Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Raw Fish in the Desert: Kiyosaku Palm Springs

1555 S Palm Canyon Dr
Palm SpringsCA 92264
(760) 327-6601

During one of my winter work forays into Palm Springs last season, I found this husband/wife run sushi spot via the much maligned Yelp.  Reviews are rave, with very few exceptions*.  And although I have become their Facebook fan, I can find precious little information about them on the internet. They lack a home page or even an informational blurb on their FB profile. The odd amalgamation of folks over at Trip Advisor echo Yelpers opinions, saying that, "owner has been here for 30 odd years", "Kiyo and Terri, husband and wife and 2 staff run this relatively small sushi bar and limited Japanese menu", and even, "sushi was the freshest and best I've had since eating just outside the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo".

Kiyo-san works the sushi bar, supervises the back kitchen while his kimono and obi clad wife takes care of the front of the house.  Here solo one night, I sat at the sushi bar and both were quiet but very hospitable company.


The menu ain't cheap, but as I discovered one night when ordering a la carte from items not on the menu nor listed in the specials, I was served some delights at a hefty price. That night I ordered with Kiyo-san's help: giant scallop nigiri, uni. and albacore belly. With my sake and one other nigiri item I didn't commit to memory my total came to around $80 before tip. Now way the ladies in the back office would let me expense that lavish a dinner. I gladly sucked it up as a needed and deserved luxury in the midst of a busy season of travel. It was worth every penny.

I find the appetizers to be more reasonably priced, the nigiri not priced at what one would expect from a sushi hole in the wall in the desert.  However neither is the quality what one would expect from sushi in Palm Springs. It is astoundingly good. Simple and straightforward, rivaling any I have eaten in Los Angeles**.

At Kiyosaku, sake is served in a traditional masu container, originally used for measuring rice. You can see, Kiyo-san's wife serves with the cold sake overflowing the masu as a show of the host's generosity.  Service here feels very personal despite the fact that it is occasionally slow and the room is always packed.

Kiyosaku is reknowned for their grapefruit special, something Kiyo-san created. A partially hollowed out grapefruit filled with crab, raw scallop, tuna, salmon and daikon sprout.  On my first visit I was not even tempted to try it. I thought this must be a way to get rid of end pieces, albeit it in a beautiful presentation.  However, at the end of my visit, after experiencing the attentive service to a single woman with a book at the sushi bar and their kind queries about my comfort, I reconsidered.

During my next visit with D, the week of the Indian Wells tennis tournament, we came in late on Saturday evening and started with the grapefruit.  It is fabulous. Fresh, bright citrus and lots of beautiful raw and cooked fish slightly cured by the citric acid.  The generous slices of fish spilled over from the fruit into the container, and we had to dig deep into the bowl to get every last piece of fish.

This visit, sticking to the menu I ordered a simple yellowtail sashimi platter. Melt-in-your-mouth fresh.

D asked for the nigiri combo, which along with the grapefruit was more than enough and I might have snuck a piece or two when he wasn't looking.

*One Yelper gave three stars because the sushi was not innovative enough, "i have no problem spending a $100 on premium sushi--but when i've done so, namely at katsuya in encino, the sushi has been innovative, visually stunning and exceptionally flavorful. here--it was functional".  Which basically communicates to me that this is exactly my kind of sushi chef.

**I have yet to experience Urasawa.


LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! said...

That is one hefty bill, but i'm sure it was worth it. I love the way they poured the sake and the grapefruit mmm. There is something charming about husband and wife run restaurants. If I ever make my way to palm springs I might splurge and make a visit here!

Food, she thought. said...

LMEC, When the two of us went, the bill was just a little more than my solo bill, but we ate from the menu. Hopefully that would lower the scary affective money filter!

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Food, she thought,

Nice! Thanks for the review on this restaurant. I'm surprised but happy to hear that Palm Springs has some great Sushi as well. :) I'll be sure to keep it in mind if I'm in the area.

burumun said...

It's good to know there are some good food to be had in Palm Springs, even at a heftier price!
I wasn't able to find much when I was there, a decent french cafe and that was about it.