by Rebekah Chan
Kaikaya by the Sea was first introduced to me by friends who swore by the place. They raved about Kaikaya’s maguro (tuna) neck and insisted I had to try it. This came up in conversation after we had sub-par maguro neck together elsewhere. After my first experience at Kaikaya, it has become one of my favorite restaurants, meaning I often eat there several times a month.
The atmosphere is intimate, lively, and casual enough for boisterous chatting and joke sharing. In fact, the thirst-quenching sangria is highly conducive to loud laughs and great conversation. Kaikaya has become synonymous with Ippei-san, the jolly floor manager who greets customers at the door most nights and apologizes if their table is not ready.
The food at Kaikaya can be described as traditional Japanese seafood with a contemporary twist. My personal favorites include senyo no carpaccio, or raw fish in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sweet basil (¥1,000); harumakippoi kani salad, or crab meat salad in a lightly fried spring roll (¥980); maguro no kama no supearibu, or the aforementioned tuna neck (¥1,000); and even the hama no miso-shiru, or seafood miso soup with a touch of sesame (¥1,200).
Not to dwell on a good thing, but the tuna neck really is to die for. With all the succulence, flavor, and texture of spareribs, this house specialty is in itself reason enough to visit Kaikaya. But for more variety, opt for the ¥3,500 omakase course, which includes a variation of most dishes mentioned above, plus sashimi, rice, and more. Ten different scrumptious dishes including dessert for a very affordable price is not easy to come by in Tokyo, which is probably one reason Kaikaya is usually so packed.
Around the eighth course (fried rice with mustard leaves), I am usually uncomfortably full, with no regrets. But try to leave room for dessert, which changes daily and can include anything from sakura ice cream to matcha cheesecake. You never know what you’re going get, but you know it will be good. Reservations are always required, even on weekdays.
23-7 Maruyama-cho, Shibuya-ku