A new omakase restaurant just opened in Palo Alto, serving what a restaurant partner describes as Edomae- and “Bay Area style”-style sushi. Iki Omakase debuted on Wednesday, January 17, and comes from chef Jiabo Li, who previously worked at San Francisco restaurants Sushi Hon and Michelin Guide-listed Sato Omakase.
Edomae sushi involves cooking or curing fish, typically using methods from the pre-refrigeration Edomae era of Japan some 200 years ago. Iki Omakase partner Sunny Noah says this style of cooking creates a depth of flavor that separates this restaurant from others. It’s part Edomae, but also a “Bay Area-style” of sushi, a combination of old and modern cooking methods. He says Li’s mix of aging techniques — such as marinating fish in sea kelp or dry-aging — paired with unique ingredients like Li’s six-year-aged soy sauce and vinegar rice, all work to distinguish Iki’s menu. “With these three combinations they have to work in a harmonious way,” Noah says, “instead of one being heavier than the other, which may produce some imbalance. So the focus is on the balance of these three, that gives him a unique presentation.”
Iki sources its fish from Japan, and diners can expect selections such as anago, a saltwater, wild-caught fish with a different flavor from its more-popular cousin, freshwater unagi; akamutsu, or blackthroat seaperch, considered to be a luxury ingredient like uni and caviar due to its price and rarity; and shima-aji, or striped jack. Li is also working on some personal dishes, such as tako yawarakani, or soft-braised octopus. With this dish, he massages the octopus for hours before it’s cooked at a low temperature with a special sauce Li learned from his mentor and adapted to his own tastes.
In some ways, the restaurant skews traditional, but in other ways, the restaurant can be considered contemporary, featuring non-traditional items such as wagyu, which Noah calls the restaurant’s “modern approach.” The supplement list is small, just three items, with the focus on bringing luxe ingredients such as akamutsu and uni to the 18-course menu. Drinks are limited for now, with plans to bring on wine, Champagne, and nonalcoholic pairings in the future. For now, Noah says there’s an extensive sake menu available. The restaurant worked with sake sommeliers and the Sake Lab, which supplies Michelin-level restaurants such Kusakabe, and found bottles unique to the Bay Area, including a nonalcoholic sake.
Noah defines the term iki as “refined elegance” perhaps akin to the recent movement of “quiet luxury.” The dark space mixes modern and traditional design, Noah says, pairing a dark-stained, salvaged Redwood counter from Bay Area Redwood and custom furniture against dramatic black walls.