On the western edge of Yosemite National Park is a little town called Sonora. In Sonora there is Koto, the only Japanese restaurant in a 38-mile radius. In Koto, I had saba shio for the first time. It’s a grilled mackerel seasoned with salt, squeeze on some lemon juice if you like. I love homey things like that, especially when it’s so good I wanted it again the next day, but Koto was closed on Sundays. We left on Monday, with a hole in my heart.
Now before I go to any Japanese restaurant, I check if it has saba shio.
Not many do, but Kaneyama does. Only as an appetizer (which means half a mackerel instead of the whole fish) but better than nothing. A delicious crunching sound broke the air as Little Mom broke the skin with her chopsticks. We knew at that instant that the saba shio was the best dish of the day.
The gindala appeared fancier, took longer time to prepare, and I liked the moist, dense, almost doughy flesh of the black cod, but the miso glaze was too sweet. The spinach goma ae, another common Japanese sidedish that I was only recently introduced to and was eager to show Little Mom, didn’t impress her too much because the sesame sauce could also use more salt and less sugar.
I was surprised to see okonomiyaki on the menu, however described as a seafood pancake. Feeling demanding for no good reason, I asked the waitress if they could add pork belly, but no luck. 🙁 I was even more surprised when the okonomiyaki was brought to me: instead of the usual round shape I’m used to, this one is two quarters of dough on an oval hot plate, the kind you see with dak bokkeum at Korean restaurants, with copious amount of mayonnaise and katsuobushi (at least this part is familiar). I don’t know where the seafood in “seafood pancake” was. Even the cabbage was scarce. Final verdict: I make better okonomiyaki. 😉
Luckily, Little Mom’s udon with shrimp tempura and Dad’s curry rice with tonkatsu, looking unassuming as they were, actually tasted good. I’m glad, you know, cuz I actually wanted to like this restaurant. Sure, its food needed some fixing to live up to its posh setting, and the saba shio was not as good as the one I had at Koto in that little town Sonora. But I did order things off the beaten path (should have gotten sushi maybe?), and the waitress was cute.
For dessert, I tried my luck again and asked for black sesame ice cream, although it’s not listed on the menu. But Kaneyama is no In ‘n Out with a hidden menu, the manager said no, adding “That was the first time I got this question. Not many people know about it.” Guys, next time you’re at a Japanese restaurant, ask for sesame ice cream.
Speaking of ice cream, today I realized that I have become a sea urchin of a customer. I asked questions, and returned the wrong scoop of ice cream to the kitchen, although Little Mom said it was fine. (The right scoop turned out to be her favorite and the best flavor. I did something right, Mom 😉 ) In another year will I be sending back a medium well steak when I had asked for medium? (On a few occasions, I thought of sending back pork sausages that weren’t properly defrosted and still a bit pink inside. But I just didn’t eat the sausage.) What will I be then… a durian?
9527 Westheimer Suite D
Houston, TX 77063
Lunch for three: $67.76