Kaikaya By The Sea

by Ed Lau on June 23, 2008

Kaikaya, by the sea, izakaya, Ed Lau, fish, carpaccio, prawns, prawn brains

Tokyo has really become one of the foremost culinary destinations for gourmets everywhere. In fact, the city has become such a great place for food that Michelin called Tokyo the world’s best by bestowing the city with a total of 191 stars, nearly tripling the total held by Paris (65). I know I’ll be doing a lot of touristy things in Japan but I also wanted to experience the city’s wonderful live music, art scene and, of course, the many fantastic restaurants the Tokyo has to offer…especially those that most might not know about.

One of my first destinations was Kaikaya, a small izakaya with a red awning that only seats about 30. It took me about half an hour to find the place even though I had the exact address…mostly due to the absurd numbering address system that Japan uses that I’m sure even confuses those who actually live here. It is located maybe ten to fifteen minutes from the Shibuya train station.

Like many Japanese restaurants, Kaikaya is closed between lunch and dinner. I arrived a little early, just before 6:00pm when the place opens. I did not have a reservation but owner Teruyuki Tange greeted me warmly and gave me a seat at the counter. Reservations are a must here since the maybe 30 seats filled up very quickly. It can get quite cramped and noisy so carrying a conversation requires you to raise your voice a bit but it is a fun place to be.

Kaikaya, by the sea, izakaya, Ed Lau, fish, carpaccio, prawns, prawn brains

Taking your order is the cheerful manager Ippei Takei, who tried his best to serve me despite his limited English…which was the better alternative to my absolutely horrible Japanese. Luckily, there is a bi-lingual menu available and when all else fails, you can simply point to what you want on it.

Ippei-san recommended the fish carpaccio and the prawns, which he reckons are probably the most popular items on the menu. This was confirmed by the rest of the patrons as I saw many people with the same or similar dishes in front of them. Kaikaya is known for both their traditional dishes of fresh seafood (mostly sashimi) as well as their more fusion-influenced creations.

Kaikaya, by the sea, izakaya, Ed Lau, fish, carpaccio, prawns, prawn brains

My Sengyo no Carpaccio (fresh fish carpaccio with garlic, olive oil, balsamico and sweet basil) was crafted right in front of my eyes as the chef carefully sliced through the fresh fish and arranged it like flower pedals on a plate before handing it to another to finish the dish with the pesto, garlic and a salad. I’ve had similar dishes in Vancouver at places such as Guu with Garlic and although they’re good, this one is better. The fish is incredibly fresh and the garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and basil explode in your mouth.

Kaikaya, by the sea, izakaya, Ed Lau, fish, carpaccio, prawns, prawn brains

The Ebi no Ebiniyoru Ebi-Sousu (prawns with prawn sauce) arrived shortly after. I was a bit skeptical about the sauce, which is made of prawn brains. I have no problem eating prawn brains (sucking them out of the heads is so delicious) but it didn’t seem like something to make sauce out of. I was absolutely wrong on that part, really. The sauce is somewhat like a tangy honey mustard and delicious. It’s a wonderful match with the prawns, which are a good size (no tiny, shrunken shrimpy ones here) and served in a crispy wonton bowl.

All this deliciousness comes at a price. The carpaccio and prawns were 1000 yen each and with a couple of beers and the table charge, my bill came to 3500 yen. Not cheap but a reasonable price for the fantastic food and the hospitality. After I finished, both Ippei-san and Tange-san asked me if I enjoyed my food and were very pleased that I did. Tange-san was quite interested to hear that I had come from Canada and showed me some pictures of Canadian band Simple Plan when the visited Kaikaya recently. A quick browse through the many, many pages of satisfied customers on Kaikaya’s website show several Japanese celebrities, baseball players and even the designers for American streetwear brand Stüssy. He was quite happy and proud to hear that I had a great experience at his restaurant. He walked me out and wished me well as he pointed in the direction I should go, after I told him of the difficulty I had finding his restaurant. If you can find it in the urban jungle of Tokyo, Kaikaya is a gem that is well worth the search.

in Food and Fine Dining,Travel

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

ms danielle June 23, 2008 at 1:20 pm

those dishes look amazing. i can’t wait!!


Michael Kwan June 23, 2008 at 3:55 pm

That does look good. Glad to hear that you’re managing to survive. :)


Paul June 23, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Nice review. I like the pics … looks very pro!

Sengyo no Carpaccio looks good!


Eva White June 25, 2008 at 4:29 am

You have done a fabulous job of reviewing all these dishes. You can consider becoming a food critic.


Ken July 1, 2008 at 8:27 am

Man your food pics are perfectly clear
Your new campaign should be
No Beer Left Behind.


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