Can you tell that we’re in love with Japanese food yet? From the outside, Kaito Sushi looks quite ordinary. Located in Encinitas, Kaito Sushi is surrounded by 5 other sushi restaurants within walking distance. There’s nothing special about its location, decor, or menu. However, do not let outward appearances fool you; this place has good fish.
130-A N El Camino Real
Encinitas, CA 92024
Having learned our lesson about going to popular restaurants without reservations, we made reservations beforehand AND got there before it opened. The place was pretty empty, but understandably so at 5pm on a Monday. That made it a more enjoyable experience, since they have a small staff, and it’s fun to chat with the chef during your meal. My recommendation is to go early to avoid the crowd/wait, and sit at the sushi bar for a more interesting experience.
Our chef that night was Kazu-san. We felt a little embarrassed at first because he kept laughing at us for taking pictures in the restaurant, but he seems like a nice guy that just jokes around a lot. Following the suggestions of Yelp reviews (which I agree is the way to go), we sat at the sushi bar and asked for omakase (a meal consisting of dishes selected by the chef).
What we ate:
- Halibut: it was garnished with lots of flavors that pretty much burst in your mouth.
- Akami (lean tuna) marinated in sake and soy sauce. The distinctive flavor of the tuna combined with the sweetness from the sake made it a very enjoyable dish.
- Scallops: nice, but neither of us really like scallops in general.
- Ikura (salmon roe): very different from what I’ve had before. The chef said these were fresh, unsalted salmon roe marinated in sake. Usually, salmon roe has a very strong salmon flavor. These were refreshingly unique, with only a subtle salmon flavor, and some sweetness mixed in from the sake.
- Clam and uni maki: good uni, but the clam was slightly bitter.
- Chu-toro (tuna belly): Tiffany has been looking forward to this for months. It is rich and loaded with flavor that just melts in your mouth. If you’ve never had toro before, go try it and you’ll see what you’ve been missing out on all your life. We were so enthusiastic about this one that the chef gave us one extra piece each.
- Eel: unlike the eel we normally eat, this was saltwater eel. Fresh and tender, I actually liked it much better than the usual freshwater unagi.
The total bill + tax + tip for the two of us was about $130, which is pretty decent value, considering the amount and quality of the fish.
Conclusion: We left very satisfied, with the taste of the chu-toro still lingering in our mouths. The chefs only accept the best to serve to their customers (Kazu-san practically turned up his nose at the suggestion of “frozen fish”). I would definitely recommend Kaito, and we’ll most likely be back in the future. It would be interesting to come at different times of the year for more variety, as they only serve the freshest and highest quality fish that are actually in season.
- If this is your first visit, I highly recommend ordering omakase. The chef knows his stuff. Just relax and let him take care of you.
- Sit at the bar for a more interactive experience. Kazu-san is personable and friendly. He describes each dish as he serves it, and makes sure to ask how you like it.
- Make reservations! We didn’t run into a huge crowd, as many Yelpers warn against, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry.