Been about a year since our last review, and I have to say, VAST IMPROVEMENT. I have to also say, I realized my write up back in June 2017 was way too lenient, way too generous. Katsuei one year ago, did not deserve a 28. It almost devalues their current justified, and esteemed score of 29.
Katsuei one year ago, vs Katsuei now:
- Food – Better variety, more fresh, and more traditional preparations
- Head Chef – Unfortunately, I didn’t take down our chef’s name tonight. Sorry! If it helps, he’s the tallest dude behind the counter. Him compared to Chef Ta-ke last year? Night and day! Chef Ta-ke spent our entire omakase airing his grievances over every sushi-ya he’s worked for, including Katsuei. Though I found it amusing, I would have preferred fish talk! Tall chef tonight spent the night talking to us about the cuts, the origins, and the seasons of fish. Professionalism!
- Service – This one was a step back. The staff last year was minimal, but attentive, warm and friendly. The staff today was abundant, but not one knew the menu, and frankly not so helpful. To be fair, I was already irritated given the absolute minimal air conditioning in the 90 degree weather. I don’t like to sweat while I have my fish. But their inability to explain the menu set me off. Lucky for them, tall chef swept in helped explain. Today’s staff needs to go back to training.
- Cost – Katsuei is still offering two omakases. The lower cost omakase went up from $57 to $65, while the higher cost omakase went from $85 to $95. Fact is, unless you order the bare minimum, this cost structure is completely immaterial though. They charge you based on each piece ordered. The chef will keep serving you till you tap out, wave your little white flag. Unless the omakase options include cooked vs non-cooked, we will ALWAYS choose the biggest omakase they have. We can eat! Our omakase tonight stopped after 15 pieces, costing us $105.25. The receipt will clearly state these are the 15 pieces you had, and cost of each piece. The pieces after the omakase were also listed out individually on the receipt. It’s straight math. Simple, easy, FAIR. To think of that, the sushi-ya with the most confusing omakase pricing? SASABUNE! I’ve been there maybe 6-7 times only. They do not provide you the breakdown of what you had, not unless you specifically ask, but when you do, they do not let you take it with you. BUT if you take your phone out, and snap a photo of that real quick, what can they do? Take your phone? The detailed breakdown has NEVER matched the total food cost listed on my receipt. Not ever! Sounds fishy huh? Pun intended!
Our omakase tonight:
- Washington State Oysters – Very nice! Itty bitty, just slightly larger than the HOTARU IKA, but nice and plump, and creamy, and sweet, AND SAVORY! Very good!
- HOTARU-IKA (Firefly squid) – Delicious! I’ll tell you up front, after having this as an “appetizer”, I ordered THREE more after our omakase wrapped.
- KINMEDAI (Golden Eye Snapper) – Very good! I remember years ago, it was SO hard to get a good KINMEDAI, or ANY KINMEDAI. These days, they’re at every decent sushi-ya. This one was served just as I prefer, skin ABURIed (torched), and topped with some sea salt. I only wish there was more ABURIing on the skin…
- BURI (Adult Yellowtail) – Topped with a crushed shishito pepper, this was a significantly lighter than usual BURI. Very nice combo.
- Ocean Trout – Here’s the deal, I’m not a fan of Ocean Trouts. They have a very specific taste, very different from the farm raised fatty salmon, more towards the smoked side, yet it’s not smoked. This particular serving was topped with a HIJIKI (seaweed) marinated in sesame oil and sesame seeds. The toppings definitively overwhelmed the fish (HUGE pet peeve), but I’m not that fond of the fish, so I didn’t mind that much…
- SAYORI (Needle Fish) – Why why why would you put a plum paste on this? The SHISHO (Japanese light mint) beneath the fish is the perfect pairing, but the plum paste? Fish itself is good, but not great, no crunch, which I expect for a SAYORI.
- KAMA TORO (Toro from the neck) – KAMA TORO, the toro from the neck of the Tuna, is incredibly fatty. Too bad it was so veiny though, it was SO chewy. Only super odd part? This was the ONLY TORO option for the night? Isn’t that odd to you?
- MADAI (Seabream) – MADAIs used to be one of my favorite whites, IF served properly. The way that chef prepared this, with the perfect amount of skin, but barely a spec of the salt and ZERO citrus, I would rate as a “good enough” but “not great”.
- SHIMA AJI (Jack Mackerel) – Scored throughout, and topped with a chopped yuzu pepper. This was a great cut. Very good!
- NODOGURO (Black Throat) – A VERY decent cut of NODOGURO. But it didn’t have the right fattiness, the right oompfh. I normally have a NODOGURU, and I salivate for the next. I didn’t salivate…
- KAMASU (Barracuda) – Nice scoring on the fish! Another really great cut, but again, I LOVE my KAMASUs, and this one just didn’t knock me off my feet…
- SABA (Mackerel) – I told Chef that I’m not a big fan of the SABAs, but Chef convinced me to try his. I did… Still not a fan. I love chef for trying though! From my recollection, there were two times ever, where the chef challenged my SABA taste buds and won. KURUMA ZUSHI and SUSHI YASUDA. Reminds me, we really need to visit both again soon! Too bad boyfriend is allergic to anything above 14th!
- KOHADA (Gizzard shad) – My recent KOHADAs (from JEWEL BAKO and SUSHI BY BAE) have been too fishy, this one was much milder, much tastier!
- Santa Barbara UNI – Are you sure this is Santa Barbara? This one was not sweet, no rich nuttiness. Overall EH!
- HOKKAIDO UNI – Much better than the Santa Barabara!
- BOTAN EBI – Looks more like an AKA EBI huh? Chef says BOTAN… Either way, it was incredibly yummy. Super sweet, super crunchy. And how nice! They fry the heads without us asking! Many sushi-yas do, but there are some that just doesn’t fry at all like SUSHI AZABU, KANOYAMA, SUSHI BY BOU/SUSHI BY BAE, etc, and some that will want to charge you an upcharge like SUSHI YASUDA. Very happy.
- AKAMI (Lean Bluefin Tuna) – Not marinated, but a perfectly respectable cut of AKAMI, no funkiness, no veins. Very good.
- HOTATE (Scallop) – Not bad, but a very unexciting cut of HOTATE. There was no citrus, no brightness, nothing that makes you go, Oh-My! “Good enough” would be my rating.
- IKURA (Salmon Roe) – Looks good, decent sized, uncrushed pearls, but no pop when you bit into each pearl, and flavoring was a bit lacking. Good, but nothing stellar.
- HOTARU IKA (Firefly Squid) – As I said earlier, this was the best serving of the night. Each order comes with two small but plump HOTARU IKAs, with all its natural juices. And topped with a beautiful miso sauce. Very, very sweet.