Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Kaze: Glamorous, Upscale Japanese

An indication that Cincinnati dining 
can be deemed cutting edge

My Kah-Zay Pose.
Arigatou Gozaimasu
     Kaze (kah-ZAY) is the new Japanese gastro pub (must every cuisine be a gastro pub?) on Vine Street in the Gateway Quarter a.k.a. gentrified Over-the-Rhine.  Karen and Tom had asked to come along on a review so that we’d be able to
share more dishes and go deeper into the menu.

Interior of Kaze in the Old Color Brite Building
Dining Area and Open Kitchen
It’s a beautiful space with some original artwork that feels both Eastern and Western and an open kitchen that mercifully remains quiet and doesn’t have steam pouring out or multiple cooks wildly running around.
Outdoor Bar and Garden

There’s a relaxed bar area in the back as well as a walled patio with a second bar and ping pong table.  We tasted a couple of ginger based beers, which was very different for us, and though the bartender was very friendly, he was certainly about moving product.

Pork Buns
Bigeye Tuna Crudo
     Although I enjoy Japanese cuisine, Neil is not too enthusiastic about sushi or any dish with uncooked protein.  Fortunately, the variety of courses kept that to a minimum.  We started with the Pork Buns and Bigeye Tuna Crudo.  The pork was listed as belly, but was more like crisp, pulled pork that was both sweet and spicy.  The buns were tender and pliable.  These were as good as those as Bao Wow in Chicago.  The tuna was high quality and a gorgeous magenta.  It came with tempura asparagus and sweet potato.  The asparagus had a nice crunch, but the sweet potato almost needed more tempura batter because, as Karen pointed out, it was more like sweet potato fries.  

Kaze Salad
Yuko Salad

     The Yuko Salad had a mesclun and arugula base with blood orange segments; radish sprouts, and was dressed with ginger vinaigrette. The Kaze Salad had field greens with avocado, watermelon radish, topped with lotus root, and shiso vinaigrette.  I liked the orange, but I can’t say I found either salad memorable.

Ramen Tonkotsu and Spicy Miso Clam
Vegetable Udon
On the other hand, the soups were very good.  The Vegetable Udon had perfectly cooked red peppers with daikon sprouts and wonderful homemade noodles in a red miso broth that was clean in color, but sharply one note with a lot of red pepper flakes that hadn’t deepened the broth in terms of flavor.  The Ramen Tonkotsu featured tender pork belly with baby bok choy, scallion, and a perfectly soft boiled egg.  It could be a full entrée for some diners.  The Spicy Miso Clam was the best soup (and, for me, perhaps the best thing I ate).  Karen and I shared it, though I had the clams.  What was great was the red miso broth, which was complexly flavored and not overpowering.

     We ordered the Mune (chicken breast) and Wagyu (kobe beef) yakatori.  Each order consists of two skewers. The Mune had a nice chili oil glaze.  However, the Wagyu not only had a piquant yuzu guacamole, it also featured beef wrapped asparagus.  We decided to share one sushi dish, which
Kato Roll
was the Kato Roll since Tom is vegetarian.  The sweet potato and asparagus had been battered and fried, wrapped in rice and seaweed, and served with avocado and a chimichurri sauce.  It had crunch with sweet and spicy notes.  Even Neil didn’t find it too objectionable.

Macaroons with Dark Chocolate and Passion Fruit Sorbets
Chocolate Wasabi
and Salted Caramel
Ice Creams with
Oversized Fortune Cookie
     Anything with ice cream or sorbet is the way to go for dessert.  We chose the chocolate wasabi and salted caramel ice creams with the oversized poppy seed fortune cookie and the macaroons with dark chocolate and passion fruit sorbets.  The cookie was a little thick, but the macaroons were both crisp and gooey.  The flavors of the ice creams and sorbets were terrific.  Service is almost too efficient, forcing the serving staff to bring multiple forks, spoons, and chopsticks after each course.  Diners’ questions can result in some very informative answers by staff members.  I found out a lot about the owners, chefs, and other restaurants connected to Kaze. 

Kaze on Urbanspoon

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