Friday, September 12, 2008

So I Tried Hamachi Kama

Today was payday and in an effort to diversify The Kid's diet, we went to Kana. I don't agree with most of the Yelp reviewers, I like and in the cases of some dishes, even love the restaurant. The main thing that I love about the place is that it is the perfect restaurant to introduce a finicky twelve year-old to Japanese cuisine.

The Kid had hotate bacon, which is skewered scallops wrapped in bacon. Curried fish balls on a skewer and chicken teriyaki, with sashimi. We usually order an entree for ourselves and share a few communal dishes. Tonight the kid and I tried hamachi kama for the first time and while I could describe it to you, Metrodining will do it one better-

Hamachi Kama is the Scooby snack of sushi bars and seafood restaurants. When the chefs need a pick-me-up to sustain them through a long night of endless slicing and nodding to ignorant orderers, they know that the best part of the fish is waiting for them in back. Hamachi kama even appears on many menus and specials lists now that people have learned its secret.

The kama is the collar, or the area of the fish surrounding the first fins near the face of the fish. Unlike halibut cheeks though (halibuts are a flat fish, and the hamachi are round, or more accurately, fish shaped), this facial area of the hamachi is served with some skin and bone, especially bone.

It takes a dexterous hand with the chopsticks to pick out all of the morsels of meat nestled in the spider's web of bone, fin and flesh. But what you dig out is especially rewarding and worth all of the extra effort. Rather than being homogenous, the meat of the hamachi (also called yellowtail) collar varies tremendously from bite to bite; it can be firm or meltingly tender, a dullish gray or a dusky rose.

Regardless of texture or color, the flavor is incomparable. Up there with toro for its juiciness, the collar has a high component of fish oil, making it incredibly moist, both fattier and more flavorful than the fillets. Most often broiled and served with only the lightest brushing of glaze, the hamachi kama shines in its simplicity. The strong flavors of the fish come through, and the heat melts the natural fats of the flesh, which contributes to the high-impact richness of the dish.

"Yellowtail [hamachi] cheeks are very popular. It is a meaty area of the fish and it has a lot of flavor," says Keiko Sakuma, owner of Kaygetsu, a Japanese restaurant in Menlo Park. "We don't have a lot of it, but customers love it."

Sushi restaurants might buy three or four whole hamachi to break down into sushi and sashimi, and each one will yield only two collars. It is the lucky customer who gets to feast on this specialty portion.

Naomi Roda, an owner of Saizo restaurant in Sunnyvale, seconds this. "It is very popular; most customers really like it. There is a lot of customer demand for it." Both women also appreciate that this allows them to use more of the portions of the fish.

Well the hamachi kama we had wasn't dull and gray at all. It either had a solidity akin to the consistency of a good grilled ahi steak, or it was buttery and tender. I must say in terms of the fish itself, it definitely lived up to all the recent hype by all the blogs and magazines that have been toting as a wonderful experience.


Dale said...

Sounds like a good introduction to Japanese food. I have the mind of a finicky 12 year old myself so this all sounds promising.

Cormac Brown said...


You'll eat Indian food and you are finicky? The Kid won't touch the stuff and I'd eat four times a week if I could.

Katie Schwartz said...

Being a veg and allergic to seafood, I've never tried what you mentioned, but it sounds quite fascinating. I'm glad it was as delish as it was.

Cormac Brown said...


I wish you could try it, it's just right below some $100 a pound sashimi that I tried once.