Guys, amazing news. First, Matt and I have been in each other’s lives for four years now (!!) and he hasn’t even figured out that this is all a big scam and he could actually have been married to someone way nicer by now – perhaps someone who doesn’t angrily whisper at him to “hold still!” when balancing a dumpling in chopsticks for the perfect close up.
But secondly, we celebrated those four years with our first Michelin-starred restaurant experience! When researching places to eat for our family trip to San Francisco, we learned that the Bay area has a ton of restaurants ranked within this prestigious rating system – the 2019 list is overwhelming. Since we had some time to kill on the first day before my in-laws arrived, we booked an early dinner at Omakase. Located in the fancy, modern Design District of San Francisco, Omakase has made a name for itself with, you guessed it, omakase cuisine.
For those not in the know, omakase is a style of dining wherein the chef selects everything you’ll be eating – it’s a Japanese blind tasting menu. It’s usually going to have some challenging, adventurous items to try as chefs at this level use omakase as an opportunity to show off their favourite ingredients or techniques, many of which may seem unappetizing or unusual at first, particularly to a western palate. We went in knowing it would be a wild ride and we were not disappointed!
Omakase (the restaurant, not the cuisine!) offers two different fixed price menus – the Hideaki ($150 USD) or the Yamato ($200 USD) plus optional sake pairings for $80 USD. We went with Yamato and pairings because YOLO! (Plus we agreed we would both be okay eating nothing but unseasoned rice and beans for dinner until our next pay day.)
The website has simplified descriptions of what each version of the omakase entails, but we found that we were fed a lot more than just what was listed. From our very first course (the unphotogenic and thus undocumented ankimo, or monkfish liver) to our lychee ice dessert, we were dazzled by every bite. Fresh sashimi, miso soup, nigiri with genuine wasabi and house-pickled ginger, a nori “taco” that melted in our mouths – this meal provided all our faves, but elevated to a stunning level.
Something pretty special that we were anxious to try was fresh uni, or sea urchin. Neither of us had tried it before, but it’s one of the most buzzy ingredients in Japanese cuisine and is often described as being creamy and tasting like the sea. It was actually recently featured on season 1 of Netflix’s The Final Table, a fine dining culinary competition that included Calgarian chef Darren MacLean (of Shokunin, which we visited for their second birthday last winter!) We learned early in the meal that we’d be served not one, but two courses featuring this delicacy.
Yeah so turns out we didn’t love it. I get why people are into it – with such a delicate texture and a flavour that is unlike anything else I’ve ever tasted, this is truly a unique ingredient. Fortunately for Matt and I, we can now rest easy knowing we don’t need to bother shelling out for this pricy seafood in the future!
One of the differences between the two omakase menus was that the more expensive version comes with a Wagyu course. This was particularly thrilling to use after our recent hosted meal at OMO Teppan & Kitchen in Calgary where we ate our fill of this extremely high grade beef. At Omakase, it was prepared over a sushi rice base with a generous pile of shaved black truffle and a carefully administered flake of gold foil. So yeah, we’ve eaten gold now! It melted instantly in our mouths along with the super tender beef and fluffy truffle. Can confirm it has no flavour, but it did leave me feeling rich as heck for the days that followed (until I saw our credit card bill come through in Canadian dollars).
With all said and done, this meal was exactly what we were looking for – a romantic, once-in-a-lifetime dinner experience made with ingredients we will likely never be served again. Getting to sit directly in front of your own personal sushi chef for an evening is something else! The sake pairings were fantastic as well – each one was served in a different beautiful cup (sometimes with matching carafe) and came with an explanation of its locale, flavour profile and rarity – some of the labels we tried are produced in runs of as few as 1,000 bottles each year.
This meal was definitely not for everyone, but I love to be challenged by new flavours, textures and aromas. Matt and I still get stressed every time we sit down in a fancy restaurant – “Do we use our hands for this one? Are they judging me for slurring after only the third pairing? Can they tell we’re not important enough to eat here??” or my favourite – “Beverage or finger bowl?”
Feel free to reach out on social media or in the comment section below to let me know how much you disapprove or are intrigued by this extravagant meal. I promise that Matt and I are still the same humble people we were before this experience – aside from our newly gold-plated digestive systems!