Friday, January 26, 2007


There are trillions of Japanese restaurants around here. Castro St. in Mountain View has a brand new Japanese kinda place. Apparently the cuisine is from Kyoto and is called koryori. The menu features great sakes and soju, and some "sake-specific" dishes. But it's not an izakaya (pub). The dishes are more refined.

Luckily, Jane, (the friend that embarked upon the gustatory expedition), and I share two important and delightful propensities: 1) Daring when it comes to food, 2) Tendency to over-order.

We started with something that was called "Crab Butter" or "Kani Miso" on the menu. This was a sake-centered dish:

I'm not sure what this crab butter actually was, but it was extremely fishy tasting. Jane didn't like it, but I thought that the crab butter with a bit of scallion and lemon peel cutting through it was all right. What is called crab butter is usually the white-yellow fat inside the back of the shell of a crab. It's a delicacy and I've seen it in recipes as well. It's also called "tomalley." I'm pretty sure that this was at least partially flavored by that tomalley.


"Kani miso (カニみそ), is a grey/green coloured paste, and usually you’ll get a good-sized spoonful or two from a single crab. Ask a Japanese person what they think kani miso is and more often then not the word ‘nou miso’ (脳みそ) will come up (i.e. crab’s brain). However this is a common misconception.

The truth is far more horrific, the brain size of an average size crab is little more than that of a pea, and kani miso is whatever is left after all the white meat is taken out of the crab - a nasty looking concoction of internal organs such as livers and pancrease, intestines, their contents and just a little bit of the actual brain."

The taste of kani miso really isn't terribly different from eating the "brains/guts" or "butter" of a cooked lobster or prawn head, if you are into that flavor."

I'm pretty into it...

Here was our sake. I love the presentation:

It was the cheapest bottle on the menu ($23), a decent Junmai with smooth flavors after chilling down.

Our appetizer was sesame tofu and shrimp wrapped in yuba (tofu-skin) and deep fried.

This was very subtly flavored and utterly delicious. The sesame tofu held it's shape and was almost mochi like with a richer taste than normal tofu. I would order this again and again.

Miso cod:

I've never had bad miso marinated cod, it's just a perfect marriage of flavors. This one was great, seared quickly, with a slight char. The daikon in the front was served with some unidentifiable roe. The little bowl held sweet black beans. That seemed unnecessary and they weren't very flavorful.

Stewed Beef Tongue:

This was the first time I'd had beef tongue, but this was old hat for Jane. Those pieces are a lot larger than you can see. They were extremely tender, no stringy bits, lovely pieces of meat and didn't taste anything like I imagine tongue to taste. It was topped with shredded green onions and very fine bits of red pepper skin. The broth was subtly beef flavored and slightly sweet.

Deep Fried Sardines with Ume and Shiso

Lightly fried, the ume (sour plum) cut the fat in this fry perfectly. It's like eating cornichons/gherkins with charcuterie.

Anko Nabe (Monkfish in Broth)

This broth was served over flame that kept it warm. Light and soothing but not remarkable. It reminded me of my mother's soups.

This is when Jane and I really went berserk. We ended up ordering three desserts and they were all exemplary.

Green Tea Blanc Mange

This blanc mange was a very rich and fluffy custard. The matcha green tea powder sprinkled over the top was beautiful and the cherries actually complemented the green tea. Who knew?

Brown Sugar Ice Cream

These unassuming scoops packed a wallop of intense brown sugar flavor. It wasn't creamy and was more like a Brown Sugar sorbet. If it had been real cream it might have been too rich. This was by far my favorite dessert, and I think I'm going to try making this myself with my ice cream maker.

Strawberry, Mochi and Red Bean Crepe

Exactly as the title says, this was subtly sweet. The crepe might have just been a bit too oily.

As you can see, the decor is elegant and spacious:

For higher end Japanese, I would choose this over Kaygetsu in Menlo Park. I realize that Kaygetsu offers a different experience, (Kaiseki and a sushi bar). This was more adventurous, equally high quality, much cheaper (9 courses and sake was about $60/person!), and the menu was more extensive than Kaygetsu's.

I don't think that NamiNami offers a full sushi bar, but they definitely have sashimi and sushi type dishes.

I am definitely going back. There were multiple uni dishes: uni croquettes, uni ochazuke, uni sashimi dishes.... I gots to try those!


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