Climb a winding, slightly battered staircase at Kado No Mise and discover a world unlike anything else in the Twin Cities. A serene 10-seat counter — a kind of minimalist diner — becomes the stage for chef/co-owner Shigeyuki Furukawa to host his three-nights-a-week show. It’s a 10-course exercise in kaiseki, the extravagant, symbolism-laden Japanese feast. It’s spectacular.
Course 1: After an earthy millet tea served as a fragrant liquid salutation, this amuse-bouche helped take the chill off a cold winter evening: fried tofu, the exterior light and crispy, the bean curd silky and rich, served with wood ear mushrooms and shirauo, a tiny, translucent, midwinter fish with a mild flavor that hinted at the ocean.
Course 2: Such beauty, and creativity; if only Super Bowl party snacks were approached with such care and finesse. A snappy blue prawn, glazed in egg yolk and grilled. Herring roe that amusingly popped like bubble wrap when chewed. Smoky whitefish, cured, jerky-style. Duck breast, ridiculously rich and tender. And soybeans simmered in carrot and daikon. The pine? A gracious symbol of winter.
Course 3: The arrival of this elegant broth underscored how this experience is a seafood lover’s dream. Front and center was sake-steamed tilefish, a pale, opalescent treasure from the sea, immersed in a dashi perfumed with ginger. The finishing touches included a carrot carved in the shape of a plum blossom (this crew’s knife skills are off the charts) and a tender baby bok choy.
Course 4: A dreamy sampler of radiantly pristine sashimi, light years beyond its supermarket counterparts. There was fatty, terra cotta-tinted tuna belly; translucent, snapper-like needlefish; and firm, lean Spanish mackerel, all cut with a surgeon’s precision. Wasabi, freshly grated on a gorgeous patch of sharkskin, provided a searing zing, and a shiso leaf acted as a minty palate cleanser.
Course 5: This stunner will resonate in my memory. Pulled from cool Washington state waters, the knobbly, ovoid shell of this Hama Hama oyster served as another vessel in the evening’s long line of eye-catching serving pieces. The grill lent the meaty flesh — glazed in sake and soy — a sultry, slightly smoky aura. I immediately wanted to order a half-dozen more. Make that a dozen.
Course 6: The temperature returned to chilled with this play on starchy, potato-like taro root, fortified with a hearty red miso, chicken, subtly bitter greens and a much-needed citrusy pop of yuzu. It was a more intensely colorful twist on Furukawa’s disciplined, less-is-more aesthetic.
Course 7: The cool temperature continued with another fascinating exercise in textural contrasts. This time it was a kind of Japanese ceviche, with delectably sweet shrimp cured in an acidic ponzu-chile vinaigrette, then paired with crunchy-stemmed, slightly bitter mizuna greens. Ingenious and delicious.
Course 8: A revelation. A premium short-grain rice imported from Japan’s northernmost large island — sticky, slightly sweet and cooked to order in dashi — was tossed with bite-size pieces of snowy white sea bream and green onions that were sliced ribbon-thin. The results — delicate, lightly perfumed and irresistible — were the polar opposite of every clumsy, overdressed fast-food rice bowl. The pickled vegetables — crunchy, with just a hint of vinegar — and umami-laden hatcho miso soup were welcome finishing touches. Leftovers were transformed into take-home rice balls, a thoughtful (and delicious) gesture.
Course 9: Dessert! Although it vaguely resembled a bar culled from a vintage Lutheran church cookbook, the wiggly, gelatinous rectangle was simplicity itself: a red bean jelly flecked with tender black beans. It was a beautiful cordovan color, and, unlike its church basement counterparts, only slightly sweet, a turnabout for American taste buds fried on brownies, lemon bars and other sugary delights.
Course 10: Dessert’s second half was a sweet (really sweet) white bean paste — the texture was not unlike raw sugar cookie dough — shaped into a Warhol-esque flower and filled with a tangy pickled plum purée. It paired beautifully with a bitter, caffeine-laden matcha tea that was the color of puréed English peas and prepared using appropriately solemn ceremony, a ritual that proved to be a charming send-off.
kaiseki furukawa ⋆⋆⋆1/2
Info: 33 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-338-1515, kaisekifurukawa.com.
Hours: Seatings at 6 and 7:30 p.m. Thu., and at 6, 7:30 and 8:45 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Reservations required. Valet parking ($10) available.
Service: Knowledgeable and charming.
Price ranges: $125 per person, plus tax and gratuity.
Recommended dishes: Ten-course menu, changes monthly.
Beverage program: Pairings available; price fluctuates (current fee is $70). While $70 for five sakes and two wines feels overpriced, if it’s within your budget, why not? Aside from the pleasure that comes from the skill behind the pairings (plus brief stories behind each pour), there’s a marvelous sense of discovery. Along with an aromatic sake I’d never tasted (Mana 1751 “True Vision” Yamahai Tokubetsu Junmai Muroka Genshu), I encountered two new-to-me wines that are definitely sliding into my rotation: the vivacious Dosnon “Recolte Blanche” Blanc de Blancs brut, a golden chardonnay grape Champagne; and a crisp chardonnay from the Lalalu label of Inconnu, a small California winemaker.
Sound level: Conversation-friendly.
Special menus: Some dietary restrictions observed, but not for vegan and gluten-free diners.