru' Hiden-Dama-Gaeshi Tokubetsu Honjozo (十四代 本丸 秘伝玉返し 特別本醸造)
It's not often that you get to have some 2023 Juyondai "Honmaru" Hiden-Dama-Gaeshi Tokubetsu Honjozo (十四代 本丸 秘伝玉返し 特別本醸造) [$100] by the carafe, so I felt compelled to order it. Note that this was the shinshu (新酒), hon namazake (本生酒) version of the "cult" sake, made back in December and just recently released by producer Takagi Shuzo (高木酒造) out of Murayama, Yamagata Prefecture. On the nose, I found this minty at first blush, its bouquet of fresh, almost floral fruit very sophisticatedly presented. The palate was thick and velvety, its flavors of cotton candy and banana making for a bold, yet eminently refreshing brew with a palpable depth and just enough umami. Superb.

Tako no Kunsei
Supplement: Tako no Kunsei [$4.00]
Octopus had just enough chew to it, and its subdued salinity worked beautifully with the mouthwateringly smoky notes of its charred exterior. A surprise standout.

Negitoro Maki
14: Negitoro Maki
Tuna and green onion paired like clockwork here, and I was especially impressed with the nori, which ate wonderfully crispy and grassy.

Asari no Ushiojiru
15: Asari no Ushiojiru
Clams made for a great addition to a smoky, savory, comforting clear soup.

Supplement: Kasugodai [$10.00]
Wild young sea bream possessed the best texture of any fish tonight, and I loved its refined, robust flavors, which melded seamlessly with that dab of yuzukosho on top.

Wagyu Yukke
Supplement: Wagyu Yukke [$15.00]
A Japanese take on Korean yukhoe delivered, its mustard-y, savory notes effectively evened out by all those greens.

Sake Chazuke
Supplement: Sake Chazuke [$15.00]
The ochazuke was one of the better versions I've had. I was especially enamored with how well that smoky, fatty salmon and the dish's nutty notes combined with the tea. A properly homey closer.

16: Sakuramochi
Dessert duties were handled by Kanto-style sakura mochi, which fused sugary red bean flavors with an elegant touch of floral. Just lovely.

K's Bistro is a worthy addition to the Southland's mid-priced omakase sushi scene, which I feel is a domain that Orange County excels in. I appreciated the range of neta utilized, as well as the option of venturing more into some cooked, izakaya-style dishes. In fact, I wouldn't mind returning sometime to give the rest of the menu a go, especially those kushiyaki skewers.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home