Kaze | 1400 Vine Street | Cincinnati, OH | 45202
Before I get to my review, I want to give you a little history of Cincinnati to explain why Kaze is more than just a fantastic new addition to our restaurant scene, but how its opening represents the end to Cincinnati’s darkest hour (in my opinion).
Cincinnati faced a serious setback in April 2001. A downtown shooting spurred four days of significant race riots that jolted the city. There was vandalism, looting, arson and physical assault, which resulted in citywide curfews, millions of dollars in damage, and over 800 arrests. Downtown was no longer considered safe and it took 10 years to change that tarnished reputation (but time heals all wounds!).
Cincinnati is an amazing, amazing city. I lived there my entire life and love it to pieces. Since moving to DC, I realized that most people think Ohio is one big boring farm with no redeeming qualities, when that absolutely could not be farther from the truth. Cincinnati has thriving music and restaurant scenes, the most picturesque parks, an engaging downtown, a beautiful waterfront, passionate Reds and Bengals fans, and a breadth of local food that we swear by (Graeter’s, Skyline, Montgomery Inn). We have dozens of neighborhoods, each with their own unique cafes, quaint coffee shops, boutiques, and weekly farmers markets. We also have annual events that bring the city together, such as the Flying Pig Marathon and Oktoberfest Zinzinnati (the biggest Oktoberfest in the world, second to Munich, of course).
There have been tremendous transformations in Cincinnati in the last decade, such as The Banks project, Washington Park overhaul, and major upgrades to UC and Xavier. We also hosted the 2012 World Choir Games last summer (which brought $70 million in revenue and 300,000 international visitors to the city) and the MLB All-Star Game will be at our beloved Reds stadium in 2015!
The Banks/Waterfront (downtown)
Music Hall in the newly revived Washington Park
Kaze comes into play because it is in the downtown neighborhood, Over the Rhine, where the riots originated and were most severe. This restaurant would never have made it 7 or 8 years ago, considering its target customer. It is a contemporary Japanese lounge and bar that specializes in authentic Asian small plates and sushi. After dark, Kaze offers live entertainment almost every night, plus karaoke! This place is gorgeous and expansive.
Our waitress was so kind and knowledgeable about the menu. We all loved her. She explained how the menu items are on the smaller side and designed for sharing. To start, we ordered the soybean hummus (my choice) and summer truffle salad to share amongst the three of us. I had never before tried hummus that was made from edamame but it was a tasty surprise. The dip came with salty homemade chips that left a tangy lime aftertaste. The summer truffle salad was amazing as well and came heavy on the truffles, I’ll say! It was a medley of squash, peas, turnips topped with balsamic vinaigrette. It was as simple and fresh as could be.
I ordered the sea scallops for my entree, which came with bacon, sweet corn and was drizzled with a shitake ginger vinaigrette. Oh my. The scallops themselves were cooked to perfection and really allowed the shitake ginger vinaigrette to stand out. It was also beautifully presented:
We also ordered 2 of the s’mores desserts to split amongst the three of us. The marshmallows were deliciously toasted and the sesame seeds added a unique touch! It was topped with a creamy chocolate mousse. I think this picture speaks for itself:
Even better than it looks.
Conclusion: Dining here made me so happy! The food was absolutely superb. We all agreed that this was one of the best and most unique meals we have ever had in Cincinnati (and we have all lived here forever!). It was also so amazing to see people flock to Over the Rhine. I was raised to be weary of this neighborhood so it’s exciting to witness its redemption because OTR has so much to offer historically. Kaze and the other new additions to OTR are doing awesome things for our downtown (and tastebuds). Please go check it out!