Kishoku: dry-aged fish is what you should be looking for
You’ve probably heard of it, but dared not to try. Perhaps you’ve tried it and you just didn’t know. For many fish lovers though, it’s the latest fad-- dry aging fish is becoming somewhat of a trend in high-end restaurants across the world. It’s not in any ways new, traditional restaurants in Japan have been serving it for decades, with fish that would often take weeks from the moment of its catch to its presentation on the dining table.
Why do it? We could get into that (like why did it historically -had- to be done) but it's down to the simplest things: it just tastes better. That super buttery, umami bomb of a tuna, “so flavoursome, so deep of a flavour, so… fresh”, that very tuna you’ve been having in your latest omakase is not in fact “fresh” at all. It’s the result of a careful and food-lovin’ chef that has been meticulously monitoring it for days.
The fish is wrapped in a special linen and kept in a controlled environment till its ready to be served. Although it’s a technique that’s growing in popularity across the world, originally it really was born from necessity, boats in the past did not travel as fast as the ones now. So it was a way to keep the fish while also boosting its flavour. It’s possible that it’s simply been around all this time just without the big signs of “Hello we have aged sashimi, nope it isn’t fresh, but you gonna have a good time we promise”.
We tried Kishoku’s 5th year anniversary tasting menu featuring all its best items including some of their new dry-aged items that we were lucky to try.
The meal started with a refreshing cucumber and gin cocktail. We couldn’t put our finger into exactly how they pulled it off, perhaps it's in the ratio, but the often squeaky aftertaste of the gin was cleaned out by the cucumber. We pretty much downed the entire thing and continued on with their crispy house sake.
Onto the starters, The Spring Trio was a fun start, served on a horizontal plate featuring three quaint little mouthfuls: first a yellowtail with charcoaled salt, second the hamachi with sesame oil, and third the scallop with its (own) liver reduction, we ate them in that order. Each flavour was distinctive, with each flavour richer than the last. The scallops came with a tiny branch of edible flowers to sprinkle over, a fun little extra that made us feel so very ...kaiseki-chic.
The sashimi course came next, starting with the applewood smoked silver cod gindara oiled with toro and shiso. Points for showmanship, the dish was served in a glass that wisped up in a fragrant smoke. “That’s pretty cool” we thought of it, but it was really the flavour of the cod itself, the amazingly woody aftertaste that really surprised us. The next part of the sashimi course was the Botan ebi shrimp. It was pretty inoffensive, straightforward and to be expected, but hey, it was incredible. It’s one of those dishes that just stay popular forever.
Okay we’ve finally gotten to the 7-day aged torowich, the real superstar of this course, and the reason we’ve been rambling on about dry-aged fish. It was glorious. Thick slab of crimson toro wrapped in seaweed and love, deep and flavoursome. The toro, as dry-aged fish do, had a density to it too, and as our omakase chef passed the wrap onto our hands we felt the weight of it.
We each got a cactus leaf to chew on right after to clean our palette. Not gonna lie, it was one of our first times trying a cactus leaf. And if one was to describe it… it tasted like a cucumber with citrusy notes, encased in a shape of a guiltless little leaf. It was a proper moment of cognitive dissonance for us.
The main course came in two very different ways. The Treasures of the Sea was just breathtakingly pretty. A variety of seafood morsels served on a huge decorative shell, with a geoduck broth and mullet roe broth/sauce presented in a conch shell. The flavours weren’t our favourite in the menu, but it was definitely one of the most physically memorable.
The iconic wagyu beef sandoitchi makes a debut in this menu, and it definitely did not disappoint. Quality miyazaki A4 wagyu katsu-fried with a drizzle of a sweet tangy worchester-like sauce between two delicately toasted brioche buns. It’s a wholesome dish that surprisingly and effortlessly tied well with the rest of the menu. Can we have more of this?
Okay so back to dry-aging! We went on to try the 7-day aged maguro sushi, brighter red than the toro and a lot leaner, it was served with a few dashes of julienned Japanese yam on top. The maguro was absolutely amazing, again, dense and umami. With such a brilliantly crimson colour, we got quite addicted with taking pictures of it.
We were really full by then but we braved through their other sushi pieces including the trio negi-toro tower with caviar, and the akamutsu with white truffle, and as someone who isn’t even a huge fan of truffle, I have to say, I died and went to heaven. The sweet ending, while it isn’t described on the menu, it featured a housemade hojicha pudding that was an obvious winner for everyone in the table.
All in all, the omakase-only restaurant Kishoku really knows how to party, that is, in a really chill Zenshuyo-style way. And for those new to dry-aged sushi, Kishoku is a good first choice to understanding and appreciating it.