We thoroughly enjoyed our past visits to Izakaya Ginji and the wonderful Iroriya, but we wanted to try a new spot this time. Thanks to @beefnoguy for the recommendation, we decided to give Kemuri Japanese Baru a try.
When we first glanced at the menu, we thought there must’ve been two different “Kemuri” restaurants, because after seeing entries for “Crispy Cheese” “Garlic Pizza” and “French Fry”, this couldn’t have been a legit Japanese Pub recommended by @beefnoguy. But it turned out it was the right place.
Kemuri - which means “Smoke” in Japanese - bills itself as a Bar first, that happens to serve food. The Sake menu looked enticing with many Seasonal offerings, and the place was packed when we arrived.
Denshu - Tokubetsu Junmai Sake (Aomori, Japan):
First off, sadly, they were out-of-stock on about half of the Sake Menu! @beefnoguy FYI, the bar manager said because of the fires in Northern California, their Sake supplier’s warehouse was affected and they haven’t been able to stock much Sake since. Thankfully we still had some great winners this evening.
I’ve never tried Denshu Tokubetsu Junmai before, and this was one of their Seasonal offerings. This was quite floral and aromatic, with a really round flavor, not really dry at all.
It was easy to sip, but even better with many of our dishes off of the Binchotan Grill.
Ignoring the fusion Appetizers, we focused on their Binchotan Grill section, featuring a variety of grilled meats and veggies cooked over Japanese Binchotan (White Charcoal), which is where @beefnoguy recommended we focus on.
Premium Beef Tongue (with Scallion Sauce):
Served a beautiful medium-rare, taking a bite… shut the front door! Perfectly tender, beautiful smokiness, almost melt in your mouth with some nice meatiness!
Some of the best Beef Tongue / Gyu-Tan / Lengua we’ve had this year!
Shiitake Mushrooms (Smoked Butter, Lemon, Black Pepper):
Excellent! Besides a real smoky flavor, they were tender and had a nice meatiness and so full of flavor.
Gobo Karaage (Deep Fried Burdock Root):
Nicely fried, not too oily, and with a nice crunchy, earthy quality.
Miso-Aged Washu-Gyu (American Kobe Beef, Aged in Miso, with Poached Egg):
This sounded really exciting and different. The actual taste was OK. Everyone felt it wasn’t anywhere near as good as the Premium Beef Tongue earlier. The Miso-Aged American Kobe Beef slices were a touch chewy, but still relatively tender. But the flavors just felt sort of muted, and the Poached Egg, while nice and silky, didn’t really elevate it.
Cauliflower (Umami Garlic Sauce, Olive Oil, Pine Nuts):
Their Charcoal Grilled Cauliflower was outstanding. A nice smokiness pervaded each bite as well, and the Garlic Sauce, Olive Oil, Pine Nuts just matched the Cauliflower nicely.
Crispy Chicken Karaage (Deep Fried Free-Range Chicken, Kemuri Tartar Sauce with Japanese Pickles):
A favorite Izakaya dish that we usually order whenever we see it on the menu, Kemuri’s version of Japanese Fried Chicken was fine. The batter was thicker than we’ve had in a while, and was slightly crunchy (but not crispy). Some of our friends felt it was a touch oily / greasy, and I’d agree.
I think Torihei’s version (even with the new staff) is better, as is Izakaya Ginji and Iroriya’s. It was still tasty, though, and a nice match for the Sake we were enjoying.
Grilled Chicken Thigh (with Shiitake Salt):
From the Binchotan Grill section, their Grilled Chicken Thigh was phenomenal! Crisped Chicken Skin, juicy, drool-worthy, nicely smoky, perfectly seasoned Grilled Chicken Thigh meat. My 2nd favorite dish this evening.
Pork Kakuni (Braised, then Quickly Fried Pork Belly, Sweet Balsamic Sauce):
This sounded decadent, and it was.
