And to top off our epic day, we had a seriously epic dinner at Kahala. Jared first heard about this restaurant through the site Chubby Hubby. Reading his post on Kahala made us salivate over the food photos. We knew we wanted to try the same stuff. The good thing about food blogs is that you can gain insight on what is good and what is bad. Though most of posts are subjective, it can give you a good idea on the restaurants you would like to try. It is definitely also convenient to look up local food bloggers in the area you are visiting and see what they recommend. I guess that might take the adventurous part of traveling out of never knowing what to expect from a restaurant you find off the street. This method is pretty hit or miss, and in most of our past experiences, it's a miss. And especially since our time in Japan was so incredibly short, Jared wanted to make the most of it and tried getting reservation at Kahala, a cult restaurant made famous by celebrity chef Tetsuya Wakuda. From the post we found out they only seat 8 people per session and 2 serving sessions a nigh, which pretty much means that reservations are really hard to get, especially in the city where the phrase "kuidaore", or eat till you drop is widely used.
1 month before our trip, Jared called Kahala and luckily there was an open spot for the day we wanted to visit. The restaurant staff speaks English, so that is a plus. Especially trying to make reservations through the phone 2000 miles apart. (FYI, it is better to purchase a phone card to call internationally since AT&T; charged him 10 dollars to make a phone call lasting only a few minutes.)
Our reservation was for 8:40 pm. They tell you have to be on time but anytime earlier, you are not allowed into the restaurant. So to not chance on being late, we took a taxi. We gave the driver the map and he was a little confused on the locale, even though he is staring at the map with the address and he has a GPS in his car. (I really miss taxis in Malaysia and Singapore, they really seem to know their way around the city). Ten minutes later, we pulled into a tiny street filled with bars and restaurant and businessmen and their escorts prowling the streets. (If you've been to Japan and walked around at night, you know what I'm talking about!!) We arrived 10 mins early, but the door was locked. Though, you could hear people inside laughing and talking and having a good time. We decided to wait outside and people-watch for the time being.
It wasn't until 9:15 were we able to go in. We climbed up the narrow stairs to the second floor into a room no bigger than a normal hallway with 8 chairs facing a tepanyakki grill. No wonder they wouldn't let us in before our appointment, it was so narrow and cramped in there. You couldn't possibly fit 1 more person! The restaurant is dimly lit besides the bar lights above each of our seats, and is sparsely decorated by some flowers and lacquer ware, which we found out later is another hobby of the master chef's.
After everyone was situated, our waiter/chef/bar tender/probably dish washer (they do everything here) gave us a glass of chilled ice wine. We could both taste that this was no ordinary wine, the kyohou grape flavor was so intense with the proper sweetness of ice wine. This must be the best ice wine we have ever tasted- ridiculously clean and crisp. (FYI, kyohou grapes in Japan can sell for 50+ USD a bunch, more about this on a later post). Jared asked our server for the name of the wine, and then our server took out what looked to be a jug of moonshine- much like the ones you see in Prohibition photos (ha!). We were told this ice wine was made especially for Kahala by an unnamed Osaka distillery, and not available for retail. What a shame because we would have bought back 2 jugs worth. So we drank that glass to the last drop. I still dream about that glass of wine...
When the the next dish came out as a platter, our waiter told us that Chef Yoshifumi Mori makes his own lacquerware as a hobby. All the lacquered dishes we ate on that night was hand made by him. The entire restaurant truly felt designed and crafted by this single chef.
First off, the plate was gorgeous to look at- almost too pretty to eat. We tried the frog leg first. it was seasoned well and as the clichéd phrase goes, it tasted like chicken. Moving on to the tuna, you could taste the lime scent on the fresh tuna from the reverse lime bowl. The ham was really nice and flavorful paired with the mild cheese. In most of these dishes, the fresh ingredients are showcased by the cooking method and not masked by sauces. You can taste each of the ingredients used, which is sometimes lost in Western cooking.
The fried potato chain is no small feat. Using a single block of potato, it was cut and trimmed to form an inter-locking chain with no breaks in the chain at all. I didn't want to eat it because it must have taken a long time to carve. Imagine doing this for 16 people per night. Unbelievable!
Chef Yoshifumi Mori came out and cooked each portion himself. This is the best way to cook such high quality beef. A quick sear on high heat for roughly 10 seconds on each side. The outer layers are cooked, but the inner layers are still rare. You can really taste the fat in the beef as it melts in your mouth. It was so tender and flavorful. We were told there are 2 ways of eating this, one is to dip it in ponzu sauce with grated daikon and chives or to eat it with fresh grated wasabi and soy. No matter which way we dipped, it was excellent none the less.
Tel: 06 6345 6778