Sushi is Twitterific – Kaifu Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar

Kaifu Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar – Downtown, Charleston, WV

Dan says…

There was a time when I think you could call sushi trendy, but when Charleston has two dedicated sushi bars, three restaurants that serve good sushi (Taste of Asia, Hibachi, Ichiban), several chinese buffets and Kroger offering sushi, I think it is safe to say that sushi is mainstream.  What is not mainstream is the social network that we used to obtain our dining partners for our sushi lunch, Twitter@oncee and @blairly, along with several others suggested that we hit Kaifu for sushi the first chance we got. So emails and Tweets where exchanged, and a date was set.

Three of the Five arrived at 12:30 to find a packed dining room.  This place is small and is the definition of a “Hole in the Wall”.  The very cozy dining room holds about 30 people.  The sushi chef toils away in the back corner making little raw fish treasures.  This place is quaint and it makes me think this is what a sushi bar in downtown Tokyo would look like.  There are all kinds of people dining today from the $1000 suit lawyer to the 9 year old boy eating with his dad.  This place feels almost hip.

Specials

Specials

The waitress brings us our menu and asks for our drink orders with a little bow.  I would not have noticed this bow, but she performed the point of courtesy everytime she came to the table.  All drinks are $1.95 including hot green tea.  Hearing my father say, “When in Rome…” I ordered tea.  I can remember him saying that at lunch in the King’s Arms Tavern when I was ten and wondering what it meant.  The tea had a semi-translucent green hue.  The flavor wasn’t very bright and it had an earthy, fresh cut grass flavor.  I read that flavor could be caused by tea being stored incorrectly.  More likely it is what it tastes like and my uncultured palate doesn’t know any better.

California Roll

California Roll

We looked over the lunch menu and tried to fiqure out what would give us a good variety.  Hint:  They have specials that we didn’t see until we walked out. Several things look good, but they will have to wait until another time.  I ultimately chose the Sushi Combination A, which gave me a California Roll and five kinds of sushi for $10.95.  The Cali roll looked and tasted uninspired.  Just plain sushi rice, avocado and krab. Add soy and wasabi and it was good to go.  My five kinds of sushi were smoked salmon, raw salmon, shrimp, krab and real crab with tabasco.  My favorites were the smoked salmon and the crab with Tabasco.  This was a nice meal, but I had serious food envy for Susan and Phil’s bento boxes. I was able to steal a tempura mushroom out of Phil’s box.  It was a deep fried portabello mushroom. The fungi was sliced thin, battered and fried.  There is no way that could be bad.

Lunch Combination A

Lunch Combination A

Our service was good neary for two forgotten salads, but they were served with the meal.  I’ll be back to try something more exotic or to get my own bento box.  Try out the THREE Fork Kaifu sometime soon.

Do you know the difference between sushi and sashimi?

Susan says…

I was all geared up for sushi today, having braced my system for all the carbohydrates in the sticky white rice.  But when I reviewed the laminated menu, I didn’t see a combo lunch that suited me.  The problem was the sushi combination lunches included the uber-popular California Roll, of which I am one of only a handful of US citizens who don’t care for them.

I wanted spicy tuna roll ($6.95), shrimp and veggie tempura (another $6.95) and our friend Stanton, hot dog officianado, reccommended the edamame ($3.95).  Hmmmm……my total was building fast.  Plus, I couldn’t eat all that.  I wish this place had a buffet where I could just sample things.  There were so many other things on the menu that I would love to try but I only want a couple bites of each.  I was sending telepathic messages to the other folks at the table, mentally requesting that someone, SOMEONE, order those edamame so I could try a few bites, even brought up the topic with Daniel.  No luck.

When you make your own virgin visit to Kaifu, be aware that the combinations that say something like: “California roll and 5 types of sushi” means they choose the five types of sushi you will eat.  And the menu does not specify what they are.  That just plain makes me uncomfortable.  I like to know what I am eating, especially if I am paying for it.  That’s a sushi crap shoot….buying a sushi pig in a poke, if you will.

