CONFESSIONS OF A                                                                  
A San Francisco Girl's Down and Dirty Adventures in the Culinary Playground

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Kiss Me Plate (Kiss -- San Francisco, CA)

First things first: if you are the first person to correctly guess what the title of this post references, you get lunch on me (my dime, not my body. And I get to choose where). This is a two-parter as the thing I'm referencing actually references something else as well. Confused yet?

OK, on to the restaurant. Jon and I dig us some sushi. In fact, my darling husband gets a jones for the stuff that he won't let go until someone has used a forklift to shovel mass quantities of raw fish directly into his mouth. Now last week, this jones was in full effect. He was talking about sushi all week long (never mind the fact that he has access to sushi at work -- don't get me started on that one).

The thing about us, though, is that if we are not planning dinner with friends or dignitaries, we do not generally make reservations for Friday nights. It's just way too much planning for us to deal with during the week. Plus, everyone is out on Friday nights so when we're on our own, we usually go somewhere that they know us or we order in or we (gasp!) cook. So when Friday came, and Jon proclaimed that this was the night he wanted to try Kiss, I laughed. And then I laughed some more.

You see, the shrine known as Kiss is an itsy bitsy sushi restaurant on the edge of Japantown. We had never been, but had heard that getting into the twelve seat spot was harder than Ron Jeremy. In fact, we had tried some last minute calling during the previous week and were told there was no room. We vowed to plan ahead for our visit to Kiss.

Except then here we were, on a Friday night at 7:30, picking up the phone and asking if they could squeeze us in. We were told there was no room. But on this night, Jon felt that "no" really meant "yes." (Now that I think about it, that kind of makes him sound like a restaurant rapist). He rationalized that we could drive there, assess the situation, and then if there was no hope for us, we could go somewhere else in Japantown. I agreed, albeit begrudgingly, knowing he was setting himself up for disappointment and therefore, setting myself up for placating a very hungry, very crabby spouse.

We walked into Kiss and saw eight people. Two seats at the bar were vacant, as was a two top table in the corner. The eight people in the restaurant were silently watching what our next move would be. We asked the very nice server if there was any room. After conversing with Naka-san, the chef, they both agreed that the empty table was now ours. It appeared there had been a no-show. Thank you, no-show. We felt like assholes -- we really should have made a reservation -- but we were glad we could fill in. And we are now putting Kiss on speed dial.

Jon was ecstatic over the fact that they could accomodate us and he made it known to the whole restaurant. Not difficult as it is an intimate little room that feels more like the chef's own private dining room. It is amazing what they do with that pristine little space. From the immaculate linens to the sake bottles stacked on a tucked away ledge to the gorgeous blossoms in tall vases in both the main dining area AND the bathroom, Kiss could not be more charming.

On our first visit, we decided to stick with mostly sushi and sashimi, forgoing the Omakase dinner for another visit. And, oh, my bitches, there will be another visit.

Because what was presented to us was quite possible the most exquisite fish I've ever seen. Jon has insisted over and over again that it was the best sushi he's had in his life. And he eats a fuckload of sushi.

We both had soup. Manila clams in soybean broth for me, mushrooms in soybean broth for Jon. In. Cred. Ible.

And then came our fish. First the sashimi. Beautifully presented on a long thin tray with fresh wasabi and a single shiso leaf. Baby striped bass, ama-ebi, squid, giant clam, hamachi, o-toro that was so beautiful that it looked like Kobe beef, and snapper. Jon normally won't touch ama-ebi with a ten foot pole. He loved it so much that despite the fact that we also got it with our sushi plate following the sashimi, he ordered more. Each piece of fish was better than the previous perfectly sliced morsel. We were already planning which additional pieces to order, before we even saw the sushi.

And what sushi it was. Each immaculate piece of nigiri looked like a precious gem and melted in our mouths. This time it was giant clam and baby clam, tuna marinated in soy sauce (Oh. My. God. This was insanely good. Like insane-in-the-membrane good), more ama-ebi, salmon (sake), tamago, more squid, more yellowtail, halibut and uni. Jon also doesn't like uni. Personally, I think uni tastes like feet, but I'll eat it if it's put in front of me. Jon ate the uni at Kiss and promptly ordered more, along with the ama-ebi, more bass for me, more yellowtail for both of us, more o-toro because it fucking rocked our world (holy shit this was good) and some hotate (scallop). The only thing I wouldn't do again would be the hotate as we like ours all virgin and soft and Naka-san's prep. method includes a marinating process that gives the scallop a firm, almost crunchy texture. It was excellent, but not our preference.

And to top it all off, Naka-san and the server (who I think must be his wife) are the sweetest people you've ever seen. They are quietly elegant and unassuming. We were particularly charmed when Naka-san instructed that one should not eat too much uni, as it is important to save some for the ocean itself. These card carrying members of the Monterey Bay Aquarium couldn't agree more. I had to forcefully restrain myself from throwing my arms around them and showering them with kisses of their own. They were delightful.

After we had had our fill of the perfect fish, we stepped out into the rainy San Francisco night, not caring that we were getting wet, or that it was cold. In fact the only thing we felt as we left Kiss that night was lucky that we live somewhere that has a place as special as Kiss.

Kiss me, baby.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld


Blogger Sam said...

Kiss me Kate?

4/11/2006 9:01 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

Sam -- the quote is correct. What are the two things it references?

4/11/2006 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So very glad you got to go to Kiss. See, if you hadn't been wasting your time at places like Mecca you could have been having the omakase

4/11/2006 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The play Kiss Me Kate which references the Taming of the Shrew?

4/11/2006 7:57 PM  
Blogger Joy said...

sfk- you are a winner. Shoot me an e-mail and we'll make a date.

4/11/2006 9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn, damn, damn. If only I'd checked the blog thirty minutes ago when it first occured to me...but noooo, I chose to talk to my husband (in port for the week) instead. Stupid! "Kiss Me Kate" of course, referencing good ol' Billy's Shrew. Oh well!

Love the blog, loved the description of Kiss even more. But I can't be too jealous, as we're in Japan for the next three years, and I'm revelling in the sushi, the seafood in general, and the grocery stores. What a blast to wander through, trying to guess what everything is, buying stuff because the packaging has pretty colors...I don't remember not knowing how to read, but here, I'm illiterate! Not for long though...already know the kanji for ebi, sake and mustard greens (have fallen in love with o-nigiri, but not all of them...and the surprise isn't always fun!)

Sorry, I'll shut up's not my blog, I know!

4/12/2006 6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

omg i won! whoooo!

4/12/2006 12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has Jon even been to the sushi restaurant called, Okina sushi in SF? My Japanese friends told me that was the most fresh and cheap real kind sushi place. Thei phone # is 387-8882 and the address is 776 Arguello Blve..

4/18/2006 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kiss was so good, I couldn't bring myself to tell our server that she had poured hot tea from the pot into my ballet flat (read - no socks) as she helped me open the door to leave the restaurant!

1/22/2007 8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have you been to Koo? take Jon, he will thank you...

11/05/2007 3:23 PM  

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