Imagine the classic Buta no Kakuni (Stewed Pork Belly), dropped into a Deep Fryer and then served with a sweet-tart Balsamic Reduction.
I liked the first bite… but it was so rich, fatty, slightly crisped on the outside giving way to tender fatty inside… I just felt overwhelmed (our friends also felt the same way). It was tasty, but I’d probably just cut those large pieces in thirds and in small doses, it was nice with the Sake.
Hotate (Seared Sashimi Grade Scallops with Citrus Wasabi Butter Sauce) (Hokkaido, Japan):
I love Hokkaido Scallops, but usually in Sushi form. The Hokkaido Scallops were pan seared and served with a Lemon-y Wasabi Butter. It was OK, but overcooked. And even if cooked a bit less, you really lose too much of the silky, tender, amazing quality of Hokkaido Scallops that way.
Yari Ika (Grilled Spear Squid with Sweet Soy Sauce):
This was very good: Just cooked-through, Grilled Yari Ika, each bite of the Squid had that distinct smokiness and was still quite tender, with a touch of savory-sweet from their Sweet Soy Sauce blend.
Since more than half of their Sake menu was out-of-stock, we ended up settling on…
Shichida - Junmai Daiginjo Sake (Saga, Japan):
I really fell in love with Shichida thanks to @beefnoguy’s recommendation to seek out their Limited Edition, Seasonal Muroka Nama Sake. Their Junmai Ginjo was enjoyable as well, but it was nice to see the Junmai Daiginjo version here.
It tasted way more refined and restrained than the Muroka Nama (of course), but still a great sipper, balanced, with a clean finish.
Aka Ebi (Grilled Red Shrimp):
These were pretty tasty and nicely grilled as well with a beautiful smoky brininess.
Smoked Sashimi Plate (Hamachi, Salmon, Albacore):
We ordered this because the idea of Smoked Sashimi sounded really fun and tasty. The actual execution? Not so much.
You couldn’t really taste any smokiness in the Sashimi. It tasted like regular (average quality) Sashimi slices. Not bad, but not great either.
It doesn’t help that Aburiya Raku has absolutely spoiled us on what Sashimi can be, especially for a non-Sushi joint. Raku’s Sashimi (every offering we’ve had) far exceeds the version here at Kemuri.
House Smoked Chicken Thigh (Petaluma Free-Range Chicken with Yuzu Pepper):
This was intensely smoky, tender, and the Yuzu Kosho Pepper Sauce was a nice match. But their Grilled Chicken Thigh (off the Binchotan Grill section of the menu) is much better. Still for Smoked Chicken fans, it’s worth a try.
Matcha Green Tea Creme Brulee:
Light, creamy, with a thin, torched top layer, their Housemade Matcha Green Tea Creme Brulee was tasty, but sort of straightforward.
Fried Mochi + Black Sesame Ice Cream:
This was the best of the 2 Desserts offered this evening: Piping hot Fried Mochi (with an infusion of Red Bean (but it’s not that noticeable)) is served with chilled Black Sesame Ice Cream. It was a temperature contrast for sure, but they combined into a tasty bite. It’s not as aromatic or interesting as B. Patisserie’s Black Sesame wonderful goodness (@paranoidgarliclover) but it was fine to finish off the evening.
Service was really haphazard at Kemuri. They seemed to have enough staff, but our servers never checked in on us, or always seemed to be running around / too busy, etc.
Overall, Kemuri Japanese Baru felt like another nice neighborhood Japanese Pub. If they were able to restock their Sake menu, then it’s worth seeking out for some interesting Sake offerings (we’ve never seen offered locally). Their Binchotan White Charcoal Grilled items are the standouts here and worth a visit for.
I’d be glad to go back to have more of their wonderful Premium Grilled Beef Tongue, Grilled Chicken Thighs, Shiitake Mushrooms, Grilled Cauliflower and Yari Ika (Spear Squid).
Kemuri Japanese Baru
Redwood City, CA 94063
Tel: (650) 257-7653