Restaurant Roulette: Sushi Kuni

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Twice a month, El Estoque goes to restaurants around the area and takes a chance by asking the server to personally choose our food for us. This week, we continued the alphabetical theme by going to Sushi Kuni in Cupertino.

When you pull up into the parking lot, it’s almost impossible to see the restaurant because of how small and unimposing the building is. The entrance is on the left side of the building, and once you enter you feel either squashed, or hugged, depending on your point of view. The entire dining area is almost the size of a master bedroom and the ceiling is lower than most restaurants. As you enter, you see the sushi chefs on your left preparing the various dishes in an open kitchen, before a server comes and seats you.

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Japanese Green Tea – complimentary

Rating – 7/10

The green tea comes complimentary before you order food, even if you order other drinks. The tea was simple, just boiled green tea and water, but was refreshing and flavorful without too much noise. The servers were always on top of refilling your cup when you ran out. Interestingly, this was the only complimentary drink on the menu; you had to pay for water. Overall, the tea was refreshing and paired well with the food yet to come.

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Miso Soup – complimentary

Rating – 7/10

The soup itself was similar to the tea in that the flavors were simple yet tasty. You could taste the fermented miso flavor in the soup, and the kombu leaves imparted a taste of the ocean. Even the small slivers of scallion on the top brought another herb-like flavor into this dish. The small pieces of tofu on the bottom offered a good contrast in texture in the soup, but I would’ve preferred having something to counteract the overall salty flavor of the soup, maybe some sugar or vinegar.

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Deluxe Nigiri Plate – $23.00

This plate came with eight pieces of wasabi and pickled ginger, six tuna rolls and eight pieces of nigiri. The wasabi had the standard flavor and texture that you would expect from wasabi. The ginger had a good balance of strong ginger flavor, sour and sweet. However, it could have been sliced thinner, as the thickness contributed to an overly strong taste. The server told me the tuna rolls were meant to be eaten at the end, which were a satisfying end to the meal. The sushi rice was texturally satisfying and balanced salt, sugar and vinegar well.

Nigiri – Worst to Best

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8. Shrimp

The shrimp was the most underwhelming nigiri on the plate. It was bland compared to every other item and had an awkward, stringy texture.

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7. Halibut

The halibut was not as flavorful as the other raw fish and lacked any distinguishing factors. Although the fish itself was supple and tasted good, it was far from special.

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6. Hawaiian Tuna

This fish had a strange flavor profile and isn’t for everyone, but was still good to eat. While the taste of the sea was very satisfying, there was an odd aftertaste. The scallion on the top, however, gave this nigiri a more enticing flavor.

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5. Salmon Roe

The server gave an option between large salmon roe or small roe. The salmon roe was well balanced. Since the roe did not have a noticeable seafood flavor, this nigiri had a large piece of dried seaweed on it to compensate. This piece has to be eaten whole because the seaweed doesn’t tear easily and could leave the sushi in a mess. Overall, the actual roe had a very salty flavor and a satisfying pop to each of them.

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4. Bluefin Tuna

The vibrant red color of the fist immediately caught our eye. While bluefin tuna would normally be much higher on this list, the piece that was served was very lean and did not have the rich, fatty flavor that most expect when ordering bluefin. The fish was firmer than the yellowtail and salmon because of how lean it was, but the seafood flavor was more pronounced.

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3. Glazed Eel

Glazed eel is not something you would typically expect on a sushi platter, but nonetheless it was very well made. The sweet and salty soy sauce glaze on the top gave this particular nigiri a flavor profile none of the other had.

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2. Yellowtail Tuna

This piece of tuna was less intense than the bluefin, but made up for it with its higher fat content, which made the sushi melt in our mouths. This piece was also thinner than the other fish, so when eating it, the flavors of the fish and rice merged together very well.

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1. Salmon

The salmon piece was cut larger than the other fish. The fat content on it was marbled elegantly and gave the salmon a flakey texture, even in its raw form. The fish had the smell of the ocean but tasted distinguishingly sweet compared to all the others. The salmon was juicy and made biting into it like biting into a sea flavored jello. Overall, the salmon was the best piece of fish on the plate because of its sweet flavor and plump texture.

Overall Rating – 8/10

Sushi Kuni stands out in many ways to the other restaurants on De Anza Blvd., from the petite charm to the live preparation of the fish. The chefs take amazing care of their raw fish, but stay away from any cooked shellfish as it is at best an afterthought. Something that makes Sushi Kuni stand out is that it offers Omakase, where for upwards of $40 a person the chef personally prepares pieces of sushi that he selects and gives to you directly. Give it a try if you have some money to splurge (about $30 per person) and want a unique food experience.

All photos by Anirudh Chaudhary

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