by Brian Rountree
Specializing in Kyoto-style small plates, also called kappo, Nami Nami (240 Castro) is the third venture of chef-owner Keisuke Suga. The kappo style of cuisine emphasizes seasonal ingredients, so the menu is always changing. One of my favorite things about this restaurant is the chance to try something new every time I go there.
The omakase dinner (“omakase” means chef’s choice) is an excellent way to go if you have an adventurous palate like mine. The chef will select and prepare for you a progression of about 6 dishes. Typically the meal will include a salad course, then sushi or sashimi, followed by a grilled course, a fried course, a stewed course and then finishing off with a rice or noodle dish. (About $65 per person when I’ve been there.)
True to kappo tradition, every dish is visually striking, uniquely executed and impeccably fresh. In Japanese, “nami” means wave. Fittingly, the menu also features a small selection of very fresh sushi with fish choices that can’t typically be found at other sushi places aside from Sushi Tomi.
Some highlights of past meals have included chawan-mushi (egg custard with seafood and vegetables, topped with crab eggs), shirako-age (fried fish stuffed with creamed corn), daikon-wrapped sushi maki, miso-glazed cod, crab porridge, creamy and tender grilled miso eggplant with baby shrimp and mushrooms, and melt-in-your-mouth kakuni (stewed pork belly).
One unique dish that I particularly enjoyed was ishiyaki octopus – thin slices of raw octopus that you cook on a hot stone at the table and dip into a soy sauce broth.
The sake selection is extensive and, like the food, some sake offerings are seasonal. Sake bottle prices are reasonable, with Kurosawa around $27, Otokoyama at $33, and Kikusui-Daiginjo about $65. The bar offerings also include a full selection of Japanese beers and sh? ch? (a distilled liquor almost like vodka, but made with rice, sweet potatoes or barley). While the wine list also offers California wines, when dining Kyoto-style, why not stick with the traditional libations?