Kaisendon or seafood bowls are hands down one of my top 3 favourite Japanese dishes of all time. I mean, what is there not to like? It’s rice topped with generous portions of fish, crab, crab roe, shellfish and even sea urchin if you’re lucky, basically a giant sushi! While there are as many different types of kaiserdon as there are varieties of seafood, I’m particularly partial if the raw ingredient has also been marinated to give it a more unique flavour profile.
Namino is a kaisendon specialist restaurant that’s en route when we head to our local big supermarket for groceries. It has a mini entrance that leads to a tiny 5-6 bar counter on the ground floor and a slightly roomier second floor with four actual tables. If it wasn’t for a sample menu outside which boasted some of the most delectable looking salmon and uni rice bowls, we would have probably missed it.
And I’m so glad we didn’t because Namino is incredible! All of their rice bowls feature salmon or ikura as a staple but you can opt for uni or any other additional toppings. On our first visit, we have the aburi salmon and salmon yukke bowl. The aburi was delicately seared with slices of thick cut salmon, lending an excellent mouthfeel with every bite. The bowl itself seems a little on the small side though, and I wonder if the average diner would need a second lunch or second dinner to feel satiated.
Yukke comes from the Korean word yukhoe which refers to a raw meat dish that’s kind of like steak tartare. In this setting, it’s the raw egg yolk and seasoned salmon that gives it that ‘yukke’ profile. The result is a bowl of umami, so creamy and moreish. The thing to remember is to go very light on the soy sauce as the ingredients have already been marinated.
My second trip back was less than a week later, which I was able to cleverly disguise as “research” for this blog post. This time I got one of the Namino rice bowls, eponymously named I guess because it’s a signature dish? There are various tiers of Namino dons that you can get, with pricier bowls containing a larger array of luxe seafood. This one is a matsu bowl which comes with a seafood mix of salmon plus crab meat, ikura and a few pieces of sea urchin at the top.
The second bowl I had (yes I ate both), was their number one most popular bowl, a salmon and ikura bowl. Like our last visit, the salmon had a really nice thickness to it. The ikura too was delicious and it was fun to pop them in my mouth to unleash a briny yet slightly sweet flavour. From both trips, the rice has been quite good and fairly consistent as well. Some bowls seem to have the rice topped with nori while others have it with sesame seeds.
I forgot to take a photo of this the first time but you can opt to leave a bit of rice behind and the staff will kindly fill your bowl back up with broth, likely made from the bones of all the seafood they churn out. They’ll also top up with a small piece of delicately cooked salmon.
Shibuya is home to probably tens of thousands of restaurants, I’m not sure any one person could claim to dine at them all in a single lifetime. I definitely haven’t, but can confidently say Namino is probably one of the better kaisendon restaurants in the area. Nevertheless the happy quest for the best kaisendon in Japan continues.