Two (fairly) new establishments have joined the venerable Toshi Sushi in catering to Montclair’s yen for Japanese food. One might ask if that’s more Japanese food than one small village requires. But it only makes sense to ask if Montclair needs three Japanese restaurants if one thinks of Japanese food as a single, unvarying cuisine.
The Japanese kitchen is as varied as any other of the world’s great food traditions. And, once a cuisine reaches the United States it evolves. The two new(ish) Japanese restaurants in the village represent different types of Japanese fare as well as different adaptations to the American influence.
Think of Koto Buki as the traditional sushi restaurant with plenty of entrees from the classic Japanese-American repertoire. Koto Buki just moved up the hill from Piedmont Avenue where it had been a neighborhood staple for nearly 20 years. It hopes to establish itself in Montclair with the help of fans from the old location.
Kakui Sushi’s owner, Yingji Huang, describes his already popular restaurant as Japanese fusion in the izakaya tradition, that’s a place where hearty nosh meets sake. Yingji says a Japanese tapas bar is a fair description. Kakui specializes in sakes imported from Japan. Yingji says he serves brands that are difficult to find outside of Japan. The restaurant’s signature dish is gindara: That’s sea bass glazed in a miso/sake reduction. “It’s a sweet miso that goes perfectly with the salt water fish,” says Yingji.
Now’s the time to visit Kakui. Yingji says he’s just got hold of some heirloom tomatoes and Hokkaido scallops that go great with a particularly smooth sake from the Masumi brewery.