Osaka Box $9.95

I ultimately decided on one of the bento boxes called the Osaka Box: chicken teriyaki, fruit, shrimp & veggie tempura and tossed salad for $9.95.  The other box (which Phil ordered) also contains 4 pieces of California Roll for an extra dollar.  It is obvious why I did not choose that one.  The portion sizes in my Box were perfect: not too large that I couldn’t eat everything, but not so small that I was left wanting more.  It was the Goldilocks of portion sizes.  Our server accidentally forgot to bring the salads out in advance of the hot items, but we were enjoying stories from Blair and Bill so the wait (which they said was longer than usual) seemed to pass by quickly.  (A note about Blair – I think she might be a sushiaholic.  You might see her hanging around outside one of the sushi places around town.)

Chicken Teriyaki

My food was delicious overall.  The chicken was cut into perfect small bite-size pieces.  This is the way to do it when you have a smaller amount, it makes it look like you have more chicken and it stretches further through the rice.  The teriyaki sauce was thick and a bit too salty for me, even for a soy-based concoction.  It reminded me of the Kikkoman Teriyaki Baste & Glaze that I used to use on occasion before the Carb Hammer came down.  The ginger salad dressing was plentiful, thick and tangy.  It made that iceberg lettuce taste great.  It is similar to the dressing you receive at a Hibachi steakhouse.  Yummy.  But the best part of the box were the tempura.  I got 2 pieces each of veggie and shrimp and was thrilled, because I expected only one each.  The shrimp were great, the batter delicious and the dipping sauce was the perfect accompaniment.  Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the mushroom tempura – mushrooms almost made my list of foods I cannot tolerate, but were edged out by sausage at the wire.  This mushroom was great, not spongy at all and how bad could any food be when it is covered in tempura batter and deep fried?  Really?  Maybe I could even eat mayonaisse that way, if I could figure out how to get the battter wrapped around a blob of mayo.

Tempura

The Mount Fuji summit of this meal was the Japanese Onion Ring, otherwise known as onion tempura.  OMG – it was awesome.  I think they should offer a basket of those on the menu.  Ron would have had a religious experience over these onions.  Phil said Dan could have a piece of his because he wouldn’t be able to eat everything and before the sentence was fully out of Phil’s mouth, Dan’s chopsticks were grabbing a piece of tempura out of Phil’s box.  Dan was hoping for an onion (since I was going on and on about it) but it was a mushroom.  Still delicious though!

As good as everything else was, I must say something about the fruit.  It came from a can.  Seriously.  It didn’t even look like they were trying to disguise that it came from a can.  At least the bags of frozen fruit have larger, irregular chunks of fruit that resemble fresh when thawed.  If canned is the best you can do, just don’t bother.  The fruit brought down the credibility of the entire meal.  It made me wonder what else was fake.

Dan didn’t admit his obvious disappointment when he saw the K-rab on his plate, but we could all see it on his face and his hesitation to dig in – his chopsticks were at the ready before his plate was placed before him.  In defense of Kaifu on this one, a lot of people (especially in a land-locked state like ours) really like K-rab and, in fact, it is the only “crab” they know.  I think the reason he got one of each (K-rab and actual crab) is the popularity of the phony stuff.  Another reason could be the reluctance of some people (not naming any names here, but one starts with “P” and ends with “hil”) to try sushi due to the raw nature of some of the ingredients.

The price of the sodas: $1.95.  Ouch.  I leave the restaurant with a sore tushy when I am charged around the $2 mark for a fountain drink.

When we had paid our bills and were headed out the door, Dan noticed the chalkboard full of specials which gave me a pang of Food Regret.  I think our server should have made sure we were aware of the specials when she gave us the menus.  I will know to look for it next time, on the right-hand wall as you walk in.  It’s kind of hard to see, so make sure you check it out.

This is a neat little place, very busy, so you know it’s popular.  My tab totaled around $14 with tax and tip, which is steep for lunch, but I got a lot of food and was full the rest of the afternoon.  I definitely want to come back, but I am going to propose we play musical dishes where everyone orders something different and you take a bite and pass it around until the music stops.  That way I get to try a lot of different things without having to secure a loan to pay for my lunch.  I think “I’m Turning Japanese” by the Vapors would be an appropriate soundtrack for that dining adventure.  Dan can load it on his iBrick, uh… I mean… iPhone.

