This article has been update from December 17th, 2018 (37% less crappier)
I always want to go on a Sunday ’cause I want ya, and I need ya, but that is the one day Kiki’s takes off. It is also the day when I want some Japanese comfort food (what is Japanese comfort food you ask? Keep reading)
The saddest thing that could happen is if the family operating Kiki’s (the Kikuchi’s) were to retire because this is the only real casual Japanese restaurant in Denver. Also, before you try to tell me that there are a million others, no, there is not, but let me explain.
Kiki’s and Domo are the only two Japanese restaurants that do “Japanese comfort food.” These two feel like I am eating at my grandparents’ or what I cook at home, and for this post, I will be focusing on the dishes offered by Kiki’s.
This Is What Japanese People Really Eat (Well a Lot of the Deep-Fried Stuff)
Americanized Japanese food is nothing like Japanese food that Japanese and Japanese Americans eat. The dishes and menu at Kiki’s and, to some degree, Domo is what you find in a Japanese household.
The owners here are a married couple, a Japanese and a Korean national, so all of the food is authentic casual Japanese types of dishes with a few nice Korean touches (and essential, Koreans know how to do spicy, plus kim chi).
I can cook the vast majority of the foods here, but it’s great to be able to eat out every once in while because Kikuchi’san can demolish my ability with a number of his dishes.
What Does It Matter if It’s Authentic or Not? Your Health, That’s Why Fatty
Japan has ranked typically number one for life expectancy and for being one of the least obese countries in the world, but I can’t say the same for the U.S. (if you want to see the stats, click on my previous post about Japan’s life expectancy).
If your food is covered in sauces such as mayonnaise, sweet sauces, spicy sauces, etc, it’s most likely not traditional Japanese food.
If You’re the Type to Look Beyond Just Pizza and Pasta for Italian Food, You’ll Be Happy to Find Out That the Japanese Are Also Not Limited to Just Sushi and Ramen
I wish I could eat sushi and ramen all the time, but then again I’d be missing out on Japanese curry, tonkatsu which is like a German schnitzel, savory hot pots (nabemono), to all the grilled (yakimono) and deep-fried foods (agemono) that my arteries crave.
Japanese Pickles (Tsukemono)
A variety of vegetables (daikon, eggplant, ginger, cucumber to garlic) pickled typically in a salt brine to miso, and everybody grows up eating it because they all go great with a variety of foods, especially rice.
|Japanese pickles||Tsukemono (variety)||$4.25|
Curry was introduced to the Japanese by the British Royal Navy, and now Japanese curry is so popular in Japan, that it is considered a national dish which is why there is also an emoji for curry 🍛.
|Japanese curry||Japanese (beef, chicken, or veggie)||$12.95|
|Katsu curry||Pork or chicken cutlet with curry sauce on top||$12.95|
There has been a number of American grilled fish chains that have been popping up recently in the U.S., but in Japan raw, grilled, and broiled fish is commonplace.
Fish such as mackerel are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect against depression. You do not have to worry about it because any fish listed below requires only a squeeze of lemon and either salt/soy sauce, and it will have you feeling better.
|Saba shioyaki||Grilled mackerel||$9.25-$11.50|
|Sanma shioyaki||Saury mackerel||$9.25-$11.50|
|Shishamo||(5pcs) smelt fish||$8.95|
|Hamachi kama||yellowtail collar (2pcs)||$18.95|
|Ikayaki||Broiled whole squid||$10.50|
Tonkatsu originated in Japan in 1899, but dishes like tempura 🍤came from the Portuguese back in the 16th century and is now a staple of Japanese cuisine (probably one of the only dishes you’ll commonly find in CO).
|Aji furai||Breaded fried baby mackerel||$4.25|
|Tonkatsu||Deep-fried pork cutlet||$5.25-$12.95|
|Chicken Katsu||Deep-fried chicken cutlet||$5.25-$12.95|
|Korokke||Deep-fried potato patty |
|Karaage||(JFC: Japanese fried chicken)||$5.25|
Most Japanese noodles are made up of wheat to buckwheat flour, water, and salt. The 🍜 noodles are typically eaten in a soy based broth, but curry to Italian style fusion dishes with udon have become popular in the U.S.
|Soba||(Hot or cold) fishcake and vegetables with udon noodles in a soy based broth||$9.95|
|Udon||(Hot or cold) fishcake and vegetables with udon noodles in a soy based broth||$9.95|
|Curry udon||Chicken, beef, or vegetable curry with udon noodles.||$12.95|
|Yakisoba||Stir-fried noodles served with rice|
(chicken, beef, or vegetable)
To help you with the pronunciation, think “don’t touch my booty” or (d’ohn-boo-ree). Donburi is simply rice topped with various types of ingredients from pork cutlet, curry, tempura, to chicken and eggs served in a bowl.
