I happened to be in Richmond trying to find a mini notebook and a mini pen so I could conveniently take notes during my sushi adventures. Let's just say that the mini notebook took 10 minutes to find, while I could not find a mini pen with a clip after searching for 5 hours. During my search, I found mini highlighters, mini permanent markers, and even mini pencils with a clip! Wow, who ever thought it could be so hard to find the right pen?
In the midst of my search, I was hungry for lunch so I went to Kiriri Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar. Kiriri is run by Japanese servers and Japanese chefs, and is frequented by both Japanese and Chinese customers. It was funny to hear the diners sitting next to me muttering about how high the prices were, but in my personal opinion, the prices were justified. I ordered the Kaiseki Lunch Set, which takes approximately 20 minutes to prepare, as well as the Starter Tempura, which would help me pass some time as I waited for my lunch set.
Starter Tempura - B
The starter tempura came with 2 prawns, and one piece each of carrot, eggplant and zucchini. The pieces are smaller than what you would normally expect, and if I could ever complain about tempura having too little batter, this would be it. The two prawns were decent, minus the fact that the batter had an uneven crispiness throughout. The carrot had too little batter, and this is evident from just looking at the photo above. The eggplant was a bit stiff and overly chewy. The zucchini was my favourite, as it was very soft and juicy. The dipping sauce was very carefully made with light soy, very finely grated ginger, a hit of mirin, and as the waitress described, "many things." This was one of my favourite tempura dipping sauces, so I asked for another bowl of it, and ended up drinking it as a soup. (I know I'm not supposed to do that, but it was hard to resist!)
Then, the Kaiseki Lunch Set came ...
Kaiseki refers to a multi-course meal which allows the chef to demonstrate his exceptional preparation techniques and showcase his presentation skills using Japanese aesthetics standards. It is like a taste-testing set. The chef who prepares the Kaiseki lunch sets at Kiriri maintained a very focused, concentrated look on his face, rarely smiling or speaking to anyone (unless you attempt to talk to him). As you can see, the presentation of this Kaiseki lunch set is quite impressive. All of the items pictured below, including the Crème Brûlée, are part of the Kaiseki lunch set.
Taro Appetizer - A
Taro and me typically do not get along, and I always struggle to understand why it is so popular. However, this dish made me re-think my dislike for taro. The ball-shaped pieces of taro were accompanied by a small amount of miso sauce, which allowed the taro to be soft and full of moisture. The thin outside layer was soupy, crispy and delightfully savoury.
Kobachi Grilled Fish - A
The Kobachi Grilled Fish had a velvety smooth texture and a distinctly sweet flavour. It could be more juicy, but I found it very tasty nonetheless.
Clear Soup - B-
The clear soup came with 2 Manila clams and some green onions. The flavouring of the clams was nicely distributed throughout the soup. The clams themselves were a bit small, lacking in flavour, and noticeably sandy.
Pickled Vegetables - B
The Pickled Vegetables (described as "Pickles" on the menu) came with two small pieces each of carrot, celery and daikon (I accidentally ate a bit of it before taking a picture!). The pickled vegetables had a crunchy texture to them, and there wasn't anything remarkably special about their taste.
Tako Sunomono - A-
The Tako Sunomono came with thinly sliced pieces of tako, a slice of pineapple, some extraordinarily thin slices of cucumber and some crystal vermicelli. I really liked how the tako was sliced thin, so that it was chewy but not unchewable. The vinegar in the sunomono was adequately strong and did not overpower any of the ingredients.
Carrots & Bamboo Shoots - A
The Carrots & Bamboo Shoots (not listed on the menu under the Kaiseki lunch set but included as part of the set) consisted of a few pieces of sliced carrots and bamboo shoots decorated with sesame seeds. I found these sweet and savory, and the slices were seasoned like the Chinese recipe of jellyfish.
The gourd-shaped container has three layers, each filled with one or two small courses. Opening it, I found ...
Kakuni - A-
Unagi and Friends - A-
The Kakuni (Japanese braised pork) came in a small container and consisted of well-braised lean meat. It would have been nice if it was served a little warmer (it ended up being cooler than the sashimi). The Unagi and Friends (name is made up by me) came with a thin piece of unagi on fish cake, a piece of kamaboko (the pink and white piece) and tamago. The fish cake completely overpowered the unagi, which was sliced quite thin. However, I enjoyed the very soft and chewable kamaboko and the tamago was rich in flavour, being the best out of the three.
Toro Sashimi - B
Sockeye Salmon Sashimi - B
Tai Sashimi - A-
The sashimi course came with two pieces of Toro Sashimi, one piece of Sockeye Salmon Sashimi and two pieces of Tai Sashimi. The Toro Sashimi was a bit stringy, but had a nice mildly salty taste. The Sockeye Salmon Sashimi was cut so that it resembled a mini mountain range, and was a bit tough but tasted fresh. The Tai Sashimi was buttery and had a nice glossy finish. It felt like there was a dash of mayonnaise added to it, which helped to enhance its creamy flavour.
Sushi Tower - A-
The Sushi Tower came with salmon, masago, mango and avocado on rice, along with some wakame (seaweed) and ginger to the side. The Atlantic salmon had a smooth teture and was very fresh. It was the best out of all the sashimi I was served in this meal. The textures of the mango and avocado blended very well with the sashimi, so that it would all taste like a tower of distinctly sweet sashimi if you weren't looking!
After I finished all of the courses on the tray, I received a Crème Brûlée for dessert (which is included as part of the Kaiseki lunch set).
Green Tea Crème Brûlée - A+
OMG ... I completely had a foodgasm at how immaculate this crème brûlée was in terms of both presentation and preparation! The fruits and berries were all fresh and very juicy, and went surprisingly well with the custard base. The custard itself was smooth, creamy and sweet with a rich green tea aroma. It was covered by an irresistible thin and crusty layer on top. This was hands down the best item of the entire meal.
The Kaiseki lunch set was highly unique in presentation and I haven't found anything else quite like it throughout my sushi adventures all around Greater Vancouver. Almost all of the items in the lunch set show careful preparation from the lone sushi chef who made all of the sets. And I will almost certainly be back for more of that delicious crème brûlée!