Ken Kawasaki is a small place with just 13 seats around a low u-shaped counter that frames the kitchen. Ken Kawasaki is the Japanese chef that opened the place and still is in charge of the menu but he is rarely there in person as he is usually in Japan. Staffing is sparse, as it appeared that the assistant chef also was responsible for washing dishes and helping serve. The greeter/waiter also helped with serving and clearing. It was impressive what they could accomplish with so little staff, but it felt odd that they still merited receiving one Michelin star. The service was helpful, efficient and provided good pacing for the menu however their command of English was variable.
I also found the noise from their convection oven annoying as it roared much of the meal and then would cut out abruptly when they opened it to remove or put something inside. They did have purse boxes, as opposed to stools, which defeats the purpose of having your purse closer but does give you a place to stow your stuff if you have something with you. Beat music is in the background and the place is really well-lit, a bit too bright for me but nice for photos. Large cloth napkins are at each place setting as well as flatware and chopsticks. Light wood, stainless steel and white cabinets add to the brightness as does a large window to the street. Everyone is served the one of two tasting menus (they vary in number of courses) and guests had staggered arrivals to allow the 2 chefs to only have to prepare 4 plates at a time. Pairings include saki as well as wine and wine pours are weighed before serving; we ordered our own wine. The food is precise but I found it a bit soulless.
A duck confit was served with a charred polenta coating. It had a black garlic sauce and was quite meaty but mostly mildly flavored.
Marinated mackerel was plated with Japanese saki foam, bergamot jelly and seasonal vegetables including asparagus and white dandelion and topped with orange powder. This did include some strong flavors that blended nicely with the dressing. It was good.
Bread was warmed and served by the half slice. It was good but that varied depending on how freshly it was cut. It was a dense brown bread with a good crust.
Lobster soup was mixed with celery root, Japanese shiitake mushroom and Kaffir lime. It smelled really good and the lobster broth was a winner. The mushrooms were meaty and moist and loaded with flavor.
Turbot was plated with artichoke, leek, clams and powder of green tea oil. Green tea was also in the broth. It was very mild and quite light.
Veal filet topped with marinated wasabi was covered with black sheets made of Japanese seaweed and served alongside Jerusalem artichoke. The meat was very tender and the artichoke mildly flavored. The seaweed sheets gave the dish some textural contrast but the black sheets on a black plate was visually unappealing.
Dessert was roasted quince with cheese ice cream and crispy comté cheese on top. A mousse from mescal added to the dish along with some almond-caramel and white chocolate crumbles. It was a good variation of textures and tastes – sweet and crisp. I really enjoyed the cheese ice cream. When the ingredients were eaten together they were better than when eaten individually.
Last treats were orange marshmallows that were quite mild, white chocolate caramel macaroons which were okay and milk chocolate praline candies that were definitely the best.