Notice the common theme here: bowls, rice, with things on top.
|Negitoro Don||Minced fatty raw tuna mixed with green onion on rice||$11.95|
|Gyudon||Thinly sliced fatty beef cooked with traditional marinade||$12.95|
|Oyakodon||Chicken, onio, and egg boiled in soy sauce over rice||$12.95|
|Unagi Don||Broiled fresh water eel on rice||$17.95|
Nabemono (Hot Pot)
I love “nabe” (if your bae asked you if she could eat your last piece of sashimi you can say “naw, bae”, get your own) 🍲 which is food cooked in a pot. The pots are typically either a clay pot called a donabe, or a cast iron pot called a tetsunabe, but you don’t need to know that.
|Sukiyaki||Marbled beef, veggies, shirataki, and tofu in a sweet soy based broth served in a pot (great with a raw egg)||$12.95|
|Shabu Shabu||Marbled beef, veggies, in kombu broth served with ponzu||$12.95|
|Chiri to Salmon nabe||Black cod or salmon, veggies, and tofu in miso base broth||$14.95-17.50|
|Yosenabe||Chicken, fish, seafood, tofu, and veggies served in a soup base (recommended for two people)||$27.00|
I suggested to Young to look through interior design magazines and just simply copy one that she liked. Except, I didn’t think she would do this good of a job (I was seriously impressed).
My Go to Menu Items
I cook a lot of these items, and I probably do a couple of them several times a month, but I would still order it at Kiki’s.
- Aji furai: It’s SO GOOD here. Yes, like most of the items here, it’s probably from a food supplier in a frozen bag, but I got to order it every time I’m here. My goal one day, is to come here and eat a bunch of these with a pitcher of beer. #lifegoals #aimhigh
- Tonkatsu: in SoCal, there are so many Japanese restaurants, but Kiki’s tonkatsu is better than the vast majority of the fast-casual places.
- Japanese curry: most Japanese families will use an instant curry roux by House or S&B (the two most popular brands) as their base. Although the best part, is that everybody has their secret ingredient of adding grated apples, honey, to ghee. The same goes for Kiki’s.
Try the JAPANESE CURRY! Japanese people have a million and one different styles, and I’m sure sometime soon, a Japanese curry restaurant in Japan will get a Michelin star.
This is the one thing, I haven’t ever have cooked before, but it’s just like everything else which is filleting the horse mackerel, egg, a little flour and panko. I need more aji furai in my life.
Some of the Other Things I’ve Ordered
I’m a creature of habit, so don’t expect a lot variety here.
When I was in Wisconsin, I properly pronounced the word “hirame,” but the waitress repeated back, you want the “hi-ram-me?” Yea, that is not how you pronounce it all because if you break all Japanese words down in to syllables, you will sound Japanese (he-ra-may).
I cringe when I hear karaage being pronounced as “carriage,” and you will want to break it down to “ka-ra-a-ge” (I used the Japanese characters to do that). Except the easiest way for an English speaker to pronounce it would be “ka-ra-a-geh.”
Thanks again to all the Yelpers who contributed their imagery.
How do you mess up on beef teriyaki? Well, Kiki’s can and does.
Every wannabe influencer cannot seem to get the word “tonkotsu” (pork bone stock) and “tonkatsu” (deep-fried pork cutlet) correct.
Tempura (battered vegetables), aji furai (baby mackerel fry), and tonkatsu (pork cutlet).
I have redundant imagery to reinforce that I love the aji furai, and that side of curry I will use to pour and lather up my tonkatsu in.
In the Asian community, but specifically amongst Japanese, seeing a product like this is so unfathomable.
Amongst Asians, especially Japanese, we do not pour soy-sauce on our rice unless it’s TKG which is tamago (raw egg), kake (soy sauce), gohan (rice). If you did, you would get the stink eye from gam gams.
All the Little Details to Explore
There’s areas that need a little dusting, but I overlook that because it’s part of the character versus all of Colorado’s Eurocentric techno “upscale” d’bag interiors.
I Just Gotta Be Real With It
If I didn’t have this place in Colorado after being in California for the last two-and-a-half decades, life would be sad…. like driving here more than once on a Sunday when they’re closed (really stupid and sad).
- The most authentic Japanese restaurant in the Denver metro area, and if you don’t believe me, try finding these extremely common dishes you would easily find in Japan, but in a Colorado “Japanese” restaurant. Also, if they do have it, it probably is not done as well or correctly as the way Kiki’s does it.
- During lunch, self-serve soup and salad (tip: don’t abuse it by making a total meal of it or sharing).
- Some of the items like the beef and chicken teriyaki can be extremely lackluster/underwhelming (I’d pass on them).
- They won’t score high marks on Iron Chef for their plating.
- I don’t come here for sushi or ramen, but you can have at it because they do both which gets to my point. They try to do it all which is cool, but I wish they had more focus or a smaller menu.
Kiki’s Japanese Casual Dining