Mar 25, 2009

Kinoshita: São Paulo's top Japanese restaurant

Kinoshita, in the tony Vila Nova Conceição district of São Paulo, is simply the number one Japanese restaurant in town. Tsuyoshi Murakami, a.k.a. Mura, is an incredibly talented sushiman, and, quite unexpectedly, also very outgoing, with an outsize personality. He speaks many languages, was born in Japan and grew up in Rio state. After running the show at a small and non-descript restaurant in Chinatown, he closed the place down and relocated to this new address. Thanks to a deep-pocketed partner, the new Kinoshita is much swankier: blond woods, open sushi bar and grill, impeccable landscaping, beautiful china, Spiegelau wine glasses, etc.

You can go there and order sushi and sashimi, but that would be a bit of a pity. Mura is a tasting menu kind of guy. Tell him to cook for you and he'll embrace the chance to dazzle. Currently, the tasting menu costs 180 reais - a bargain if compared to equivalent menus in, say, New York. I tried it recently, and here's what it was like:

1 Roe of tainha fish marinated in sake, served on a lime "bowl".

2 Tairagai, a shellfish imported from Japan, cut in three and seasoned with a dash of yuzu. Crisp texture, refreshing.

3 More tainha roe, but here, compressed until it became hard/chewy like bottarga. Mura used it as the stuffing of a very delicate roll of Japanese radish and sprouts. Incredibly crunchy on the outside, yet chewy on the inside. Very pleasant mouthfeel.

4 Pieces of perfectly blanched octopus, served cold and tossed with shark fin, bean sprouts, ponzu sauce and olive oil. Again, the same incredible constrast in textures. And a sense of freshness. It actually made a cracking sound as I chewed!

5 Chu-Toro (the not-as-noble sibling of O-toro, the prize part of the tuna). Freshly grated wasabi. Enough said.

6 Fish broth (Dobin Mushi) poured out of a teapot. Nothing more but a splash of yuzu. Absolutely amazing. Delicious, complex flavours, which showed themselves subtly. At the end, a gentle kick of spice.

7 Sushi. Perfect. Sole, pargo (with a shisso leaf), yellowtail (my favourite), very fatty salmon, and more of that amazing chu toro, with a tiny sprinkle of fleur de sel. With this came the house soy sauce, which is so good you might actually be tempted to drink it.

8. Monkfish liver with hot pepper and finely sliced cucumber. A bit of an anti-climax...

9. Marinated and grilled cod with aspargus. Impeccable.

10. Kobe beef marinated in miso paste, then sliced very finely and flash-grilled. Too good for words!

11. Rice with eel and quail's egg. Tasty, but a bit much at that point. Sensory overload...

12. Lichee ice cream. A simple, clean finish (not that I would have minded something a bit more elaborate...)

This is a delicious little green tea bonbom that they brought to me as a special treat, made by Mura's wife Suzana. Sadly, not on the regular dessert menu.

I went back a few nights later and... got a different dessert! This one was much better.
Green tea ice cream with a ball of a silky and gooey rice flour paste with a filling of chocolate ganache (in lieu of the more typical bean paste). Heavenly. Too bad I only got one ball, as I could have easily had four or five!

For those who may find the tasting menu too expensive, Kinoshita does offer a prix fixe lunch...

The pictures tell the story: this is as good as it gets.

Kinoshita: Rua Jacques Félix, 405, Vila Nova Conceição, tel. 11 3849-6940.

For more on Kinoshita click here

More on São Paulo Japanese restaurants on this blog:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this rec., this restaurant is absolutely fantastic. Best meal I've had in several years. And the sake selection is delicious