Experience Exemplary, Authentic Omakase at Kaké
Omakase [お任せ] is the Japanese dining experience that places you, the diner, completely in the adept hands of your skilled chef, granting him full creative authority over your appetite’s adventure. Your job is to show up with an empty stomach and open mind and allow your chief executive sushi savant to shape your evening, and honestly, if I could eat this way every night, I would. In a world that consistently seems to cater to finicky and fussy preferences borne out of no other reason than habit and an unwillingness to develop their palate, the omakase menu is the ultimate gastronomic odyssey for the diner with a limitless enthusiasm for Japanese cuisine which has often been argued to be the most disciplined and sophisticated cuisine to master. CSP Times' contributor Daniella Wu checks out Kaké for an exceptional omakase experience in London.
Perched on the sushi bar counter table in an intimate unpretentious, traditional Japanese former sake bar almost entirely furnished with gleaming wood both pale and dark in the heart of Knightsbridge, Belgravia, my dining partner and I sipped on glasses of nutty, fresh-tasting Iki Na Onna Sake. We were informed by the chef that the venue we’d sat in was just a temporary one for them and their Knightsbridge address has now closed, though you should keep an eye out on social media or join up with their mailing list to follow the news of their new restaurant venue, and trust us, you want to look out for this.
On the other side of the counter, Chef Tamas graciously explained to all four of us diners that evening what we could hope to expect from our Shoka Omakase, Shoka meaning early summer – an eight-course Japanese journey made up of the freshest seasonal ingredients sourced sustainably from within Britain and reflecting the culinary styles of Kyoto and Kaiseki cuisine.
Sakizuke (先附) *** Amuse-Bouche
We began with the Amazake, a refreshing low-alcohol fermented rice (koji) drink with a light sweetness and vinegary kick to it. The Amazake drink is known throughout Japan for being a wonderful drink with lots of health benefits including relieving fatigue, increasing concentration and promoting beautiful skin. Along with the Amazake we were served the Octopus with Sansho Jelly and Radish Tops. The octopus glazed over with the jelly made for a stunning appetiser with an even greater authentic taste of the fresh fish that blended smoothly with the herbs.
Mukozuke (向付) *** Sliced Seasonal Sashimi
Ikejime Arctic Charr, Chopped Wasabi Stems and “Irizake” Jelly.
The Arctic Char is sourced locally from Dorset's Houghton Springs Fish Farm where they adopt the ‘Ikejime’ style of humane and peaceful techniques of fish slaughter to foster the most supreme quality of meat with an extended shelf life and is cooked through a fire that improves the fish blood and overall taste. The Irizake, a traditional dipping sauce was combined with soy sauce and English wasabi. The first fish of the night was what set the tone for the rest of the experience, so biting into a wonderfully fatty, smooth and thick Char was satisfying beyond comprehension. The wasabi concoction was a unique, savoury-spicy flavour that I had not expected but was a great complement to the fish.
Futamono (蓋物) *** Lidded Dish
Asparagus Miso Soup, Kinome
As a girl who hails from East Asia, obviously I’m obsessed with soup. Real soup – the filmy, sheer broths which glisten under the lights, packed full of ingredients that have been bubbling on the stove for hours to deliver a symphony of hearty, unparalleled goodness in every spoonful. But I made my peace long ago with the reality that it just isn’t something you’ll stumble across around the Occident, even in regular Chinese or Japanese establishments – it just isn’t the same. So, on the rare occasion when I do chance upon a stunning bowl of soup, I won’t shut up about it.
Our vibrant green miso soup was cooked with white asparagus and dashi made with dehydrated asparagus stems, asparagus puree with the spears inside. Together it delivered a gorgeous supple broth hitting home on that specific taste of salty miso but combined with a slight sweetness too. As if I wasn’t excited enough about a bowl of miso soup, our chef went ahead and topped it with Gai Lan Vegetable, vivid Chinese broccoli that had a gratifying bite to its thick stem and more significantly for me, played a leading role throughout the dinners of my childhood.
Yakimono (焼物) *** Flame-Grilled Dish
Cauliflower Fungus, Wild Garlic Koji, Pickled Wasabi Stems
Cooked in butter with soy sauce, rosy garlic and chives, this impressive and unique dish blew us away with its wonderfully soft, chewy texture and tempting crisp golden colours on the fungus edges. The aroma of wild garlic alone is enough to drive you mad with yearning, and the taste was even more lively and satisfying than imagined with bursts of savoury, traditional shio flavours. There’s something quite alluring and beautiful about the aesthetic of it as well, just the swirls and folds of it all is somehow alien yet enchanting. The pickled wasabi stems that came with it acted as a palette cleanser.
