You always remember your first time…
I remembered the first time the BF tried and fell in love with sushi and sashimi. I was with him when he tried his first piece and I still remember everything about that moment with perfect clarity despite it having taken place so long ago.
Since then, sushi has been his favorite food and he is always wanting to eat sushi. So I sort of created a monster when I introduced him to sushi. Those of you who are long time readers of my blog know that I have not had the same love affair with sushi.
For years, it was something I ate, but I didn’t particularly love. My sushi was also limited to cooked fish only as I did not like the taste of raw fish. Gradually, BF rubbed off on me. I experimented and tried sashimi from time to time, but it still wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed and my range of sashimi that I would eat was pretty limited.
Then about a year and a half ago, I stumbled upon Sushi Kaito, a tiny sushi joint in Encinitas. I had read amazing things about this place: the fresh fish flown in from all parts of the world, the experienced sushi chefs. I was excited to take BF to the place because I knew it would be something he would love. However,the night ended up being more memorable for me because it was my first time really truly enjoying sashimi. With the help of Sushi Chef Joe, I was able get a better understanding of my sushi palate and I was able to taste some extremely tasty sashimi. You can read my post here.
After our wonderful visit, we always knew we’d be back, but it’s taken a long time to make our way back. Encinitas is a little far of a drive and in the opposite direction of our usual hang outs. It’s also closed on Sundays, which is usually our free day to have a long meal out.
When we finally made our way to Sushi Kaito, everything was just how I remembered it had been the last time we were there. We were seated at the sushi bar, since we had called ahead to make reservations (I highly recommend doing this because it is a tiny place.)
Sushi Kaito has a menu you can order from. If you’ve read the yelp reviews, a lot of people recommend the omakase experience which is basically letting the chef choose your meal.
We opted for more of a hybrid of the two. We didn’t use the menu, but instead relied on recommendations from the chef (most of which were fishes not on the menu). We didn’t completely leave it up to the chef though, since he asked us what we wanted each time before serving us our food.
We were told they had fresh scallop, so that is what we started with.
Chef Joe prepared it two ways: one raw and one stir fried. I haven’t been a big fan of raw scallop in the past. I don’t really like the texture and always feel like the scallop flavor you experience eating a cooked one isn’t as apparent in the raw version. But this raw scallop was very fresh and full of flavor. I really enjoyed this and didn’t mind the texture at all. BF preferred the cooked version.
Next we had toro. BF and I both really enjoy toro. The fatty belly section of tuna is very flavorful and melts in your mouth. When I took a bite of this toro, it made all the other toros I previously ate completely pale in comparison. This toro was amazing.. Bursting with flavor, melting in my mouth. This was my favorite bite of the night. I wish I could eat this kind of quality toro all the time.
All of the sushi served to us was already seasoned with sauce so that we didn’t need the soy sauce and wasabi. The sauce created by the chef was perfect in my opinion, complementing the rice and fish. When you dip sushi in soy sauce, the salty flavor of the soy sauce often takes away from the taste of the fish.
I don’t remember the next fish we had. I just remember it was a little out of my palate range.
Our next sushi was the barracuda.
The fish skin was seared and seasoned. The salty and citrusy skin was very flavorful.
Next we requested clam. On our first visit, we had an amazing clam dish, with three different types of clam flown in from different places. This time it was just served with rice. I didn’t enjoy this clam as much as the previous one I had.
Next we tried the red snapper. The skin here was also seasoned, creating a salty flavor that paired well with the fish.
After this, Chef Joe told us he wanted to prepare a special dish for us. Of course we agreed. He prepared a fish tempura, using small silver fish from Japan. He said that these are only in season now. They chip at the ice and dig a hole to get these fish during the winter.
The tempura was nice and light and the fish were soft. You could eat the entire fish, bones and all. I really enjoyed this.
We were getting pretty full at this point, so Chef Joe suggested that he choose one last fish for each of us. Again, I forgot what it was called.
Around this time, Chef Joe began to remember that we had dined here before. He told us we looked familiar. I figured he might vaguely remember us, but that he couldn’t remember us in detail since it had been a year and a half since we visited. But to my surprise, he really did remember us. He started detailing things about our last meal and where we lived! He apologized for his bad memory for not remembering us right away. I was more blown away by his good memory in remembering our one visit so long ago.
To end the night, he gave us each something sweet. I love uni so he made me uni. BF doesn’t like uni so he got a piece of eel belly. My uni was so nice and creamy. A perfect way to end the meal.
As we were waiting for our bill, Chef Joe produced a fried eel spine. I’ve heard about how good this is from yelp reviews. He explained that they are able to get the eel spine themselves since the eel they get is so fresh and he explained how they retrieve the spine. The spine was very cool to look at. It was deep fried so it was like eating a chip.
We left extremely satisfied. This meal was just as enjoyable as our first meal. I had worried we had over romanticized our first meal, but we hadn’t. We will definitely be back and won’t let another year pass before our next revisit.
130 N El Camino Real
Encinitas, CA 92024