THREE FORKS. (for now – you know how I love Asian food, the fork count could go up next time)

Kaifu Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar
150 Court Street
Charleston, WV 25301
(304) 344-0500
Kaifu Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon
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14 responses to “Sushi is Twitterific – Kaifu Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar

  1. I have a picture of the special board that I’ll link in it a bit.

  2. You’ve got to try Sushi Atlantic (on Shrewsbury St – plenty of parking). Service is a bit slow but worth it.

  3. It’s on the list, but it is hard to go for lunch because of the speed. Rest assured we will get there for a review.

  4. I love Sushi Atlantic, but he service is really slow. On the other hand the food is really good.

    I think visited Kaifu at a really busy time. The other time Blair and I have been there the service has been much better.

  5. The sushi addict would be glad to accompany on a dinner trip to Atlantic. Bill is right, though, it’s slooooooow. Worth it, but slooooow.

  6. I appreciate Kaifu’s balance of quality, speed and price. You may get marginally better Japanese at one of t our ther downtown establishments but you’re going to wait or pay.

  7. The chef/owner of Kaifu, Yoshi, is a highly skilled French chef. He can do some amazing things with sushi if you’re willing to pay and allow him to dazzle you.
    Still, the sushi (which your review is not focused on) is not as good as Fuji made it when he owned the place.
    It is still better than any other place in town (except for Fuji’s take-out over on Jefferson Rd.) by far.

  8. 2 questions.
    1. Where is this Fuji take-out on Jefferson Rd.?
    and 2. Which buffets serve sushi in them- please tell!

    Thanks!

  9. Now you guys are talking about a topic I can factually weigh in on. Yoshi IS a seriously skilled chef. Honestly, I have tried Ichiban, Taste of Asia, Hibachi and Mr. Ito @ Sushi Atlantic – and they are OK ( I do enjoy the cooked entrees at Ichiban – they are good). But, bite for bite, Kaifu is the best sushi you are going to get in this town. I am biased – extremely so. I worked for Fuji and Dawn for 4 years and Yoshi a year and half. I lamented the passing of the blade, but Yoshi has not let me down. I eat there as much as my wallet can allow these days. The teriyaki sauce is made there – no kikomman here. All the sauces are made on site. I just can’t say enough about this place. Scott and Laura have a niche @ Ichiban -they are really doing Pan-Asian cuisine which is taking flavors from the entire region. They have some really tasty items. But, I am not going to pay them to serve me mediocre fish at twice the price. Ambiance and liquor can only do so much. I ate @ Kaifu tonight and the spicy tuna roll (made homie style – just ask for it) is as good sushi gets. I also indulged with a seaweed salad and a godzilla roll. I walked out with my taste buds dancing. I beg you guys to go back at dinner (and if a Friday – make a reservation). Be bold and split food so you can have a bite or two of different things. When I was a server there, my favorite thing to do was have a table ask me to choose some items for them. I rarely had a complaint. And, I agree – Cali rolls are a waste of stomach space. That is unless you get a blue crab cali with real crab and smelt roe – YUMMY.

  10. I just noticed this question from Rebecca-

    The sushi takeout on Jefferson Road is Fuji- beside the Exxon and Blues BBQ. Many people have recommended it to me but I have not tried it yet. I find it ironic that their sign says tropical fish and sushi. hmmmm…..

    Some of the chinese buffets have sushi, but it is usually Cali rolls, or veggie rolls, maybe a cooked shrimp. I cannot think of a buffet with sushi that a true sushi lover would get excited about.

    Mr. Hillbilly-

    I don’t get it. I hope you aren’t referring to a typo in my post. I would be horrified.

  11. I haven’t been to a sushi restaurant in ages. I would really like to see a talented sushi chef flip, toss, and roll some sushi for me. I’ve been experimenting with some sushi making myself recently, and my favorite is the spicy tuna roll.

  12. Also, there is a sushi joint down here on the gulf called Sakura, and they sell good sushi for under $10 mostly.

  13. I’ve had the “Japanese Onion Ring” at Kaifu and it left me extremely puzzled. Sure it tasted great but I didn’t pay a lot of $$ for my tempura for something I could get at A&W at 1/4 of the price. I guess I was shocked as I’ve never seen it done before and expected more traditionally served vegetables. Overall, the food tasted pretty good, abeit on the pricey side but that’s to be expected…

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