Wakuriya: San Mateo, CA, USA
This was a birthday present from a good friend. S told me that this was a different kind of Japanese food, and truth be told, had I done my research before I came, I would not have let him take me out to this fancy place because it is ridiculously expensive. That being said, I truly enjoyed every moment of the experience. S is probably one of my favorite food buddies to eat with because he gives pretty good input per dish. We do have different tastes but most of the time we usually agree.
Kaiseki is the Japanese version of a course meal and/or the Western style of haute cuisine. It’s pretty darn fancy, small plates, and sometimes devoured in one bite. The best way to describe Wakuriya is by what they wrote themselves:
That being said, kaiseki is a set course. I’m going to simply list out the pictures and then make notes on a particular dish. The menu will be listed first here and then the food pictures following that.
We first begin with what I will say is the most awesome tofu I have ever eaten in my life. It’s a sesame (perhaps a black sesame?) tofu served with a small piece of lobster and a tiny square of Japanese herb butter. The tofu doesn’t taste beany at all but rather, has that nice deep, earthy nuttiness that can be found in black sesame desserts except it’s in a silken tofu form. Gorgeous.
The appetizer course was probably my second favorite, mostly because it was three small plates that all had different flavors. The first is a cold asparagus soup with a seared Hokkaido scallop (hotate). The sear was perfect! My favorite was the second appetizer, consisting of a local Japanese squid (Hotaru-Ika) that had a slightly spicy ponzu mayonnaise dressing. The third and least favorite was the foie gras-mountain yam appetizer. I normally love foie gras, but the egg yolk was (as S mentioned) way too strong because of its amount. It totally overpowered the foie gras. However, I was still quite happy to eat it!
This abalone was pretty awesome. It came steamed in a little bamboo box. The texture was super soft and fresh. I liked how it was serve with inari sushi: sweetened preserved tofu wrapped around sushi rice.
The following is the sashimi that I cannot remember for the life of me as it was chef’s choice. I should have paid more attention! The following soup was pretty tasty too. Gindara (black cod) is one of my favorite dishes to order. While it is pretty standard for most high-end Japanese restaurants to serve, I’ve never had it in a soup. The tempura was fresh and literally right out of the deep fryer that it burned S’s mouth when he ate it in the soup.
I have to admit, the ume (preserved plum) sorbet that was given to us as a palate cleanser was not up my alley only because I’m not too much of a drinker. However, admittedly, it was very refreshing when I did my first taste. Thankfully, S managed to eat it all haha. Following that was one of S’s most anticipated plates: the Wagyu beef plate. This thing was so ridiculously soft, it was better than any steak that had melted-in-my-mouth prior to this dish. It made me want to go to Kobe and eat the real thing but in bigger pieces!
The next dish was really simple. It was tasty, but you had to really look for the flavor because it was more of a congee style dish. Snow-crab omelette over rice definitely somehow turned into a ridiculously luxurious congee.
This was probably one of my favorite desserts ever: matcha panna cotta. Holy moly. It was so creamy and soft yet full of that matcha flavor but not overwhelming with tea. I could eat a tub of this while watching anime all night long. Especially since it’s served with homemade mochi discs the shape of red blood cells (don’t laugh at the nerdiness) and the pulverized fresh strawberries. So ridiculously tasty.
Thanks so much to S for the amazing birthday meal. My stomach was indeed bulging from this. He is definitely one of the best eating buddies around. I only wish he had a food blog to see what food adventures he’s up to! Wakuriya takes reservations about a month in advance and somehow, we got extremely lucky to get a seating for 2 at the counter. I definitely recommend trying this place and kaiseki cuisine at least once, especially if you’re a huge fan of Japanese food. You can find them tucked away in a small corner of a shopping mall, also tiny, in San Mateo:
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