Ikko - Interrupt

>> Thursday, January 12, 2012

Date of Dining: 9/24/2011
Price: $100 for "full" tasting menu
Location: 735 Baker St, Ste C, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

The Quick Bit:
+ Great plating and artistry
+ Fusion of classic Japanese with French technique
+ Use of decadent ingredients
Δ Temperature of some cooked dishes could have been better
Δ Could have been more thought to the progression of the omakase
Δ Desserts could have been better thought out

Because I've only awarded a terrabyte award to one restaurant to this point, I decided that for the first interrupt, a good comparison would be to another high end Japanese Restaurant from outside of San Diego. 

Ikko is run by Chef/owner Ikko Kobayashi. While most people may think of Ikko as a sushi restaurant, it is actually more of an all around Japanese fine dining restaurant; calling it a sushi restaurant would be similar to calling Cheesecake Factory a sandwich place. 

The menu at Ikko consists of several regular items as well as a rotating list of seasonal specials. If you have never been to Ikko however, the restaurant offers three choices of omakase menu at $60, $80, and $100. Being a new customer and not having tried any dishes before, I opted for the $100 omakase. However, having been there once and seeing what others ordered, I would probably order a la carte in the future to get a larger variety.

Sitting at a table and ordering the omakase, we were served what seemed to be several courses on a single plate. For ease, I have broken down the dishes in the order I enjoyed them.

First Course:
scallop with truffle and uni
This was an incredibly decadent way to start off the menu. The richness of the uni accentuated the sweetness and texture of the scallop and it was all topped off with a healthy portion of black truffle. This was my favorite item on the first plate.

Second Course:
edamame mousse with ikura and fried noodle
This dish highlighted the presentation and attention to detail that would be expected in the meal. The edamame mouse had a great combination of textures from the popping of the ikura to the chewiness of the edamame to the crunch of the noodle and the smoothness of the mousse. Unfortunately, I found myself wanting a little more flavor as this item followed the uni scallop.

Third Course:
uzu cheese with tomato and deep fried arugla
This dish seemed to be a Japanese take on a caprese. I actually enjoyed this more than a regular caprese. The cherry tomato was sweeter, the uzu added to the cheese added a citrus acidic element, and the fried arugla balanced out the flavors in both texture and flavor.

Fourth Course:
white shrimp with uzu sorbet
This dish seemed to be a take on a gazpacho. The shrimp was mixed with a tomato-based sauce and was topped with an uzu sorbet. The shrimp were extremely fresh and flavorful; their natural sweetness and flavor was a great combination with the other vegetables. I liked the counterpoint of the acidity to the cold was nice, but it might have been a little overplayed in this case as the previous course had the same combination.

Fifth Course:
sashimi selection - hirame, aji, amberjack, toro
The next course highlighted the freshness and quality of the fish served at Ikko. I found that I enjoyed the toro the most out of the particular selection. It was pointed out specifically that this toro came from the kama.

Sixth Course:
berkshire pork cheek with fried shredded potato and arugla salad
The pork cheek seemed to be smoked in preparation as it carried a nice smoky flavor. It was cooked to being very tender, but still had a very enjoyable texture to chew. The argula was a addition to balance the fattiness from the pork, which the potato added a nice textural contrast. I felt the ratio of potato to the rest was a little too much, but the dish was an overall success otherwise.

Seventh Course:
chawanmushi with black truffle and uni sauce, uni
This was the best dish of the night. While it is an easy out to pick an item with black truffle and uni, combining those items into the chawanmushi really carried out the flavor, aroma, and enjoyment of all the decadent richness. This was the perfect fusion of truffle into Japanese cuisine and it was also executed with an intense technical precision.

Eighth Course:
tempura calamari steak - mango jalapeno salsa
The technical execution on this dish was impeccable. While it is extremely easy to overcook a calamari steak, this one was cooked perfectly and allowed the calamari to retain its tenderness. The mango jalapeno salsa added a needed flavoring element as well as a subtle heat to flavor an otherwise relatively bland protein.

Ninth Course:
jumbo prawn and asparagus tempura - tempura dipping sauce mousse
The jumbo spot prawn in this dish was a real treat in both flavor and texture. The addition of the asapargus and nori added an element of umami to the dish to elevate it. The tempura sauce in mousse form was a real treat as it was a surprise and also seemed to carry the flavor of the sauce much better. This was the second best dish of the night behind the chawanmushi.

Tenth Course:
selection of nigiri sushi - maguro, sanma (pike mackerel), kinmedai (alfonsino), iberico pork, uni, foie gras

This dish was the biggest blogger mistake to date. I got so excited about the dish as it was being explained that I forgot to take a photo before eating :(

The maguro was a great quality maguro and a safe way to start off the tasting. The sanma was very flavorful and topped with a slice of ginger that complemented the fishiness of the mackerel. The kinmedai was a fish I had never tasted or even heard of before; it was packed with an intensely sweet flavor and also retained a lot of oil. It was easily my favorite slice of fish all night.
The iberico pork was cooked and topped with garlic confit. The flavor was very intense and enjoyable, and the garlic was a good counterpoint. The uni was again good, but perhaps had been overused throughout the menu. The foie was a seared foie, which was cooked perfectly and worked very nicely to top off the sushi course.

Eleventh Course A:
black sesame ice cream - hot coffee
The theme of this dish was to play off a hot and cold contrast between the ice cream and the coffee. I enjoyed the creativity and whimsical nature of the dish, but I felt that the bitterness of the dark roast coffee didn't necessarily agree with the sweetness of the ice cream.

Eleventh Course B:
vanilla ice cream with hot red bean
This dish was yet another take on the hot and cold contrast, but with a decidedly more Asian flavor profile. While the visual impact of this dish lacked when compared to the coffee, the flavors in this dish seemed to meld together better and I found myself enjoying the flavor profile more.

Overall I really enjoyed my experience at Ikko. The Japanese-French fusion and high quality ingredients really shined. I felt that the desserts were slightly weak and a small letdown in the meal, but the overall meal was extremely enjoyable. Some of the ingredients were a little overused, but since they are steady favorites and were executed well, it is hard to find fault in them. I really enjoyed the presentation of most of the dishes as well.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at Ikko enough to award it a gigabyte award. The dishes seemed to just slightly overuse some of the same ingredients and the desserts didn't really work out for me.


Rodzilla January 12, 2012 at 9:49 PM  

haha I've done the same thing. I would have loved to see the iberico and foie though...guess we'll just have to visit.

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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
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