ki is the Japanese word for pure, undiluted and raw, and the modern Japanese offerings at the Calgary restaurant (308 4 Ave SW, Calgary, AB) are just that. Notable recently attended a dinner in the serene respite from the downtown hustle and bustle in the Jamieson Building, steps from the Westin Hotel.
Upon arrival we quenched our thirst with a refreshing Hiroshi’s Hard Lemonade, made with a citrus yuzu liquor; the perfect summer cocktail to sip on the patio.
When you enter the dark dining area, with massive artwork and tall, sexy upholstered banquets, you’re transported to another world. The soundtrack to our dinner changed throughout the night from rock and roll to jazz to funk.
ki is home to Alberta’s two sake sommeliers, and they can lead novice sake drinkers through an array of easygoing sakes. We were told there’s no need to shock anyone with sake – there’s a variety for every palate. We sampled three sakes throughout the evening. The first sake was the Mizu Aoki, which translates to “crystal blue water,” and was a slightly acidic offering with a flavour profile that included mushroom and a bit of barnyard. The second sake, Dassai 50, was described as “a wonderful trouble maker,” has a round mouth feel and is made in honour of an otter festival. The third sake was Hakkaisan from Niigata, Japan, which we understand is the Alberta of Japan with tons of snow. This sake had floral aromatics with concentrated melon and mineral notes.
Our meal commenced with an otoshi, the Japanese version of an amuse bouche. In this instance, our otoshi was an artfully sculpted cucumber pedestal topped with gems of big eye tuna. Following this bite, our miso soups arrived playfully plated in a cup and saucer.
Japanese cuisine is generally methodically prepared, uncreative, and primarily demonstrates a chef’s knife skills. The cold plates on ki’s menu offers the chef an opportunity to prepare artfully crafted plates where the textures and flavour profiles of the fish are changed with the use of seasonal ingredients. The plate had a juxtaposition of flavours, from Hamachi with jalapeno, lightly torched binnaga tataki, spicy avocado and an almost dessert-like maple tamari binnaga with maple syrup and pine nuts.
Jiro may dream of sushi, but we at Notable are dreaming about the sashimi at ki. The sushi course was a play on tuna and salmon with sake and benizake salmon, toro and kiwi tuna served alongside beef, lobster and California maki rolls.
ki’s Kushi Yaki are street food-type offerings and we indulged in skewers of eggplant with Aka Miso, tofu with Aka Miso and salmon with a yuzu honey glaze.
ki’s take on surf and turf is Yama no Sachi (from the mountains) and Umi no Sachi (from the ocean) and consisted of beef strip loin with an Umeboshi shiso peppercorn sauce, scallop with an Edemame puree a and lamb with ginger mashed potatoes served alongside asparagus and snap peas.
A dessert trio of passion fruit sorbetto, Asian pear cake and green tea cheesecake was set on the table as the final course. They love what they do at ki and it shows.