Few types of cuisine inspire like Japanese food. It is elegant and intricate. The quality of ingredients is amplified by the mastery of technique. Not every Japanese eatery seems to embrace this concept, but when I find one that does, it stands out.

Leichi is barely a few months old but it has ambitiously joined a handful of Japanese restaurants daring to offer something other than ramen or sushi. There is limited seating and reservations are highly recommended, especially for dinner. Sitting at the bar allows close-up views of the chef in action.

Most items are tapa-sized with the exception of the meals and soba. The Kamo Namban ($17) is a bowl of handmade soba served in a hot broth with duck breast slices and a meatball. The noodles are worth all the effort to attain the soft thin strands to be slurped up with the savory broth. The Tai Chazuke is a rice dish ($10), with slices of snapper dressed in sesame paste over rice with a side of roasted green tea broth that is poured on right before eating. The seasoned broth marries the different ingredients, like raw snapper and sesame paste, with Japanese rice. It is a combination that sounds like it shouldn’t work, but the taste buds beg to differ.

Appetizers included a variation of steamed monkfish liver, Ankimono Nuta ($9) with spicy miso vinegar on top. There was also the ponzu jelly version for those who prefer the classic. I preferred the creamy, spicy kick of the miso vinegar.

A truly entertaining and mouth-watering dish was the Kobe Washu “Kalbi” grill ($18). Slices of marbled beef short rib were served with a hot stone so each slice can be individually grilled. A few seconds on each side, then a dip in the small plate of sauce, and a perfect piece of beef was ready to melt in my mouth.

Silky steamed egg pudding topped with uni in the Chawan Mushi ($10) gave way with an effortless scoop of the spoon to reveal underneath tender shimeji mushrooms. The texture of the egg, the brothy flavor, the way the uni cooks slightly from the steam—it all worked to make this the best dish of the meal. It was certainly one of the better chawan mushi dishes I have encountered.
Only three desserts were on the menu and all were housemade. Since acai berries seem to be the latest trending superfood, I chose the Acai mousse ($7.50), which had a creamy vanilla mousse that was lighter than air and not too sweet.

The restaurant’s personal touches show in the food and in its choice of ceramics. Unique patterns of soup bowls, small plates and sauce containers draw attention to the plating of the meal. The service was also very attentive.

I usually only notice background music when it is extremely jarring, but the music selection at Leichi was as interesting as its food. A mix of cover songs and Japanese music flowed throughout the meal. There is no shortage of things to amuse the senses here. A return visit to Leichi is definitely in order, as there are so many different items to experience. It will be worth monitoring how this restaurant influences Japanese cuisine in the South Bay.

Japanese, $$$
246 Saratoga Ave., Santa Clara.