Japanese meals start with "Itadakimasu" (literal translation: "I am graciously accepting this") and end with "Gochisousamadeshita" ("It was a wonderful feast"). Goshisou alone is also the word for epicurean delights in general, and the word originally contained meanings of thanking the host for running around to collect the best ingredients to prepare the finest meal. In general, "Gochisousamadeshita" should only be shortened to "Gochisousama", and I remember being scolded as a child when I tried to get away with "Gochi". So when I heard of a new Japanese 'fusion tapas' restaurant opening in Cupertino named Gochi, I was a little bit skeptical as to what to expect. But when I found out that Gochi was headed by the ex-head chef of Tanto, I knew it would be a worthwhile izakaya.
Last Saturday, a bunch of us made the trek down to Cupertino. Gochi is conveniently located next to a karaoke place we like to frequent, so we spent some time at Gamba Karaoke for a pre-dinner vocal workout. Karaoke before dinner - how reminiscent of my teenage days in Japan!
With hungry appetites, we walked into Gochi to find a very pleasant dining room with a tatami seats with hori-gotatsu (where you can put your feet under the table, even though it looks like tatami seating). They'd obviously put quite a bit of effort and thought into the design of the dining room. It was welcoming with warm tones and bright with light wood paneling. I noticed some not-so-nice regular table seating by the bathroom for two-person seating - I'll be calling ahead to specify that I don't want those tables!
The drink menu at Gochi is far more extensive than many other Japanese restaurants. There's soju (shochu), distilled alcohol made from potatoes, in addition to the usual sake and beer offerings. Three of us polished off two of these $70 soju bottles, or I should say the two bottles finished us off! The dinner menu offered a dizzying array of dishes that all sounded very good. Some of the old favorites from Tanto were there along with totally new creations.
I never thought I'd find namako-su in the Bay Area, but this sea cucumber (namako) slices in ponzu sauce was delicious. My grandfather used to love this, and boy, does it go dangerously well with my soju! Gochi's ponzu was very good without being too tangy or edgy. It was a calm, nourishing sourness that highlighted the flavors of the ocean from the seaweed and the namako.
This anago-meshi was a very good deal with a huge claypot of rice for ~$12. The anago wasn't quite the quality of anago one would find at a sushi restaurant, but nonetheless, the seasoning on the anago and the rice made this dish definitely worth trying. I noticed they had several other kinds of claypot rice dishes, so I'll likely get something else.
This fried eggplant was stuffed with shrimp and dressed in a sweet, soy-sauce caramel. It reminded me of Daigaku Imo (College Potato), the Japanified Chinese treat of sweet potatoes fried and coated with hardened sugar syrup (which we call 'ame' or candy). Since everything else was savory, the combination of the sweet and savory flavors in my mouth was pleasurably exciting.
And since I am becoming more and more like my grandfather these days, I had to get this satoimo (taro-like potato) dish. These sticky, gooey potatoes are naturally bite-size and they absorb the soup they get cooked in so very well. Each bite sends umami-powered savory dashi into my mouth followed by the stickiness of the potato bringing with it a delicate sweetness of the potato flesh. The bonito flakes (the wood-shaving like strips) was a little over-powering, so I ate around the bonito flakes.
Overall, Gochi was a solid performer. I'd ranked in the Top Five izakayas in the Bay Area. It reminded me very much of Tanto when it was still at the old Santa Clara location. The decor might be too fancy for the Japanese (oyaji) businessmen crowd that use to fill the tables at the Santa Clara location, but in exchange, I'm sure they'll pick up some more non-Japanese clientele. Prices were good as an izakaya with each dish ranging between $5 and $15. They are a very welcome addition to the family of izakayas... speaking of which, I am thinking about organizing a Battle of the Izakaya in the Dim Sum battle format. Contenders will be Tanto (Saratoga), Saizo, Yumeya, Gochi. Let me know if you're interested!
19980 Homestead Rd
Cupertino, CA 95014