2 big HO’s and a little HO gathered tonight to try out OzaOza, the newish kaiseki restaurant in Japantown that replaced Kappa, the Kyo-ryori restaurant when the owner retired last year and Chef Ozawa-san and wife Gana took over the space. Chef Ozawa-san hails from Kyoto, the birthplace of Kaiseki and is trained in classical kaiseki techniques, before he made his way to San Francisco 9 years ago. The chef and his wife Gana ran the entire restaurant, with Ozawa-san doing all the cooking and Gana managing the dining room. The restaurant seats 9 at the counter around the chef station, and is very intimate and conducive to conversations.
The menu changes each month and like all kaiseki meals, uses the ingredients of the seasons. The chef brings all the elements of the meals together to create a very harmonic experience. The chef ships certain Japanese ingredients from Japan, and the rest he sources from farmers’ markets on Clement, Civic Center, Daly City, etc.
Its great that of all HOs and hounds, @charliemyboy decided to join the meal. He had previous experiences with Wakuriya and so provided good comparisons between the two kaiseki restaurants. I haven’t been to Wakuriya, so I’ll comment on the meal based on my observations tonight. In general, the tastes were very subtle. The meal peaked towards the end with the sunomono and wagyu dishes.
Sakizuke (small appetizer)- sesame tofu mixed with fava bean, lily bulb, wasabi. Mildly sweet ‘tofu’ made with sesame in a more pronounced broth made with bonito seasoned with shoyu (details a little fuzzy already, if I remember incorrectly, please correct). The wasabi here was, like the rest of the meal, subtle and restrained.
Hassun (seasonal appetizer)- from top left, clockwise:
Stewed wagyu, with sugar, soy sauce and ginger(?). The wagyu was ‘pulled’ and shredded. Mildly sweet and savory. Pretty delicious.
Squid legs with spicy cod roe. Squid was tender with the cod roe added just a tiny bit of heat to add flavor. Enjoyable.
Bamboo shoot with a pepper bud miso. The pepper bud miso add a savory component to the bamboo shoot.
Tamago (layered egg cake) was served with I think a shoyu based and slightly sweet sauce.
Fried baby shrimp. Ate the whole thing. While not unique, it was sweet and savory.
Snap pea with fermented soybean. The subtlety of the fermented soybean was a bit underappreciated by me since I only got to eat one of the soybeans before the kid finished the rest. But I think @charliemyboy said he enjoyed them.
Grilled sand borer with egg yolk. I forgot to ask but it seemed like the sand borer was dried before grilling. The kid ate most of it so I only remember I enjoyed the small piece I ate.
A little bit of molecular gastronomy here? with the roe jelly of red snapper. Basically a cube of less of a jelly to me but more of a formed/ thickened paste that tasted of the mild sweetness of the red snapper.
Nimonowan (soup). Soup with red rockfish, freeze dried bean curd, wheat bran, brocollini. Refreshing and palate cleaning.
Mukouzuke (sashimi). Bonito wrapped around shiso leaves, radishes and some microgreens. The shiso leaves added an interesting cool minty counterpoint to the warmer savory tones of the bonito and shoyu. Wild red snapper sitting on a shiso leaf and a bed of shaved radish underneath. Cherry trout on the right.
Yakimono (grilled dish)- grilled king mackerel and butterbur with pickled. Well grilled, with a little bit of char and skin slightly crisped up and tender flesh inside. Personal preference is a softer flakier fish.
Sunomono (vinegared dish). Loved this dish with the vinegar providing a great punch that brought the rest of the dish- the fire fly squid, ice fish, cucumber and radish with a bit of sauce made with egg yolk- to life.
Supplemental wagyu beef steak. The fatty wagyu got a complex flavor boost from the wasabi radish with a highly aromatic crispy deep fried garlic slice sitting on top. Its meant to be devoured together. Glad to get this and I liked this dish.
Osyokuji (rice, miso soup and pickles). The fatty tuna, mountain yam and pickle stirred together. I made the mistake of adding the shoyu before tasting the combination first so the taste was mainly from the shoyu (they use Kikkoman). The sake kasu, leftover from sake production, added a sweet-savory dimension to elevate the miso soup. Very delicious.
Mizumono (dessert). Sweet red bean along with mochi with a cherry leaf wrapped around. Mild sweetness from the redbean.
The whole kaiseki meal was $100 plus the $25 wagyu supplement. Had a glass of chilled Kokoryu sake. In general, I thought it was a reasonably-priced kaiseki experience in San Francisco, with the ingredients carefully and skillfully prepared, subtly seasoned, and artfully (but not overly so) presented. The team created a very warm, welcoming and comfortable environment for a harmonic meal where the components ranged from ok to great. While not transcendent, it was quite enjoyable with good conversations about food and everything else. Just the right group size for a kaiseki HO-down.