Mr. H decided to surprise me with an after-the-holidays dinner, and I was surprised when he chose Kobe. I've never heard of the place, but was glad he picked it since sushi was on the brain. Kobe is mainly a Japanese restaurant and also offers the teppenyaki steakhouse experience. The timing of our visit came perfectly since I had just visited a more popular teppenyaki establishment the night before (see Benihana).
The restaurant is beautifully decorated, true to the minimal oriental style that many Asian restaurants ascribe to. Not quite upscale, but clean, dim and decorative. Spacious, with the entrance boasting a quaint bar which is open to the front, but closed off from the rest of the circular dining space surrounding it. To the left they offer regular dining tables and booths, and in the rear/ behind the bar are the teppenyaki tables. Since we were here for sushi, we took a seat at a nice booth adorned with a round, oriental-style paper lantern hanging above. So very cute.
We were notably hungry, and were eager to order. We spent quite a bit of time reviewing the menu, and I found myself getting a bit excited over the options and prices. Sometimes, (especially with teppenyaki steakhouse dining, japanese or just sushi) the prices are intimidating to the average wage slave. But these prices were reasonable, and I was pleased to see the sushi was affordable. The menu is smart, not offering too little or too many options and also offering many authentic Japanese plates. Such as; Ika Sansai -basically grilled squid topped with sweet eel sauce, or the Ika Shogayaki- the same except BBQ'd with ginger sauce. Also the Negimaki (beef or chicken rolled around scallions), Unadon (grilled eel donburi rice bowl), Yakisoba (the staple Japanese noodle dish), tako su (octopus salad) and plenty of Bento Boxes on lunch special. They also boast many Kobe beef dishes ; a burger and tartare alike (hence the name.)
We decided on a few appetizers and lots of sushi. First up were the crab puffs (cream cheese with crab wonton - $5.) I know this is pretty basic and not very Japanese, but we had to try them and I'm pleased we did!
These are the single best wontons I've had ANYWHERE. The wonton itself is the best part. Instead of being crumbly/flaky/too crunchy, it is solid and crispy like a good quality chip. You can taste a hint of oil, but they aren't oily. I found myself dipping the 4 points into the the sweet, salty and spicy red sauce, then biting them off individually. The cream cheese inside is rich, but the crab flavor really popped.. A rarity with these things. Luscious, crispy and sweet - a true delight. The only downfall is that there was only like 5 of these and you'll want about 20 of them.
2 pieces of Flounder ($2.50 per piece-the ones pinkish in color) and one piece of Yellowtail sushi (also $2.50.)
I love me some Yellowtail because it possesses a mild, yet concentrated flavor. I think of it as "medium" sushi, because it is not too light, or too oily and heavy (think mackarel.) Keeping true to that rating system, the Flounder would be categorized as "light" sushi. Very pleasant and mild, with a texture that of firm butter. I loved it, and at Kobe it tasted fresh. The fish pieces are generous and thick! The only thing that had me confused was the wait time. These 3 pieces took around 15 minutes to come out. We also ordered a piece of scallop sushi, and it came out about 10 minutes after these....
Scallop Sushi ($2.50, and I could not get a good pic of it.)
This was Mr. H's favorite, but unfortunately it was my least. The raw scallop texture is indeed soft, but I found it a bit too slippery for my tastes. It also tasted very fishy, with the sweet and light notes in the background. It also overpowered the rice, as the piece on top was very large. Not sure if this just how raw scallops are, but I did not enjoy it.
The Kill Bill Roll (Blue crab, spicy tuna and avocado inside, topped with red and green tobiko - $10)I'm not sure if there is a reason for the color scheme here and I don't care. It was delicious. Very simple and clean flavors of the tuna (although not very spicy), and velvety chunks of avocado. It was with this roll I experienced the most incredible of texture experiences. You get the soft soft of the tuna and avocado against the sticky rice, but the real show stopper is the crab. Right under your molars, you get a little nugget of crumbly tempura crab. Tempura is so delicately crispy, which is why it's often filled with soft things. The textural contrast isn't extreme; rather it's so slight that it takes a quick sense to catch it. And when it's caught; it is EXTREMELY satisfying. Followed with delightful pops of tobiko in your teeth and on your tongue, you're in texture nirvana.
Ika Sansai ($6)
I am not a calamari fan, and I don't understand why people even eat the stuff. In my opinion, the fried aspect overtakes the delicate flavor and distinct texture of squid. I'm not well versed in squid, but found this to be an honorable representation of squid. The texture itself is toothsome and meaty. The taste itself is earthy, combined with sweet notes provided by the sweet eel sauce. I like to think of this as "octopus light". While I am not a fan of mushrooms, this reminded me of them. But I still really enjoyed this. Side note: do NOT attempt to eat the tentacles, as they are muscle-y and chewy and not at all meant to be eaten.
Mr. H wasn't satisfied yet, and decided he wanted some Ika sushi (raw squid - $2.50 a piece.)
I am pretty sure this is pronounced "ee-kah", but after Mr. H tried it he said he thinks it's pronounced "ick-ah" because he hated it. He said it was rubbery, and the little lines you see in the fish seemed to contain kind of stringy hairs. I would recommend this to any adventurous eater!
Since this was an Obento-Ya type experience, I felt compelled to try dessert, and we opted for the Tempura Ice Cream ( $4.)
Along with this, we were served 2 VERY hot plates. I wondered why in the world they would bring out a plate so hot? The reason why is because the ice cream inside is super frozen and very hard to spoon through. I found this out when the thing was almost gone, completely depriving myself of the true tempura ice cream experience. Next time - cut in half, assemble on hot plate, and wait a few minutes. Then: eat and enjoy crunchy creaminess.
Absolutely awesome. Just go here (and not Benihana, please.)