All entrées come with a platter of assorted vegetables: shitake mushroom, corn on the cob, Napa cabbage, watercress, a slice of taro, a thinner slice of daikon radish, baby spinach, and two-quarters of pink tomato. Your server will give you instructions on how to cook everything: just a dip for meats and greens, but several minutes for corn, mushroom, and taro.
The “Vegetarian Delight” ($12) about doubles the standard vegetable platter, adding slices of king oyster mushrooms and various kinds of fresh, fried, and skinned tofu. Basic meats such as lamb ($12) and pork ($12) come in beautiful thin slices. Lamb may seem odd in an Asian restaurant, but it was probably customary for original Mongolian hot pots.
There is a wine list, although it’s probably best to go for Japanese beers ($4.50). There are also some prime sakes and a short list of distilled shochu. We tried the cherry-blossom shochu ($8), which was like a snifter of bourbon with a slight flowery aroma. Nonalcoholic choices include sodas, herbal drinks, and smoothies, which probably work best as desserts.
Desserts proper are limited to four kinds of ice cream ($4). Our pick was the mango, but if you like the bitter edge of green tea, it’s an option. Vanilla and red bean were innocuous; have the red bean so you can say you did.
Service at Kaze was helpful and rapid, early on a slow weeknight. There’s no reason to believe that would change when the place fills up at a more fashionable hour. The downstairs dining room is bright, with blond pine and white accents resembling Japanese restaurants — although certain Chinese features are also present. A large waving cat goes with both cultures now, and Buddha heads sitting in niches are pan-Asian. (I wonder if they inhibit religious Buddhists from ordering the meat entrées?) Upstairs may be more romantic, although I think Kaze is more about fun first and second dates than romantic ones. Come to think of it, one doesn’t want to eat anything soupy and spill-able on a first date, so let’s make that “a perfect second-date spot.”
Kaze, One Harrison Avenue (corner of 41 Essex street), Boston | Mon–Thurs, 11:30 am–midnight; Fri & Sat, 11:30 am–2 am; and Sun, noon–midnight | AE, DI, MC, VI | full bar | no valet parking | up two steps from sidewalk level to many tables; second floor up full flight of stairs | 617.338.8283
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