An evening at Kobe

An Evening to Remember at Kobe Restaurant

For over a year now, I’ve been waiting, watching and drooling; yearning to go to Kobe for dinner and revel in all things sake, sushi and sumptuous. Being married to Japanese American, having rather adventurous tastebuds, and a yen for the cuisine doesn’t hurt matters either. Billy Harto, Ashland Restaurateur, owner of Thai Pepper and founder of Bambu decided to bring modern Japanese cuisine to Ashland last summer, and has filled a very needed gap in the Ashland restaurant scene with Kobe.

So, for our 11 year anniversary Frank decides my pitiful bleating is enough already, and we go out for an honest REAL date night his treat! I’m so excited; and hungry!

Kobe is located in the new building across from Creekside Pizza Bistro, under the Lithia Way overpass. The easiest way to get there is to take B street all the way down til it intersects with Water St. and park in the parking lot next to the pub or along the street.  Of course, the heavens decide to open up about half an hour before dinner, (just like our wedding day..so oddly enough it’s rather appropriate) so we’re drenched and my hair is nicely frizzy as we walk toward our destination.

As you walk through the fenced bamboo gateway that separates the public walkway from the patio, the secluded dimly lit, sparkling jewel of a restaurant awaits. The best way to describe the décor is ‘Japanese Supper Club’. Modern chairs and tables in dark walnut finish and rich red and olive fabric upholstery on the banquette bench along the back wall, give the atmosphere a substantial solid presence that doesn’t fight with Asian accents. The lighting is perfectly aimed toward the tables, while remaining dim elsewhere to preserve the ambiance. Soft Jazz is playing, and we are immediately shown an intimate table in the corner with a view to Ashland Creek and the deck (drenched of course now by the mini-hurricane playing itself out, outside).

The menu is packed with mouth-watering choices that typify the modern Japanese fusion cuisine that’s become so popular over the last several years. While we’re pouring over the menu, the extensive sake and wine list, and the drink card, our server Helena, brings us a dish of Edamame (steamed soybeans still in the pod) sprinkled with flakes of sea-salt. A perfect little bite that is so much more appealing than the traditional bread and butter served at American steak houses.

Since this is a once a year splurge, we decide price really isn’t the point of the evening and therefore pay absolutely no attention to those silly numbers at the side of the menu options. Based on this ‘carpe dinner’ (I mean diem) attitude we choose the courses for the evening.

I order green tea and Frank orders a carafe of sake for us to toast with. As an appetizer we order two sushi rolls. I got to choose the rolls for us. WOW! (Trust me that’s a big step for a Japanese man to trust his ‘country girl’ very un-Japanese wife to pick the sushi for the evening.) I ordered the Salmon Tempura roll and the Miso Eggplant roll.

Each course as it arrived was my new favorite. The Miso soup was rich, savoury and steaming hot. Traditionally sipped straight from the bowl, this broth warmed us up with hints of flavorful bonito, seaweed and tofu. But I really believe that the sushi this evening is one of the best examples of sushi I’ve had. Over the last 11 years, I’ve had a fair amount of sushi as well. In Niagara Falls Canada, Salt Lake City, Cleveland, Portland, Medford and Ashland I’ve sampled many examples of sushi.  All had their charms, but this sushi ranks right up there with Frank’s moms! And that is a rare compliment, as she lived most of her life in Tokyo, is a veteran sushi maker and wonderful teacher of all things culinarily Japanese. The tempura roll has asparagus, cream cheese and fresh salmon, rolled in nori, dipped in Tempura batter and flash fried. Warm, crispy, and savory, this roll sang with the addition of wasabi and pickled ginger.  The Miso Eggplant roll was a new one for me; and it was fantastic! Miso marinated strips of eggplant rolled with avocado and nori surrounded by seasoned rice and sesame seeds. Wow!

Frank, true to his carnivorous tendencies, chose the Kobe Beef filet mignon with Korean BBQ sauce. My choice is the sesame encrusted Ahi Tuna with a citrus cream sauce. The entrees arrive by the ever charming Helena, who sets them down in front of us as mini-works of art. The white modern style platters are decorated with fresh orchids, curls of bright carrot and radish sprouts. All of which are edible and beautiful. (However by the end of the evening one orchid took up residence in my hair). Each of our entrees is served with bright green steamed bokchoy, which is the perfect complement to the meal.

The entrée portions aren’t huge, but with the previous courses, we’re far from starving. The presentation and flavor more than make up for that. Savoring each bite, the tuna melts in my mouth. I hear little ‘mooing’ noises from Frank, so I know that he’s enjoying the beef as well.  We offer up the traditional ‘Kampai’ toast with our small cups of Sake and settle in for a nice evening.

After the Entrees, our dishes are quickly cleared and since we ARE splurging we order the obligatory green tea ice cream as dessert. The silky tea flavored ice cream is subtle, sweet and cold. Perfect!

This meal is one I will remember for a long time. Frank is a true believer now and says we’ll be back soon! Since it’s a special night, the ticket doesn’t bother us. Dinner was $140 including tax and tip, but OH so worth it!  We give Kobe a full 4 thumbs up!!

So here’s to another 11 years together, and tasty new adventures all along the way. Thanks Kobe for a perfect date night!