Our First Omakase Experience: Ken Sushi Amsterdam

By Elie - 9:00 PM

Omakase: An exquisite dining experience in the Japanese culture in which the chef decides what you'll be served through the meal. The phrase literally means, "I'll leave it up to you", and patrons often dine right in front of the chef - getting surprised piece by piece as they bring you the season's freshest ingredients and their best recipes. 

But most importantly, it was my gift to him for his birthday this year.

That's right! Sitting through an omakase experience has been something we've both always wanted to try, so when we learned that there was a place called Ken Sushi that offered it in Amsterdam, we just knew there was no time like now. There were notable hurdles that we went through in order to secure this booking, but here's our how first omakase experience at Ken Sushi Amsterdam went!

*Warning: Lots of food photos ahead!

Just waiting to have you all in my belly!

Upon arrival, we were quickly whisked away to a more private section of the restaurant. This was because Ken Sushi offered guests the choice of having the chef explain every course to you - best suited for first-timers - or if you just wanted to eat without the theatrics. We obviously picked the former as it we wanted to experience the full omakase flair, alongside 17 other guests for the evening. 

Crunchy seaweed roll with salmon

Our starters included a bowl of miso soup each as well as edamame to share. Once those were out of the way, however, the real good stuff came to play. We were first served with a crunchy seaweed roll with salmon sashimi, making it an interesting marriage of Thai and Japanese flavours. The sweet and savoury crunchy seaweed reminded me of the popular Thai seaweed brand Tao Kae Noi - and I thought it was Chef Ken's way to bring in his heritage as a Thai-born individual. 

A feast not just for our bellies, but also for our eyes

One of my favourite seafoods, scallops, were next on the menu - served lightly seared and wrapped in a crunchy seaweed with freshly grated wasabi. Unlike most commercial wasabi that bears a bright green colour, the wasabi served at Ken Sushi carried a gentle brown hue. Chef Ken later explained that they never use wasabi out of tubes but rather the horseradish is freshly grated before every service. This also makes for a very costly use of the ingredient but you could truly taste that it was worth it.

Seared scallop with freshly grated wasabi

As for the scallop, it was gentle to the tongue and almost melty but still retained its slight chew and subtle sweetness. I felt like it was a gateway to knowing what could only come next but the bar had already been set high. 

Ebi nigiri // Tiger shrimp sushi

The ebi nigiri followed next, with the tiger shrimp having been lightly brushed with some soy sauce. The shrimp was fresh but I felt like it was nothing to shout about. 

Manboh nigiri // Sunfish sushi

Prior to this evening, I never knew that sunfish could actually be eaten and much less served raw with sushi rice. It was brushed over with some soy sauce and had an interesting bounciness topped with a creaminess that I'd never experienced before. This got me wondering what else the team at Ken Sushi had up their sleeves as we were only getting started.

Hirame nigiri // Seared halibut with herring caviar and yuzu dressing

As complex as the name of the sushi sounded, the hirame nigiri was a surprisingly well rounded piece for the evening. The fish wasn't particularly fatty and the herring caviar was nice, but it was the yuzu dressing that really brought it together with the slight tang and refreshing touch. 

Mekachiki nigiri // Swordfish nigiri treated in kimchi and fresh ginger

I'm going to be honest: This piece was such a confusing sushi to me because I had stared at the meat thinking it was chicken that would later be seared, but it turned out to be fish treated in kimchi and ginger? The end result was a subtly fatty piece of sushi that also sort of felt like chicken to bite and I can only say it was amazing. Chef Ken mentioned that it took them 3 weeks in experimentation to make this sushi and I felt like it was worth every second. 

Tako nigiri // Octopus sushi

After 3 pieces of rather complex flavours, the Ken Sushi team finally brought it down just a notch with a traditional octopus sushi that was brushed over with soy sauce. Similar to the tiger prawn, however, you could say that the octopus was fresh and prepared well so it wasn't rubbery but it wasn't mindblowing. Despite this, I thought it was a nice break to our tastebuds because I'd imagine that being consistently confused was probably not a good thing either. 

Sake nigiri // Seared salmon sushi 

In what Chef Ken describes as a blasphemy to sushi, we were served with a seared salmon sushi topped with Kewpie mayo and 7 spice powder. It was their crowd favourite piece, but also not the most conventional Japanese sushi either. 

Tonbo nigiri // Albacore tuna sushi

Maguro nigiri / Yellowfin tuna sushi

Served next were a duo of tuna sushis, both of which I'd say was nice but didn't rock my socks off. If anything, I'd say it was the first time I tried albacore tuna and it was indeed quite fatty and melty, but that's about as much there was to it. 

Hamachi nigiri // Seared yellowtail kingfish with yuzu pepper

Have I ever had yellowtail kingfish? That's a question I'll never have an answer to but I'm going to say I will never find one as unique as this one ever again...unless I'm lucky enough to return to Ken Sushi. But the yuzu pepper on this was phenomenal and it complimented the fish so well. In fact I literally said I wanted a jar of that yuzu pepper so it can accompany all my meal times from hereon. Maybe I was joking. Maybe I wasn't. Who knows? 