Dear reader, I know you’ve been waiting for this part as much as I did that night. So without further ado let me list off the seven sushi presented to us all on a simple authentic wooden block:
Brill – Served with a touch of sea salt, the fish was simple and delicate with a lightly chewy texture. The sushi rice had a lovely subtle red vinegar infusion to it.
A stroke of koji soy sauce brushed over the top brought out the succinct sweetness of the sea bass, sporting a gorgeous texture and overall giving us a clean, sophisticated taste.
The Mullet boasted a superbly fresh, raw flavour with the addition of dried bottarga on top to give the silky fish an alternative, extra oomph to the overall textural experience.
Brushed again with a swift stroke of Koji soy sauce, the plump and glistening deep salmon-pink colour gave way to a luscious, juicy texture with all the light oaky dreaminess this sublime fish is supposed to deliver.
Sandwiched between the scored pale fish and the sushi rice was a homegrown chisou leaf brushed with a citrus soy sauce. The cuttlefish yielded the right amount of bouncy and satiny texture you want in this wholly unique protein. The addition of the chisou leaf lended a minty balance to the entire combination.
The single most seductive scallop I may have come across in my life, with its golden uni salt sprinkled on top just winking at us on top of that gleaming, opaque fish. Its texture melts in your mouth quickly and evokes an incredible nostalgia in that simple, fresh flavour. It was around at this point in our evening that I had to stop myself from overwhelming our chef with my gushing compliments because there is serious talent and discipline that comes with mastering the simple yet unrivalled sophistication of cuisine as exemplary as this!
This sexy cut of lobster had a perfect slight firmness to its bite and there was a sweetness blended with zesty notes from the koji soy sauce brushed on and a dollop of lobster miso on top.
Hashiyasume (箸休め)*** Palate Cleansing Dish
Set of Tofu, 2 Kinds of Ikura and Shisho Jelly
Topped with trout and salmon ikura which explodes and melts in your mouth upon contact, the silky and creamy tofu was a wonderful simple base pairing with the savoury yet sweet juice running from the popped ikura. A traditional, foolproof combination of great textures.
Sushi Round Two
And we’re back with some more servings of sushi, you won’t hear us complaining, the more the merrier!
A dazzling cut of moist mackerel with the metallic silver and striped skin, arched and glittering over the rice brushed with a home-blend of soy sauce with moromi miso garnished on top. The robust and fresh taste of mackerel really shone through with the touch of zest blended in, making it quite refreshing sushi to follow on with.
3 Kinds of Tuna:
Atami – This was the leanest tuna of the three, flaunting a deep and striking red colour brushed over with a stroke of soy sauce, allowing the fish's flavours to express themselves simplistically and elegantly.
Chu-Toro – Medium fatty tuna wearing lightly salty, soy flavours on top which seemed to thaw as it hit my tongue, turning into succulent, heavenly textures that are like fireworks for your taste senses, not to mention the sheer freshness of it.
O-Toro – Undoubtedly the scene-stealer of our evening, as it always will be as one of the most prized cuts of tuna fish throughout the world, and no wonder with its supreme fattiness that comes from under the belly inside the fish, giving us that blubber texture which simply dissolves completely in your mouth. The thickness and the colour from the fish alone was a clear, distinctive indication of its premium quality and certainly, the taste was almost overwhelming in how perfect it was.
Temaki – Hand-rolled sushi wrapped in nori as authentically as it should be with tuna in the middle rolled up with a soy-marinated egg yolk. There was a marvellous mixture between the savoury, creamy flavours and the crispy texture of the nori.
Mizumono (水物) *** Dessert
Rice Koji Sponge, Elderflower, Rhubarb, Cherry Blossoms Dust
The first thing this dessert brought to mind was the similarity of its texture to the Japanese Castella Cake, an irresistible honey sponge cake that I would devour on every trip we’d take to Japan. Its fluffy and light chiffon cake-like texture with the refreshing tang of rhubarb and elderflower notes made this an easily digestible dessert, which was perfect considering the medley of flavours and ingredients we’d gone through seemed apt and intuitive to have this delicately sweet course as our finale.
We felt it was particularly important to mention that we left our dinner truly humbled by Chef Tamas and his affable, modest comportment who allowed the excellence of his food to boast in volumes for itself. Arigato gozaimasu! We urge you to look out for upcoming news on Kaké’s reopening as we recommend trying out the Omakase dinner with them with the utmost priority and sincerity. Not only can you look forward to an evening of exceptional, choice Japanese and sushi cuisine, but the intimate experience you’ll receive with the honour of watching true master chefs in their element, always ready to educate you with the fascinating history of their ingredients and how they source them, is an invaluable opportunity.
Follow Kaké to discover updates on its new location
Kaké will be reborn in a new location later in 2021.