Food & Wine

Sublime Dining at Hiroshi

By Carolyn Jung

In a presentation of A5 Wagyu, Hiroshi garnishes the king of beef with gold leaf.

The Bay Area’s most expensive and exclusive prix fixe restaurant just got a little more affordable and accessible. Relatively speaking.

Hiroshi 328 Main St., Los Altos; hiroshi328.com

When Hiroshi opened two years ago in downtown Los Altos, jaws dropped over the fact that this up, upscale Japanese restaurant served only eight diners per night at one long table — starting at $400 per person, excluding tip, tax and beverages. It was almost like a private restaurant where the serene dining room was yours for the night. Customers were essentially required to pay the full price of eight diners, regardless if they were a party of only two, four or six.

But recently, the restaurant, which has hosted the likes of Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, as well as movers and shakers from Oracle, Apple and the San Francisco 49ers, changed its pricing format. Its 10-course dinner now starts at $575 per person with a required minimum of four diners, ostensibly opening up its reservations to a wider clientele. When Hiroshi debuted, it had upwards of five parties booked per week, says its general manager, Kevin Biggerstaff. That number has declined, while requests for accommodating smaller parties have increased, thus prompting the change.

The restaurant was established by chef Hiroshi Kimura, who previously owned restaurants in Honolulu and Tokyo. After visiting a friend in Los Altos, he grew intrigued by the well-manicured city in well-heeled Silicon Valley. So he opened his namesake restaurant here, preferring the intimacy of cooking for only a few diners at a time. “It’s easier to take care of a smaller number of people, to give them more attention,” says the 61-year-old chef. “Plus, they understand the value of the experience better.”

And what an experience it is. Kimura has only one other investor in his restaurant — Iwata Tsuyoshi, a former Japanese football star turned businessman, who was a regular at the chef’s restaurants in Hawaii and Japan. The two have spared no expense.

The centerpiece of the understated dining room is an immense raw-edge table, spanning nearly 16 feet and crafted from an 800-year-old zelkova tree, the same type of wood used to construct Japanese temples. It took 10 people to carry the $100,000 table inside the restaurant. A tranquil waterfall wall adds the soothing sound of trickling water to the melodic Asian flute music piped in. The scent of fresh cucumbers gently fragrances the room. Water and sake are poured into hand-carved Japanese crystal glassware known as Edokiriko, whose luminous colors gleam like jewels.

Chef Hiroshi Kimura

Just outside the restroom sits a tall cylindrical lamp, enveloped in hand-carved wooden slats, which costs $15,000. Step inside to behold one of the most beautiful bathrooms around, thanks to an infinity mirror art piece with a tunnel of cherry blossoms that seems to go on forever. It was designed by legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s son, Hisao, a good friend of Kimura’s.

The space may epitomize elegance, but some diners have been known to forgo the formal jacket or little black dress for shorts instead. A karaoke machine has even made an appearance.

The chef consults with diners ahead of time to accommodate any allergies. He knows that importance, having become allergic to seafood in his 40s, necessitating having a second chef on hand to cook the seafood dishes.

Almost all of the ingredients are flown in from Japan. Kimura is so finicky that he will send back a prized hairy crab if it doesn’t arrive alive. For a dinner for six, the food cost alone can soar to $2,000, he says. Much of that will be for the lavish A5 Wagyu. A native of Kobe, he considers that region’s top-grade, luxurious beef unparalleled.

The repast may start with graceful dishes of custardy tofu enlivened with scallions, soy sauce and ginger; and sweet crab meat crowning quivering chawanmushi drizzled with dashi fortified with Hokkaido kombu. That may be followed by a fun katsu sando, only in this version the fluffy Japanese white bread sandwich holds a filling not of the usual pork cutlet but fried, breaded Wagyu.

The pièce de résistance is the “drunken” A5 Wagyu, so named because the cows are fed the residual lees from the fermentation of sake, leaving the heavily marbled meat with a noticeable sweetness. Each diner is served a 5-ounce portion of the rich meat that is so tender it barely needs a knife. Kimura cooks the Wagyu steak over fiery Japanese binchotan charcoal. It arrives at the table with truffle salt, freshly grated wasabi and ponzu sauce on the side. A small hibachi is set up foreach diner to warm the beef more, if desired.

“I don’t want diners to come just one time,” Kimura says. “I want them to come back three or four times to build a connection.” For the chef, that’s the ultimate compliment.

What to know before you book

Price: $575 per person for a minimum of four and a maximum of eight diners. Tax, tip and beverages not included.

Beverages: Wines and sakes available. Diners are prohibited from bringing in their own wines.

Reservations: Must be made at least seven days in advance.

Deposit: A $1,000 deposit is required for a reservation.

Days of operation: The restaurant can be booked any night of the week. Weeknights book up more frequently.

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