Kihon in Long Beach Proves a Real Catch for Dine LBC
If there is one cuisine that we do not hesitate to try more of, it's Japanese. Sushi, ramen, udon, izakaya - the styles always lure us in with their simplistic-yet-nuanaced ingredients and deliberate attention to detail. With the annual Dine LBC week coming up this year from April 23rd to May 1st, we were invited to explore the participating restaurants and Kihon caught our eye. We had remembered when they first showcased their fare at the 2015 launch party with an impressively tasty smoked octopus carpaccio. What else could they have up their sleeves? Apparently, a lot of deliciousness.
"What makes you the happiest to hear from customers who come in?"Opened by Chef Erwin Angeles in July 2014, Kihon focuses on sushi primarily; there are other sections to the menu that highlight izakaya classics and ramen for those of you less inclined towards sushi though. A computer software engineer in his previous life, in 2007, Erwin finally chased something that had been part of his life since childhood: cooking. The chef had grown up in the Philippines and lived in New York prior to staking ground in Long Beach which became the most obvious location for his eventual restaurant. Training in an intense and accelerated culinary program led to quick immersion into active kitchens; thus he trained in restaurants for more than five years under the tutelage of his sensei with the goal of opening his own location soon after.
His focus on perfecting the fundamentals of Japanese cuisine is the reason this spot is called Kihon - it means "fundamentals" in Japanese. If you seek what Erwin enjoys making the most, stick to the traditional rather than the rolls on the menu - in particular, his favorite fish to work with are tuna and kanpachi! Overall, With five dedicated chefs on premise, the restaurant is certainly well-equipped to sate sushi cravings for the many local customers who come by.
The Dine LBC menu prepared for Kihon is quite the steal considering the individual prices of each dish on the regular menu. From April 23-May 1 this year, you can indulge in a variety of carefully put-together dishes for just $30 per person during dinner hours. To begin, choose one plate from their Kihon Specialities & House Favorites section. Your options are the Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno (reg: $12.95 - with zesty ponzu sauce), Popcorn Shrimp Tempura (reg: $8.95 - tossed in a creamy spicy sauce), Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice (reg: $8.95 - pan-grilled rice cubes topped with spicy tuna and serrano), and Garlic Albacore (reg: $12.95 - seared albacore sashimi with lemon garlic butter soy sauce and truffle oil). If you're going off-Dine-LBC-menu, there are several more options in this section such as Calamari Tempura, Crispy Soft Shell Crab, Mixed Japanese Mushrooms, and the popular Smoked Octopus Carpaccio.
We began with the Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno, a stylized sashimi starter that we have seen variations of at other restaurants. We watched as Chef Erwin made smoothly precise slices into the fresh yellowtail and rolled each carefully before topping with sliced jalapeno and drizzling over with ponzu. The sashimi nearly melted in our mouths and were brought a touch of animated personality through the subtle heat of jalapeno and slight zing from ponzu zestiness. If you prefer a more savory bite of sashimi with more contemporary flavor elements, you might choose the Garlic Albacore which included a seared outer edge but still maintained the tenderness of fresh, raw fish. These were doused in an umami-laden sauce and oil mix and loaded with plenty of garlic. Somehow, though the flavors were deep from butter and imparted truffle scents, the albacore still managed to show through.
The two non-traditional starters likely will satisfy those who need a bit of crunch to begin their meals. The Popcorn Shrimp Tempura had a texture reminiscent of Chinese Walnut Mayo Shrimp, crisp light batter on the outside but succulent shrimp inside. The sauce on the outside was just enough to give flavor without soaking through, leaving each morsel nice and crunchy. If you want more of a play between textures though, shoot for the Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice, a unique dish that we haven't seen executed elsewhere before. Imagine the crisp rice that remains at the bottom of a stone pot of bibimbap - form that into a sushi-sized block and pile spicy tuna mix on top. The softness of spicy tuna combined with the extra-crunchiness of rice made for a playful contrast that was satiating in all manners.
With all those to start off with, what comes next? The major dishes! You can choose one of the three options: Sushi Dinner (reg: $23.50 - 8 piece sushi plus choice of California, spicy tuna or tuna roll - served with salad and miso soup), Sashimi Dinner (reg: $23.50 - 10 piece sashimi of tuna, yellowtail, salmon, whitefish, and snow crab - served with steamed rice, salad, and miso soup), and Tonkotsu Ramen ($12.95 - originial shio flavored tonkotsu soup base topped with pork belly chashu, marinated soft boiled egg, bamboo shoots, and green onions) with Baked Crab Roll (reg: $5.95 hand/$7.95 cut - snow crab leg wrapped in California mix and baked with dynamic sauce, wrapped in soy paper). Going off the Dine-LBC menu, you will have plenty of options for entrees including various sushi, sashimi, and rolls such as the Dungenness Crab, The Dude, Blackened Salmon, The White Russian, Rainbow, Spider, and Dragon Rolls.
With both the Sushi and Sashimi Dinner plates, we were happy to see just how fresh and smooth Kihon's fish were. Each bite wove in each fish's characteristics notes, a trait you definitely want to find in your sushi. They were also both beautifully presented though most of the aesthetics came from the healthy pieces of raw fish themselves. When we got to the ramen (we didn't try the baked crab roll), it was a good moment to indulge in the warmth of tonkotsu broth that had been made in-house through a 16-hour process. Kihon also offers Spicy Miso and Shio ramens as well in the restaurant and on the Dine LBC menu but with all of them, the quantities are limited daily. We liked how tender the chashu and the egg halves were, and it seemed like the bamboo shoots were cut in-house. It was a fair dish though perhaps a specialized ramen house would better scratch that itch if you are seeking solely ramen.
To end, you get your choice of dessert: Gelato (reg: $4.25 - vanilla, green tea, salted caramel, dark chocolate), Mochi Ice Cream (reg: $5.75 - strawberry, mango, and green tea), and Vanilla Tempura Ice Cream. We were quite stuffed so just opted for a few bites of green tea mochi ice cream. Overall, after reviewing the individual prices for each dish, I can see how testing the waters here at Kihon would be a great idea during Dine LBC if you are looking for a new sushi spot. I'm willing to bet you'll end up coming back after your first visit!
Interested in the exact Dine LBC menu for Kihon listed? It's available here. Find them at 5662 E 2nd St, Long Beach, CA 90803 and make sure to ask for Erwin. If you're not going for the restaurant week, make sure to put a smile on his face and in your tummies by going omakase!
Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.