If the quality and flavor of O by Kissaki‘s new Japanese-Italian fusion menu is any indication of the genre’s potential in the Hamptons, let’s hope it starts a massive trend. But let’s not skip ahead to the sweet nothings before we’ve enjoyed this East Hampton restaurant’s many courses.
First, a disclaimer: This is not a paid review — in fact, it’s not a review at all. A handful of local writers, and their plus-ones, were invited to taste the new menu to see if they found it worthy of coverage, with no obligation as far as this writer is concerned. So was it worthy? Well, at the end of the meal, the aforementioned plus-one, an Italian with a taste for Japanese and degrees in culinary and nutrition, ranked the meal among the top five she’s ever had. Not sure how she’s kept track, but high praise nonetheless.
O by Kissaki – Drinks
Our guide on this journey into itameshi — a style of Japanese cuisine using Italian ingredients — was relatively new server Edwin, a quick study who could recite the ingredients and cultural influences of each dish with ease. Given free rein of our dinner and drinks, he started us off with aperitifs: a Majime Old Fashioned made with Japanese whiskey and a Saki-tini with Sagaponack cucumber vodka.
A few refreshing sips in, along came the first dish of Kampachi Radish “Rose” made with truffle soy, shiso and “watermelon” daikon. It’s a faintly sweet small plate that you don’t have to worry about accidentally filling up on because of how light it is on chopsticks and tummy.
O by Kissaki – Dinner
Next came the Tuna Avocado Crudo, which serves the two main ingredients, as well as sweet garlic soy sauce and fried shallots, inside the avocado shells for an adorable display and an incredible blend of flavors. Edwin explained that the reason for the tuna’s attractive dark red color is that it’s classified as akami, the lean red meat of a bluefin tuna.
The next dish, Lardo and Uni Crispy Rice, was the first to prove too much for this writer’s semi-cultured palate, thanks to the unbelievably silky-smooth texture of the uni sea urchin. That’s no knock on the quality, however, as the plus-one happily gobbled up the remaining pieces of duck lardo, rice and sea urchin.
Then came a dish that seemed like it would be equally hit-or-miss to a non-fan of lobster, but wow, the Lobster Zeppole has the power to convert. The presentation of the Italian fried dough, bonito flakes, peeled lobster claw, balsamic veal drizzle and garlic aioli is stunning enough in its homage to Japanese Takoyaki, but the amount of flavor packed into each ball of pillow-soft dough is worth coming back for, even if it was the only thing on the menu. Anyone on the fence about lobster, you know what to order.
A Japanese meal in America would feel incomplete without sushi rolls, and the Maguro Mama Futomaki hits all the right notes with its spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado and sweet potato tempura that adds an understated bit of sweetness and crunch to the roll. It was paired with the second round of drinks: the Kouyou Sour made of kanpyo infused with Alacran tequila, lemon, cinnamon, ginger and egg white, and the Shiokaze made of mezcal, nigori sake, grapefruit, angostura and Peychaud’s Bitters.
Finally, the main course arrived, perhaps the most unique blend of Italian and Japanese cuisine on the menu: Paccheri pasta with duck ragu, hatcho miso and marsala. The bed of seaweed atop the large pasta rings is the first clue that this is likely no ordinary pasta dish, and that first bite confirms what the eyes already knew. This dish, like many others on the menu, plays with the diner’s mind in the way that it looks mostly like a familiar comfort food, and then you taste it, and your tastebuds get thrown into a state of shock and delight, confusion and excitement.
However, nowhere is that sensation of confused delight more evident than in the dish served alongside the night’s main course: Miso Wasabi Mashed Potatoes. Yes, the comforting plainness of mashed potatoes has been mixed with the biting spice of wasabi, and somehow, the taste is actually amazing. The ratio of the two must be key here, as there is just enough wasabi mixed in to provide a kick without overpowering the flavor profile, though there’s also a dollop of wasabi in the center of the mashed potatoes for anyone in need of more heat.
O by Kissaki – Dessert
The night concluded with a Matcha Tiramisu that reimagines the Italian coffee-flavored cake as a Japanese tea-flavored bowl of deliciousness with the lady fingers layered inside. It’s smooth and creamy, just the right amount of sweet, and a wonderful way to cap off a really innovative menu.
Chef Chris Jaeckle conceived something really special for O by Kissaki, with the guidance of Kissaki owner Garry Kanfer and sushi chef Mark Garcia. With the family-style restaurant’s location just outside of East Hampton’s shopping epicenter, hopefully the summer crowd will discover it and reward the team’s culinary creativity.