> To find a special place to have our 11th anniversary dinner celebration, we turned to the recommendations of the Restaurant Widow, one of the many fantasticColumbusfood blogs. We turned to her Best Of list, and opted for Kihachi, a Japanese restaurant that she labeled, “the best restaurant in the city. A very traditional Japanese restaurant, catering to the Japanese palate.”
I called ahead, made a reservation, and put our fate in the hands of the chef by ordering their Omakase dinner. (Omakase is a Japanese phrase literally meaning “it’s up to you.” In the restaurant world, it’s a meal that is at the chef’s discretion.)
We expected a hip joint in downtown Columbus. (We are still very much at the mercy of our GPS as we have no idea where anything is.) Imagine our surprise (and delight) when we found ourselves in a strip mall just minutes from our house.
We walked in and were shown to a private Tatami house. We took off our shoes and climbed in to our secluded little den and waited for the feast to begin.
Calling it a feast is not doing the meal justice. For the next few hours, we had a once in a lifetime experience, a culinary voyage to the depths of Japan. We ate a total of nine courses over the next three hours, many had tastes that we had never encountered before. When we left New York, our last meal was at Nobu57, one of our favorite restaurants. This meal at Kihachi made me realize that Nobu has made a lot of concessions to the Western palate. Here at Kihachi, I truly felt as if I were eating in Japan. What an adventure!
Before I begin describing the meal, let me apologize for my neophyte descriptions of the ingredients. While I love visiting Japanese supermarkets, I am just an enthusiastic know-nothing.
We started with a trio of colorful small plates with distinctive textures. The octopus had been lightly boiled with pickled plum. A beautiful purple herb lay on top of sushi rice mounds on the second plate. And a bracingly briny geoduck clam topped with a creamy miso vinaigrette was sliced in a third bowl.
The next course was more of a composition piece, an assorted plate with foods of vastly different shapes, colors, tastes and textures. The two main characters were a dark baby octopus that had been marinated in miso and a flash fried baby pink whole sweet shrimp. Root vegetables and sea weed surrounded them, providing a variety of sweet and salty tastes that made our palates alive with the changes. I have to admit that I approached both the octopus and the shrimp with some trepidation, but both were excellent, although in very different ways. The octopus was rich and savory from the right amount of soy and miso, and the shrimp, which we ate whole, was sweet and lightly crunchy.
After that came the most elaborate tempura I’ve ever had: shrimp pate wrapped in lotus root. Soup was the following course – an intoxicating mix of eel and spongy mushroom.
Sashimi came next: unbelievably fresh fish. There was sea bream, velvety fatty tuna, Japanese Jack fish, and mackerel sandwiched between lime slices. The fresh seafood was followed by sweet caramelized pig cheeks and a soft shell crab served in a broth with tofu.
We were about to explode, struggling to finish the crab (probably the least interesting dish we had all night), when our waitress poked her head in to announce, “dinner is coming soon.” We turned to each other, certain that we had misunderstood and that dessert was soon to come, but instead she brought in a beautiful platter of sushi including a toro scallion roll.
When she next knocked on our paper door, I was scared. I just didn’t think I could eat another bite. Mercifully, she was carrying dessert. A small plate of thinly sliced poached pears with one lone dark blackberry. What an ideal way to end this incredible feast!
As we waited for the check, we replayed the meal, amazed by all we had experienced. Little by little, we both grew nervous, wondering this meal would go down in the books as not only our most exotic anniversary dinner, but also our most expensive.
Once the check arrived, we were relieved to see that the Omakase dinner was $85 per person – an incredible value for a feast of a lifetime.