[Redwood City] Ogiku 大菊- Lunch kaiseki with Kevin DeBruyne?!

Ogiku belongs to the same group that runs/ ran Sumika the izakaya in Los Altos, Iroriya the robata-ya in Santa Clara, Orenchi the ramen shop in Santa Clara. Ogiku actually took over the space that used to be Orenchi in Redwood City. It opened last year, and offered kaiseki dinners. Recently it started doing lunch hours the week we went (late March) and offered ‘lunch kaiseki’, which is a kaiseki with fewer courses (they said three) that took about 1.5 hours during lunch.

I suppose lunch-kaiseki itself is an oxymoron and kaiseki is typically dinner. Kaiseki follows some form of progression. According to Wikipedia, the order is roughly: sakizuke (app), hassun (sushi), mukozuke (sashimi), takiawase (veg), futamono (soup), yakimono (grilled), suzakana (palate cleanser), suimono (soup), hiyashi-bachi (veg), naka-choko (light soup), shiizakana (hot pot), gohan (rice), ko no mono (pickled veg), tomewan (miso soup), mizumono (dessert). I am listing all of these to help me mentally see how closely the progression of the abbreviated lunch adheres to the usual form, since kaiseki is definitely much more than 3 courses as they said their lunch kaiseki was.

Chef Yasuo Hara hails from Tokyo. Since we chose to sit at the chef’s counter, we saw his prep right in front of us. If one in your groups speak Japanese, I think you will get a lot more color about the meal from the chef, as sometimes its a bit difficult to translate kaiseki-speak into English.

Our menu:

First plate, which contains the sakizuki, an appetizer of sesame tofu with a dallop of sashimi on top, mukozuke, sashimi of bluefin tuna and rockfish, and futamono, a shrimp dumpling soup, all served at the same time. They made their own tosa soy sauce. I enjoyed the bluefin the most. Tofu was silky smooth.

Next up was a big plate of many items, clockwise from upper left:
Yakimono- wagyu beef from Kagoshima with endives, accompanied by the colorless soy sauce from the container in the bottom right of the picture.
Yakimono again- grilled sea bass with yuzu miso sauce,
Taro with dengaku (eggplant) miso,
Hassun (kind of, except the plate)- thin slice of hokkaido kombu seaweed on the mackarel yam sushi.
The container at the bottom left is snow crab egg custard.

Sorry, pictures are blurry. The wagyu could probably be grilled a tad more, though some might prefer it more raw. The citrusy yuzu miso was a bit on the fruity side. I liked the savory dengaku miso a lot though I never was a taro guy.

Gohan- rice with grilled eel, mitsuba green with ricecracker. One could eat the rice and the eel first, then pour the soup into the rice. The eel was well cooked.

Kō no mono- pickled vegetable at the bottom.

Mizumono (dessert)- red bean ice cream tart with strawberry. Subtly seasoned- neither too sweet (like many store-brought Japanese sweets are), but not bland either. First eat the icecream, then eat the tart crust.

The chef with his great knife skills. He made it look easy peeling the daikon into sheets, then rolled it back up for later use.

Overall, the meal largely followed the kaiseiki format, but simplified. Because of time and price constraints they served many components at the same time, so traditionalists may prefer more the elaborate dinner kaiseki where the chef can control the flavor progression better with individual dishes (presumably) and palate cleansers.

The flavors here are very subtle. Ogiku isn’t a place to come and look for big, bold flavors. Rather, its a meal that’s quite restrained in its use of seasoning. ‘Blink and you may miss it’. Its a bit hard to make any definitive assessment about Ogiku. I think one really needs to do the dinner kaiseki to be more conclusive.

We didn’t actually eat with Kevin DeBruyne the ManCity player. But I couldn’t help but chuckle that our server looked just like Kevin DeBruyne. I showed him the photo and he had a laugh as well. But our Japanese-speaking server was knowledgeable about the menu and took the time to explain to us the details about the ingredients and prep.

The hallway that leads from the door to the chef’s counter, with private rooms on the right:

The same triangular Orenchi space, from 7 years ago:

The door, which took a little bit of effort to find.