After our first visit to Kai Sushi Bar we knew it would easily become our go-to spot for outstanding fish; the level of cooking and craft go well beyond the standard.
March 17, 2023 by EMT
While most of the tourism in the Basque Country focuses on dining through a big list of pintxo bars and Michelin restaurants, why not have great sushi if you can? It’s not overly filling and at Kai it offers travelers high quality fish that the Basque Country is famous for.
Kai, run by Chilean chef Sebastian Pincheira, originally began as a pop-up in 2019. After a temporary closure during the pandemic and pivoting plans, Kai found its new permanent home in Centro and re-opened its doors in March of 2022. Let’s just say we couldn’t be happier Kai is in town.
Whether you prefer the casual option or the extravagant omakase, all of our memorable sushi experiences must have two things in common – the fish has to be excellent and the chef must respect the craft.
At Kai, they are doing it all right
The interior is softly lit and features modern but charmingly warm décor with wood paneling and an open sushi bar that looks out onto the dining tables. We opted for our favorite seat – the sushi counter – and ordered glasses of chilled Shochikubai Shirakabegura sake for its smooth hint of sweetness.
The big draw of Pincheira’s menu are the nigiri and sashimi options, filled with melt in your mouth and high-quality slices. And yet, we were happy to find a menu that allows diners to venture beyond sushi and try some excellent and varied Japanese dishes, like slow-cooked short ribs and silky tonkotsu ramen.
After sipping our sake and enjoying the view of the pyrotechnics happening behind the counter, we dug into an assortment of gyozas at the suggestion of our server. All were truly tasty, but we were blown away by the gyoza de txangurro, cooked spider crab meat. The dumplings were bursting with incredible flavor, and are a well-executed fusion of a local Basque specialty with Japanese cuisine. Throughout the menu, Pincheira nails the thoughtful blend of both cuisines and their heritage flawlessly.
Next we had the Nasu Dengaku. The marriage of sweet and salty miso brushed against smoky soft eggplant made for a great side dish deep in flavor.
The sushi selection is extensive with pink shrimp, toro and wagyu among the nigiri options. There are sashimi, temaki, tartars, and chirashi to choose from, as well as elaborate maki for those who prefer a specialty roll.
We opted for the 10 piece nigiri moriawase as our main. As we moved through the elegant array of nigiri, we appreciated our ringside seats. We watched the unpretentious and impressive showmanship of the chefs while they expertly plated near-perfect sushi, all while savoring our delicate nigiri. Each had just the right topping and acidity to balance the richness of the fish.
The servers were professional and helpful. They took the time to answer our questions and explained our dishes in detail.
The food at Kai is impressive and well worth visiting when in the Basque Country. Go for the sushi, but be sure to not miss out on something boiled, fried, or grilled.
Arrasate Kalea, 5, Donosti