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Successful Launch

Kazoo Sushi Boat
Christopher Gardner

Fleet's In: Kazoo's Japan-trained chefs prepare to load up the next round of sushi boats.

Japantown's Kazoo sails into Campbell with a focus on fresh sushi-boat cargo

SUSHI INVADED America on armadas of foot-long boats. At least that's how most of us gaijin came to appreciate the subtlety of raw fish and rice. It's been nearly a decade since we started pirating sushi boats, but rather than growing out of it, we've become enamored of this style of looting.

Taking its cues from the successful Miyake, the original Kazoo Restaurant in San Jose's Japantown opened a second operation in Campbell as Kazoo Sushi Boat, angling for a mainstream crowd. Informal and bright, the open dining room invites idle chopsticks play and conversation at uncovered tables or around the oval sushi canal, which, unlike those in many comparable places, offers plenty of elbow room. It is the ideal place for sushi-boat aficionados who are tired of screaming waiters, long waits and cramped quarters.

Kazoo turns in an impressive performance with its 33 appetizers (16 vegetarian items), most of which are both good and low-priced enough to design whole meals around them, using sushi as the appetizers. With most nibbling tidbits ranging between $2.50 and $4.50, Kazoo is, ironically, as much a "zensai and sake" (or Japanese tapas) destination as a sushi depot.

We started the meal with a not-often-seen yohnasu no amamiso ($3.50). It was a lovely chunk of meaty eggplant, skin crispy from broiling, drenched in a coat of subtle, sweet miso--simply delectable, although it could have been even better had the cooks used the more delicate Japanese eggplant. But we didn't complain much, because there was plenty more to graze.

No one could have resisted yakitori, grilled chicken on six-inch skewers, brushed with a sauce similar to teriyaki that was made with tamari and soy sauce. At $4.50 for three skewers, these Japanese-kiosk favorites were a bargain, very suitable for chasing with a tall, cold Asahi beer ($4.80). Then we followed this act with karei karaage ($7.50), a deep-fried flat fish served with ponzu sauce and a side of salad. There wasn't much meat on the fish, but the citrusy ponzu--made with lemon, vinegar, soy sauce, tamari, mirin and bonito--gave the crusty golden fish, cross-scored to show off moist white flesh, a smart kick that went quite well with beer.

What else to follow hot dishes but a cold ika mentaiko ($4.50): a generous bowl of pearly, gelatinous raw squid, cut like French fries, crowned with a rosy sauce of zippy cod roe--quite exquisite with sake ($4.50). We could have forged onward with vegetable croquettes, asparagus with dried bonito, broiled sardines or beef sashimi, but it was time to pillage the sushi boats.

We sampled a broad selection of sushi, including several recommended by our waiter. Competitively priced ($1.20 to $3.25), Kazoo's sushi were consistently fresh, a quality attributable to the restaurant's Japan-trained sushi chefs. But for presentation, Kazoo received only average marks. In fact, a few morsels came to the table crumbly. Also, the noodles, neither fresh nor made in-house, were only on the menu to appease those who didn't know better.

Some choice bites were ikura (salmon roe), hamachi (yellowtail), maguro (tuna and mayo) and mirugai (geoduck). The seafood was well filleted and fresh with a sea tang. Ama ebi (sweet raw shrimp) was undoubtedly one of the most succulent we've had in a long time. In the designer rolls department, Kazoo hit a homer with the Baja roll, a blend of chile, crab, avocado and masago. This creation could conceivably replace the long-reigning California roll as the sunny state's preferred side act.

Our favorite dessert was the osmochi ice cream (Japanese bonbons), a pair of mini ice cream scoops wrapped in sweet glutinous rice dough ($2.50). The green tea ice cream topped with sugared red bean ($2) was a decent alternate.

In the sushi boat game, this new contender has an edge on its competition in a few areas: its litany of appetizers, Japan-trained chefs and enjoyable California casualness.


Kazoo Sushi Boat

Cuisine: Japanese
Ambiance: Airy and casual
Prices: Dinner entrees $7.50­$14.95; sushi $1.20­$5
Hours: Lunch Sun.­Fri. 11:30am­2pm (closed for lunch on Sat.); dinner Mon.­Sat. 5­9:30pm, Sun 5­9pm
Address: 10 E. Hamilton Ave., Campbell
Phone: 408/871-1250


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From the July 24-30, 1997 issue of Metro.

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