Yoshi's Jazz House and Japanese Restaurant in Jack London Square, Oakland, CA, has long been my club of choice. There is not a bad seat in the house, prices are usually reasonable and the performers cover the broad spectrum of jazz and related music.
One highlight for us was when our older boy's high school jazz band performed there several years ago. (He plays the trumpet and French horn.)
The attached Japanese restaurant has never been a favorite of mine. Usually we've eaten there only because it got us reserved seating for the performance or because of other restraints. While the sushi was always fresh and good, the other food was uninspired at best featuring tempura and teriyaki and other Western interpretations of Japanese standards.
But that's all changed thanks to the menu introduced about a month ago by the restaurant's new chef, Shotaro "Sho" Kamio.
Among the many highlights were:
We had a number, including a beautiful and exotic combination called Ocean Sunomono, which was recommended by our server. I do you a disservice by not having taken a photograph of this, for which I am truly sorry. Clean, crisp flavors of cucumber, snow crab and young seaweed in vinegar are combined with other ingredients in a presentation that reminded me of a slices of a sushi roll.
Also enjoyed by everyone at the table were a Tempura Soft Shell Crab with Butter Lettuce served in a lemon chile vinagrette and the "Jewelry Box" Tartare with chopped hamachi, maguro and other fish as well as avocado shaped into a pretty box tied with a chive ribbon and served with endive leaves and simple chips for scooping
The kitchen was out of the miso grilled black cod, which was a disappointment. The cracked peppercorn filet mignon with dipping sauce and garlic mousse was good, with a clean pepper flavor, good texture and the creamy, strong but not overpowering mousse, but the rack of lamb was dreamy. Served with the same garlic mousse, it was grilled in a garlic herb soy marinade was voted by the table as the best dish of many great dishes of the evening. It was succulent, flavorful with a balanced flavor that didn't disguise the lamb's natural taste.
We also had a wide variety of sushi and sashimi, all sparkling fresh and tasty.
Yoshi's has a full bar, but most of us made selections from the excellent sake menu.
Chef Kamio was nice enough to come to our table. He said he hoped we liked his new creations. He was sincerely worried that Yoshi's "regulars" would feel abandoned by the new menu and miss the restaurant's "traditional" food. We told him not too worry, that greasy and mediocre would not be missed and that within months Yoshi's would become a destination restaurant for Oakland.
Photo Credit: Yoshis.com