Brad Kilgore is quick to point out he is no sushi chef.
But there has always been something of an homage to the Japanese respect for quality ingredients and simplicity in the fastidious, stylish and impeccably presented dishes that made him a star of the culinary world at his Wynwood restaurant Alter.
Now, he’s taking that respect for Japanese cuisine a step further.
Kilgore’s second standalone restaurant, Kaido, a Japanese cocktail lounge with an emphasis on creative drinks and Japanese-inspired dishes, opens Tuesday in the Design District.
“I tried to be inspired by the simplicity and high-quality ingredients the way they are in Japan,” said Kilgore, James Beard award finalist in 2018.
What Kilgore wanted for Kaido was a lounge setting where diners don’t sit before linen-covered tables, awaiting their food course by course. Instead, he wants his new spot to be a place where guests lounge and chat over finger food with cocktails.
“You’re talking, taking in the scene and being part of it,” he said.
How to get create that environment? Just add fondue.
The literal center of the menu is a warm, creamy uni and Parmesan cheese fondue, with a host of delicacies to dip, including seafood, vegetables, herbs and spices to customize each bite. Add to that a nigiri platter of the chef’s choices and a sort-of charcuterie board of Iberico pork with pickled veggies and tonkatsu pork sauce and you have quite a party starter.
All the dishes, from Floridian Fugu of lion fish that would tempt Homer Simpson to a selection of robata-grilled bites like octopus, foie gras and charred fingerling potatoes are meant to be eaten with a cocktail in hand. All dishes range from $14 to about $36, including the fondue pot.
Want to ball a little bigger? There’s always Siberian, Iranian and Kaluga caviar (ranging from $125 to $300) or a katsu sandwich made with luxurious A5 beef (the highest rated quality of beef) for $125.
“You’re constantly nibbling while enjoying a cocktail or sake,” he said.
For a more traditional sit-down meal, Kaido has a separate 20-seat dining area named Ama (Japanese for mermaid) with a chef’s choice menu and special cocktails, available by reservation only.
All the drinks come from a partnership with bar owner Nico de Soto, the Parisian who created world-renowned bars in New York’s East Village (Mace) and Paris (Danico). Kaido’s are creative twists on classic drinks, such as a Hakkaido Sour, made with soy-washed Japanese whisky and licorice syrup, a Jasmine Gimlet, featuring shochu, and a negroni with an aromatic sakura liqueur.
Kaido is the first of two restaurants Kilgore will open at the location. It’s upstairs from a the future wood-fire-centric restaurant, Ember, where Kilgore will show off his love of barbecue and wood-cooked food. (He’s a Kansas City native, after all.) That is set to open in late February.
151 NE 41 St., #217, Design District