While waiting for our table, the sommelier could sense my sake snobbery from across the room. After tasting two nama sakes, he presented me with this lovely Denshin Haru Nama Junmai Ginjyo. Then he recognized me and my particular love of nama from past events and the professional course we took together. I was proud that a fellow classmate made it to this top notch restaurant. Of course Jeffrey and Allen, being regulars, already knew him and the sushi chef by name.
The omakase is so decadent and precious, where the chef gives you his favorite and freshest pieces in a well designed meal. But I still dont understand the difference between an omakase and a kaiseki. According to chowhound.com, its laughable I would even relate the two. An omakase is chefs choice based on whats fresh and his ability to read your reactions to what hes serving you, so its very important that you are seated at the sushi bar. He will keep serving you until you cry mercy but the prices vary every time based on market prices and how much you got. Kaiseki dining is super-traditional formal dining with a set course of menu items, served with a rigorous attention to detail while seated in a private traditional Japanese style zaseki room (kneeling on mats on a tatami floor). Kaiseki cooking, like omakase, also uses seasonal local ingredients but there is no interaction with the chef and no deviation from the menu. There are rules to a kaiseki meal, such as there will be at least one dish that is steamed, simmered, fried, grilled, and raw. Because of all the rules, kaiseki dining is difficult to find outside of Japan, but I will make it my mission to experience it. 15 East has kaiseki-like tasting menu that will most definitely try but I doubt it comes with all the fan-fare.
All the sakes and food were fantastic. I particularly liked the squid which is massaged for 45 minutes before its grilled and it has the same taste and mouth feel as brisket. Think about that. It was literally unbelievable. The one thing I will never forget is the sea urchin, although I have forgotten what about it this time that finally made me change my mind. Once every few years I promise to try sea urchin again with an open mind at only the best sushi restaurant hoping I will finally understand its appeal. Its almost a waste since I have never wavered until now. I dont know if it was put in a perfect balanced meal or I was just wasted by the time it came, but I really enjoyed it. I will have to go back sober and closely examine whats different this time.
Aside from the nama aperitif, the Denshin Haru Nama Junmai Ginjyo, I had the Kikuhime “Gold Sword” Junmai Special Release but I particularly enjoyed the Dewa No Yuki “Snow” Junmai Kimoto Special Release from Yamagata. My favorite Junmais are from the colder regions because they tend to be light, crisp, and clean, and less rich than the junmais.