After eight and half months of sugar and spice and everything nice, and an entire week of tofu for tangerine, they owed me. Even in the 11th hour, the day before the last day before the Big Day, I went there with my sleeves rolled up and ready. By a Delicious miracle of Microsoft, placecards printed on pre-cut persimmon cardstock without a hitch. They owed me big. Like Urasawa big. Instead, we went to Kiriko. It was our ancient Japanese secret, but Jimmy is going to be part of the family now. Time to let him in on it.
We parked around the corner, walked up, but the doors weren’t open yet. Kiriko opens at 6 pm on the weekdays, so we waited for fifteen minutes, amused by a gang of high school Dragonball Zs sipping boba next door. By the time the young lady inside came to turn the sign in the window around to “Open,” three more women had joined us, waiting. There was a weird feeling of quiet anxiety, sort of like waiting in front of Macy’s Friday early morning after Thanksgiving. *whisper chanting* Let us in... Let us in...
We sat down at a table in the window, the only spot lit by the almost-twilight streaming in from outside. The rest of the tiny dining room is dark, with only subtle accent lighting here. Even the sushi bar, with muted yellow overhead lighting, is darker than other restaurants that scream fluorescent blue and white. Kiriko feels quiet. It is quiet.
The non-sushi menu shows off the culinary creativity of the chef. Ume shiso shirasu pasta is angel hair with arugula, sour plums, daikon, and baby sardines. There is a Japanese mushroom risotto with marinated then seared tairagi scallops with mushroom risotto. Ceviche of shrimp, scallops, and whitefish is Ecuadorean style, and served with Japanese sweet potato chips. Even the more traditional items, in the hands of this chef, are more elegant and refined. We ordered the shishito peppers and portobello mushrooms. Peppers and mushroom slices gracefully aligned and stacked are stylishly accessorized with a pouf of shaved bonito. Served in a salty, fragrant sauce of garlic, soy and white truffle oil, the little dish was uniquely sophisticated. Tiny tender Japanese eggplant stuffed with shrimp and served with grated daikon was different from my usual order of nasu miso. Delicious.
These menu items are all very interesting and delicious, but we have come to Kiriko for sushi.
We don’t stray at all from familiar nigiri sushi of maguro, albacore, and hamachi. They are all seemingly ordinary, but the picture-perfect presentation of color and contrast against ocean blue, the precise balance of textures, and the freshness of flavor is extraordinary. Scarlet maguro has an almost imperceptible look of frost – fat that confirms, yes, fish can melt in your mouth. The sear on albacore is exact on all sides, barely there, but enough to frame a miniature fleshy canvas dotted with red and green, and striations that have been accentuated by settling ponzu sauce. Hamachi is pink, but masculine, muscular, smooth and supple. Even spicy tuna roll, as common as the supermarket, was a wonderful finishing kick.
Somewhere in time between handing the menus back to the server and launching into a symphony of *mm* and *yum*s at the table, I had a *chefstruck!* moment. My back was to the front door, but when it hissed open, for some reason, I felt the need to turn around and see who had just walked in. I whipped my head back around to the table. Ohmigod. Breathless, I tried to get Jess and Jimmy’s attention with raised eyebrows and widened-eyes, and as inconspicuously as I could, tilted my head in the couple’s direction, trying to telepathically communicate “Look!” They looked, perhaps thinking that Paris Hilton had just sashayed into Kiriko. They gave me quizzical stares. It wasn’t Paris Hilton. In fact, it wasn’t a singer, an actor, or other infamously famous celebutante. It was *dramatic pause* Raphael Lunetta.
They were confused. Who’s Raphael Lunetta? I had to *shush* them, as he and a gorgeous woman sidled up to the sushi bar not three feet away from us. Raphael Lunetta? Were they really asking me who Raphael Lunetta is?! I told them. They seemed mildly disappointed. Are you sure, Sarah? They were asking now just to humor me, because I don’t think they quite understood. Yes, yes, I am sure, as I *shush*ed them again. I was eavesdropping. Ken had just welcomed Raphael, who introduced his wife. I was absolutely chefstruck. *sigh* I'm such a dorky 12-year-old at a Timberlake concert. LOL!
Eight and half months. All worth it for Raphael Lunetta at Kiriko.
Oh alright, I might still try to cash in Urasawa.
Kiriko Sushi Restaurant
11301 Olympic Boulevard, #102
(storefront on Sawtelle)
West Los Angeles, CA 90025