By Laura Hunter
As downtown Bellevue continues its transformation into a formidable foodie enclave, Kaisho brings an eclectic blend of Eastern and Western flavors in a true Izakaya “small plates, made to be shared and served when they’re ready” style. Helmed by Chef Jeffrey Lunak (a former protégé of Iron Chef Morimoto) and Chef de Cuisine Kalen Schramke, Kaisho joined neighbors like Blue C Sushi and Moshka on December 7th and large plate menus, and even left a bit of room to sample some dessert – which will be a must-do when you arrive, let me tell you now.
The restaurant interior sports an ultra-modern feel – polished white melamine offset by brightly colored baubles and traditional paper lanterns. At 9 o’clock on a Saturday the patronage was the typical mix – a young couple on a date, a “Guys’ Night Out” table, a family with a stroller, three couples around my vintage all passing plates around. There’s also a bar/lounge slightly separated from the dining area, and high industrial ceilings keep the conversational noise from other tables at a low hum without being overpowering.
As you walk through Kaisho’s entrance you see a welcome banner which reads: “Kaisho means ‘meeting or gathering place’. It’s where Japanese tradition and technique intersect with American originality and hospitality.” And the servers who took care of me that night certainly took their charge of “hospitality” to heart – servers and runners made a point of asking my name, even if they forgot it the moment I left it still made me feel like I was part of the family. The head waiter clearly knew his trade and offered a running commentary of the various dishes that I sampled, from a description of the 15-hour process where they smoke their pork over alder wood, to how the sake that I sampled (Hou Hou She sparkling sake, oh so good) offered a good balance to the fire in the dragon sauce that garnished one of the appetizers.
The menu contains a number of standards in “small”, “medium”, and “to share” sizes, plus a scattering of specials like an exquisite long-line caught black cod over a reduction of tomato and daikon, with a velvety butter sauce that was enough to bring it all together without verging into overpowering. The moo shu pork tacos are not to be missed – wafer-thin taco shells surrounding pork-belly comfort-food goodness. And as I hinted at above – leave enough room for the banana upside-down cake, or for some of your favorite ice cream flavors from Cupcake Royale.
504 Bellevue Square, Bellevue, WA 98004
Lunch (Daily): 11AM – 3PM
Dinner (Daily): 5PM – 10PM
Happy Hour (Daily): 3PM – 6:30PM
Friday and Saturday Late Night: 10PM – Midnight