Omakase launched at Ritz sushi restaurant
If you like sushi and you don’t know the Japanese word ‘omakase’, you should.
Omakase means “I’ll leave it to you”. In the context of a restaurant, ordering omakase means you’re leaving the selection of food to be served to the chef. In the context of Taikun, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman restaurant, ordering omakase means the chef is going to blow you away with a selection of food of such taste and quality that it will redefine your concept of sushi.
Taikun, a gourmet sushi lounge, opened in The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman in November 2009. At one time, the restaurant’s location was part of the Silver Palm Lounge, which also served a limited selection of sushi. However, Taikun shouldn’t be confused with the Silver Palm Lounge and the difference only starts with the food.
In March, Taikun launched omakase – pronounced oh-mah-kah-say – as a new dining option. While it’s true that you have to be a bit adventurous to order omakase – after all, you don’t know what you’ll be served – the quality of the food makes the choice well worth it.
While the selections change from day to day depending on what’s fresh and the chef’s inspiration, on 14 March the omakase started with miso soup served with fresh lime and a trio of appetisers, each similar to an amuse bouche. There was an inventive shrimp ceviche with watermelon lime granite; king crab with coconut wrap topped with cucumber foam; and Ankimo – or monkfish liver – with Momiji Oroshi (a chili paste made with daikon radish) in a ponzu sauce. These three small bites immediately indicated that this wasn’t going to be the usual sushi dining experience.
The second course was tuna tiradito, a ceviche-like dish in honey yuzu (a citrus sauce made from a sour tangerine-like fruit) with sesame seeds and micro wasabi.
Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Executive Chef Frederic Morineau said the wasabi used at Taikun isn’t like the wasabi served in most sushi restaurants, which he said is actually made from dried horseradish and colouring.
“We use fresh, real wasabi and it’s grated right by your table,” he said, adding the cost of real wasabi is quite high, but it underscored Taikun’s commitment to using fresh, high-quality ingredients.
“We use nothing but fresh fish and everything is real,” he said. “There’s nothing that’s been frozen and no fake crab.”
The third course looked more like sushi you see elsewhere, a selection of sashimi (raw fish) and nigiri (raw fish on formed rice). While it might have looked like the usual sushi, the taste was in a sushi league all by itself. The yellow tail king fish, Atlantic salmon and escolar sashimi were all outstanding, but the nigiri selection of tuna tataki, ama ebi (raw sweet shrimp) and king crab with avocado were truly sublime.
The final course before dessert was a selection of two of Taikun’s signature maki (rolls), including Hamachi Avocado Roll (with jalapeno, wasabi tobiko, petite wasabi) and Volcano Roll (with ahi poke, tempura shrimp, wasabi mayo, shiso, tobiko, cucumber, green onion and tempura frits).
Chef Morineau pointed out that Taikun’s chefs were skilled at cooking the maki rice, which he said made a big difference. “They always get just the right texture,” he said.
The meal ended with a trio of desserts, including watermelon in yuzu cream and mochi (a type of rice cake) filled with green tea ice cream.
All of the courses are served on attractive plates custom-designed for Taikun and with the high service standard that is typical of all The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s restaurants.
Taikun’s omakase provides a lot of great food and it’s well worth the $60 per person price for five unmistakably, high-quality and delicious courses.
Because of the variety of flavours and textures, sushi is widely considered a food that is difficult to pair with wine. Partially for that reason, most good sushi restaurants serve good sake because sake happens to pair wonderfully with sushi.
To go with its upscale sushi theme, Taikun has committed to offering a selection of fine sakes. These aren’t the low-quality sakes that are served heated to people in some touristy sushi restaurants that no self-respecting Japanese person would ever drink, but sakes that are served cold and have flavour profiles similar to fine wine – even if sake is, in some ways, more like beer than wine because it is brewed.
Most of Taikun’s sake is imported from Japan, although it also carries some of the sakes made in Oregon. Taikun’s selection includes, among others, Gekkeikan Traditional, Gekkeikan Horin and Takasago Gingashizuku “Divine Droplets”, as well as Moonstone Raspberry, a fairly sweet sake that is good with dessert.
Other sushi restaurants in the Cayman Islands carry sake, but Taikun’s selection is a cut above others.