I definitely enjoyed Kiwami, after all, we are talking about a Katsu-Ya restaurant here people, one of the godfathers of modern sushi, but at the same time 4 and 5 stars seemed a tad steep when the only thing I had worthy of that much hype was the seared yellowtail with black truffles. Very expensive, but very generous on the truffles. Making it very worth taking out a second mortgage on your house.
Unfortunately nothing else reached the same bar though, falling somewhere between solid good and been there, done that. Not even the hanabe (spicy tuna on crispy rice) which he invented! It was a big snooze by comparison to the copy cats at Sushi Roku or Koi, which may not have been the originators of the dish, but have since created the Mercedes of hanabe to Kiwami’s Ford.
And speaking of Roku and Koi, both of them crush it on decor, service and saki selection. Whereas Kiwami seems like it is still stuck in the past, coasting on a glory far past it’s expiration date. But, to be fair, for Studio City sushi, it’s still a solid bet, no bones about it.
If the name sorta sounds like “Jewel Box” it’s with good reason, the décor is intended to look like one. And from the picture you can see it’s almost as though you are sitting inside a jewelry case, perhaps as one of the jewels, which is how we were treated by our waiter.
Unfortunately, though, I really wish the jewels were on our plate, handled as a little more “precious,” because while it is certainly good, it just doesn’t live up to its price tag. For me, in general, most super high end/expensive sushi joints tend to disappoint. In fact, there is really only one that doesn’t, Nobu. Granted I have yet to eat at Masa, but I heard it’s not worth it either, so I’m not about to rush to another $200+ a person meal just to confirm what I already know. That said, I do find Bako to be a worthy trip over the likes of Megu, Bond St. and Koi.
Now I know many people think this place doesn’t live up to the hype, and you’d be right if all you got were the normal pieces of sushi or sashimi that you would get at any other sushi joint. And therein lies your mistake. You can’t go to a place like this and just get sushi/sashimi- that stuff is only as good as what comes off of the boat. It’s not like they have some magical way of cutting the fish that makes it taste better or something.
That said, what you should be getting is their tasting menu. Quite possibly one of the best out there, primarily because it’s not the same for everyone. It all depends on how many times you’ve had it. When you go for your first time, the tasting will be completely different from when you return for your second, or third and so on. And it is here that you will see why the hype is indeed warranted. Things you would normally never even think of ordering will become you favorite Japanese dish you’ve ever tasted.
As for decor and service, I personally think the decor is better than most. Maybe with the exception of Koi and Megu- however I find the food better at Nobu. And as for service it’s always been excellent.
Also, one final word of advice, from having done this a couple of times with great success. The art of the walk-in. Most couples head to Nobu Next Door thinking that it will be easier to get a table, but I assure you that your wait will be double or even triple what you would wait if you were willing to sit at the bar in Nobu instead. I much prefer it. You get the food handed to you right from the chef himself and you’re eating at the real deal, not the Plan B.