Kaizan is a stylish Japanese restaurant downstairs where the specialty is Japanese Shabu-Shabu, and upstairs on the garden rooftop where the cuisine is Korean. Now next door, where there was once a small laundry, is the little upstart brother, K2. Kaizan has been busy since opening two years ago, but little K2 is packed every night sometimes even with an overflow to Kaizan proper.
What is the attraction? Izakaya! Which is best described as Japanese Tapas, or small plates. Everyone builds their own meal here, according to their own particular tastes. Each order is for one small plate; select which meat, fish and vegetable dishes you want.
Itamemono are sautéed dishes. A plain Japanese Omelette or fried rice topped with an omelette. Reba Nira Itame is sautéed chicken livers with garlic and chives, my sort of dish! Aubergine with ground beef and miso or a Tofu Burger are amongst the other options.
Agemono are fried dishes. Korokke are croquettes of sweet potato or there is a different version made from soya bean. K2 Fried Chicken is very much different from KFC. Silago fish [small and wafer thin with tail for holding if you do not trust yourself with the chopsticks] is done in a light almost transparent tempura. An accompanying bowl of Tentsuyu [dashi broth with soy and mirin] is put to good use if you dunk the fish and accompanying battered greens in it. Another popular dish here is the Iwashi Tatsuta Age, deep fried sardines.
Nimono are stewed dishes. A serve of Steamed Pumpkin and/or one of Pork Belly in Chinese 5 spices, squid with potatoes or beef tripe in miso. Sakana Nitsuke is fish that has been simmered in sake and soy. Tongue served in a demi glace is one of the main attractions for my visits to K2.
Shirumono are a variety of soups. Tofu is combined with snapper or in another dish with oysters. A soup of minced sardine is distinctly different, and surprisingly tasty, salty but nice. Oden is just a clear dashi soup and Oden Moriwase is 5 small different bowls.
Mushimono are dishes that have been steamed, and naturally are predominately seafood. Squid stuffed with glutinous rice [usually called sticky rice], Ebi Tofu Mushi is a large square of tofu sitting in a hot broth and topped with small steamed prawns, but ask for a spoon to transfer as it is impossible with chopsticks without everything collapsing in a mangled mess! Shellfish of the day can also be had, steamed with sake.
Yakizakana are grilled dishes and here there are many to choose from as they also include all of the Yakitori [meats, seafood and vegetables on small bamboo skewers grilled over charcoal] options. The Chicken and Leek Yakitori comprises a long thin strip of tender chicken with skin still attached at the top, attached to a skewer interspersed with tender chunks of leek. But Yakitori has a combination for everyone. I also like the Pork rolled around asparagus spears and balls of Minced Chicken. A new one is K2?s Zucchini Cheese Roll, a piece of zucchini is encased with a creamy cheese and the wrapped with very thin piece of pork before being grilled and dipped in the usual sauce If confused and game to eat anything then order the Yakitori Moriwase, a mixed plate.
The fish of the day is available grilled fresh or grilled after being cured. Whole squid is surprisingly tender, not the far too often rubber variety. Gyoza are all time favourites; those crescent shaped dumplings, imported from the Chinese, stuffed with minced pork and grilled on one side then dipped in a sauce of soy and vinegar. The Gyoza at K2 are larger than usual, with even more stuffing.
Namamono are raw dishes, served cold of course. They are more than just plain sashimi. Maguro Natto is tuna sashimi but with fermented soy beans whilst Okura Maguro is with poached okura and Maguro Nuta with a sweet miso sauce. Ikura Oroshi is just salmon roe on grated radish and Shirasu Oroshi is white bait [small sprats] served the same way. Once again the easy way out is the Sashimi Moriwase, a mixed plate of sashimi.
As with most Asian cuisines there are a large variety of pure vegetarian dishes available here at K2. The Daikon Radish is served warm, long paper thin strips sitting atop assorted greens and seaweed, all doused in a tasty dressing. As most of the plates are smallish it enables you to try many different combinations, so you are able to enjoy many different tastes from a variety of ingredients and cooking methods, and all at café prices. All around you is the constant sound of chopsticks against bowls and other eating noises. A definite eating house! The constant chatter of Japanese reminds you that this place is for real not just a tourist version.
K2 even has a small but reasonable wine list, available by bottle and glass, a rarity for a Japanese restaurant. Many Sake options as well, of course. Originally only open for dinner, K2 is now open for lunch as well. It does not matter whether you go alone or with friends, as you all do your own thing here anyway! Not much time for talking, just noshing with the occasional sip of sake to wash it all down and warm you, inside!