By Jane Knoerle
Almanac Lifestyles Editor
Mitsunobu Japanese restaurant has opened in the Sharon Heights Shopping Center in Menlo Park, replacing the highly rated Kaygetsu.
The restaurant, named for its new owners, Tomonari and Keiko Mitsunobu, serves Japanese California cuisine. The couple is retaining Kaygetsu's executive chef, Shinichi Aoki, and most of the staff. The restaurant offers seasonally changing fare, which is described as "traditional Japanese cuisine inspired by California."
Tomonari Mitsunobu was a chef in Japan, but has been working in management since coming to the United States five years ago. This is his first time as an owner.
The menu features a prix fixe course and a la carte items, based on local ingredients, as well as selected items from Japan. A recent lunch menu featured the familiar and the unusual for those who are not connoisseurs of Japanese cuisine. Entrees included shrimp tempura ($23), cubed filet mignon ($26), sashimi of the day ($22) and "a taste of Mitsunobu," sashimi, shrimp tempura, fish tempura wrapped with seaweed and glazed salmon "($32).
Small plates featured authentic Japanese selections, such as kinpira gobo (stir-fried burdock root) and two versions of chawanmushi (egg custard flavored with soy, dashi and mirin and served in a tea-cup like container). Traditional hijiki, listed on the menu, is a brown sea vegetable that is considered a health and beauty aid, according to Japanese folklore.
The only nod to California cuisine seemed to be a beet and mozzarella salad ($8.50).
During December, Mitsunobu is featuring a prix fixe dinner menu for $75, as well as a la carte selections. For the first course, diners may choose the "jewelry box," filled with an array of goodies, or sashimi of the day. The second course is rice in a clay pot (autumn mushroom rice or Miyagi oyster rice). The main course features Alaskan cod or Sterling Silver New York steak shabu-shabu.
Dessert is kabocha flan or baked apple with Earl Grey ice cream. The kabocha flan is described as "foamed green tea with a hint of mint and cinnamon smoke."
Keiko Mitsunobu says a special tasting menu on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve will include nine small dishes "showcasing our dynamic inspiration of a festive savory meal." There will also be a sake pairing to include rare premium sakes.
Restaurant Mitsunobu is at 325 Sharon Park Drive, at Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park. Telephone is 234-1084. Lunch is served Tuesday through Friday. The restaurant is closed Monday.