Restaurant

Kiki, Do You Love Me? Are You Open? My Go-to for Japanese Comfort Food in Denver.

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.

Photo Description: the interior of Kiki's casual Japanese food off of Colorado Blvd, in Denver, Colorado
I love the interior that the wife, Young had decorated herself.

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.

Photo Description: another interior shot of Kiki's which has a modern and cozy and homie feeling (I really like their interior).
You should have seen how this place looked before when they first opened.

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.

Photo Description: soup, salad and tsukemono, this is just so Japanese minus the salad.
This spread beats the lettuce on your burger. Image by Nalz C.
TakuwanPickled daikon$4.25
Japanese picklesTsukemono (variety)$4.25

Japanese Curry

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 curryPork or chicken cutlet with curry sauce on top$12.95

Broiled

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 shioyakiGrilled mackerel$9.25-$11.50
Sanma shioyakiSaury mackerel$9.25-$11.50
Shishamo(5pcs) smelt fish$8.95
Hamachi kamayellowtail collar (2pcs)$18.95
IkayakiBroiled whole squid$10.50

Deep-Fried Goodness

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).

Photo Description: the aji furai is deep fried goodness here.
If I win the lottery, at $4.25 each, how many can I buy? I hope it’s a lot.
Aji furaiBreaded fried baby mackerel$4.25
Tonkatsu Deep-fried pork cutlet$5.25-$12.95
Chicken Katsu Deep-fried chicken cutlet$5.25-$12.95
KorokkeDeep-fried potato patty 
(croquettes)
$4.00
Karaage (JFC: Japanese fried chicken)$5.25
TempuraDeep-fried shrimp

Noodles

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 udonChicken, beef, or vegetable curry with udon noodles.$12.95
YakisobaStir-fried noodles served with rice
(chicken, beef, or vegetable)
$12.95

Donburi

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.

Photo Description: the salmon and tuna Donburi which is a fusion Japanese chirashi.
Salmon and tuna donburi. Image by Steven SHC.

Notice the common theme here: bowls, rice, with things on top.

Photo Description: the gyudon at Kiki's
Kikuchi’san has a solid background in doing gyudon because he did work for Beef Bowl/Yoshinoya. Image by Tammy N.
Negitoro DonMinced fatty raw tuna mixed with green onion on rice$11.95
GyudonThinly sliced fatty beef cooked with traditional marinade$12.95
OyakodonChicken, onio, and egg boiled in soy sauce over rice$12.95
Unagi DonBroiled 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.

SukiyakiMarbled beef, veggies, shirataki, and tofu in a sweet soy based broth served in a pot (great with a raw egg)$12.95
Shabu ShabuMarbled beef, veggies, in kombu broth served with ponzu$12.95
Chiri to Salmon nabeBlack cod or salmon, veggies, and tofu in miso base broth$14.95-17.50
YosenabeChicken, fish, seafood, tofu, and veggies served in a soup base (recommended for two people)$27.00
Photo Description: a sake barrel and sake cups at Kiki's Casual Japanese restaurant.
You feel that clutter, that vibe is so Japanese.

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.
Photo Description: the curry katsu at Kiki's in Denver.
What’s better than just curry? Curry and tonkatsu, that’s what.

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.

Photo Description: yea, a close up of the aji furai at Kiki's
Oh you tasty little thing, I will devour you.

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.

Photo Description: the business end of the restaurant which is the entrance, the cash register area, and the kitchen entrance.
Me dining alone….. all alone, “all by myself” (the song I sing), but I have no problem eating solo.

Some of the Other Things I’ve Ordered

I’m a creature of habit, so don’t expect a lot variety here.

Photo Description: Japanese karaage chicken.
This is one of the most popular items at Kiki’s which is karaage (JFC). Image by Devorah.

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.

Photo Description: one of the worst beef teriyaki's I have ever had.
That’s the beef teriyaki, and I won’t be ordering that again.

How do you mess up on beef teriyaki? Well, Kiki’s can and does.

Photo Description: the Tonkotsu Ramen at Kiki's.
A more effort laden attempt of tone-KO-tsu vs. all the other places using instant ramen to sell you.

Every wannabe influencer cannot seem to get the word “tonkotsu” (pork bone stock) and “tonkatsu” (deep-fried pork cutlet) correct.

Photo Description: this is what I consider okazu which is a mixture of Japanese and Korean influences that is eaten with rice.
The  Japanese and Korean blend which is why he’s got some really good “fusion” dishes here (be sure to try them). No BS “confusion” food served here.
Photo Description: countless pics of deep-fried Japanese goodness.
They are not going to win any points for plating.

Tempura (battered vegetables), aji furai (baby mackerel fry), and tonkatsu (pork cutlet). 

Photo Description: deep-fried goodness with a side of Japanese curry.
I did a side of curry which I think was sort of pricey, maybe $4?

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.

Photo Description: Kikkoman gluten free seasoning for rice.
Blasphemy, my obaachan would be giving anybody the stink eye for this Kikkoman product.

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

Photo Description: these could use a dusting but it's super cool to see some Mitsubishi Zero's (world war 2 era fighter planes).
This looks like a Zero from WW2 that was recovered from a remote jungle.

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.

Photo Description: more little trinkets in Kiki's.
This little piggy got chopped up and deep-fried in bread crumbs (tonkatsu).
Photo Description: some of the interior details of Kiki's such as Maneki Neko, sake barrels, to random trinkets and table tents.
More beckoning cats.
Photo Description: Kyoto Beer from Japan
I like my beers like my races, flavorful and diverse. You didn’t think I was going to say separate, you racist (jk).

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).

Photo Description: it is odd to see Japanese people take a day off regardless how successful they are, so it is good to say with the Kikuchi's take some time off.
Young said they didn’t go anywhere exciting, but I hope they take a destination vacation somewhere, they deserve it.

Pros

  • 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).

Cons

  • 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

2440 S Colorado Blvd
Denver, CO 80222

(303) 504-4043
kikisjapaneserestaurant.com

Mon-SatSun
11am-9pmClosed
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[…] do too many things right here although there was a point several years back they had a misfire, but going back years later the food is so damn good. Their katsu curry beats the average casual katsu curry restaurants you’d find throughout Los […]

[…] Colorado was Yoshinoya back in the 80’s. Except that did not last long (it did give birth to Kiki’s and Kokoro tho), and it was not till decades later that Colorado got some of my favorite […]

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