Unagi nigiri // Freshwater eel sushi 

Fun fact: I was never a fan of unagi because it often came with a rather fishy aroma - if that quite makes sense. On the flip side, however, my other half is so obsessed that he used to visit the supermarket every evening when we were on a holiday in Osaka so he could buy discounted unagi. He'd then heat it up with the microwave at our Airbnb, successfully creating an unagi air freshener in the unit and not in a good way.

But that night at Ken Sushi, my world opened to an unagi flavour I never imagined possible and I was so absolutely in love with it that it quickly climb onto the top 3 things I'd want to devour from the restaurant again. The way the fish melted in my mouth was just amazing and everything came together so well - from the taste to the aroma and the texture - it was what I could only say was the best unagi I've ever had in my life. 

Sashimi trio, from left to right: Albacore tuna, sweet shrimp, and yellowfin tuna

Unfortunately, what followed was a slight disappointment in my opinion as we were served a sashimi trio that consisted of two tuna types we had earlier had as nigiri and some sweet shrimp. While I could tell that the quality was unmatched, I did feel like it wasn't all that great considering we'd only just had it two courses ago.

Smoking our salmon with cherry blossom wood chips

Salmon sashimi

Thankfully, the said disappointment didn't last too long because we got to feast on some smoked salmon sashimi. Using sakura (cherry blossom) wood chips gave the sashimi a rather gentle yet smoky profile, and we got to try it with and without soy sauce. I definitely felt like the former was a better choice and regretted that it ended all too soon.

Extra preparations 

At this point of the experience, guests were allowed to choose between upgrading to a more luxurious set or stopping at 20 courses. This obviously called for a little extra money, but we decided that sitting through an omakase was something we probably wouldn't do for a while so my other half and I went on for the upgrade.

Smoked tuna on a seaweed cracker, served with herring caviar and chopped wasabi

Our first extension was an interesting creation that saw a combination of flavours and textures that I never knew I needed. From the crunchy seaweed cracker to the soft smoked medium fatty bluefin tuna and the heat of the chopped wasabi, I was quite convinced that there was nothing better to end the night. But boy was I wrong.

Temaki oke

Because what followed was a creation from the Ken Sushi team themselves - a Hawaiian pokebowl inspired piece that saw them combine salmon with edamame, mayo, sesame oil, and chopped wasabi. The creation was completed with a fresh seaweed wrapped over it and I felt like it was what all pokebowls should aspire to be.

Chutoro nigiri // Medium fatty tuna sushi

Otoro nigiri // Fatty bluefin tuna sushi 

Before the big bang of the evening, we got two types of fatty tuna sushi that we hadn't gotten through the meal. This made me ridiculously happy, because despite not enjoying other foods that are usually fatty like pork fats and such, fatty tuna was one of my favourites in Japanese cuisine. And these sushis did not disappoint. 

A5 wagyu nigiri

Chef Ken definitely knew to keep the best for the last, because he pulled out a slab of premium A5 wagyu at the end to create this masterpiece of a seared A5 wagyu nigiri topped with chopped wasabi. According to him, this was a rare occasion as A5 wagyu meats were hard to come by in the Netherlands and even if they were air-flown from Japan, it would have been way too costly to serve as a part of the omakase. 

We clearly lucked out, and it was the first time I'd ever tasted something this mind blowing. The way the slightly torched wagyu beef melted alongside the rice and chopped wasabi was so indescribable, all my other half and I could do was look at each other with raised eyebrows and satisfied nods. And to make things better, we were actually allowed to ask for seconds. This was because of the way the course is set up and we got to pick one of the many pieces we wanted to relive from the night. The A5 wagyu won hands down. 

Pandan tamagoyaki

And finally, our dessert for the evening was yet another Thai-Japanese fusion: A pandan tamagoyaki made with coconut milk and fried shallots. According to Chef Ken, these were lovingly made by his wife and it had such an interesting combination of sweet and savoury once again. I really enjoyed the silkiness of the pudding-like egg and the pandan aromas sure made me think of Malaysian cuisines as well.


By the end of the meal, my other half and I were really stuffed but also really satisfied with the entire experience. Though we can't tell how true it was to Japanese omakase meals, we truly enjoyed the company of Chef Ken and his team for the evening. Seriously though, I wasn't sponsored to say this because I actually paid for the meal.

In fact, the omakase stretched across nearly 3 hours and it set me back €70 per person with an extra €25 per person for the upgrade. It does sound steep but considering the quality, taste, and experience, I really felt like it was money well spent. Plus I had A5 wagyu twice! If you were to ask whether I'd return, I would say yes in a heartbeat but only if someone else was footing the bill. Should the bill still come to me, I'd probably say yes but only after a few years. This was a still a huge luxury after all, so until then we'll just have to make do with supermarket sushi. 

Ken Sushi
Geldersekade 19
1011EJ Amsterdam

P/S: I strongly recommend booking as they're currently not capable of handling walk-ins.

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