I'm not a professional chef, but I do enjoy cooking in my home kitchen. I generally cook for the two of us, but we do have another couple over from time to time, as well as having 10-12 over for Holidays.
I've had Japanese knives for quite a while now, but my previous ones were purchased "hands on" and most in Japan, so this was a new experience for me.Why a deba?
My wife had been suggesting that we eat more fish at home, but finding good fish in San Francisco seems harder than one might imagine for a former seaport. It is always hit-or-miss at Whole Foods here, and most of the local fish markets tend to cater to the low-end market and reek like stale fish. There are couple around that don't have scary health-department records, but their selection of fillets tends to be pretty limited. So, I was lucky enough to be able to take a class on classic Japanese fish butchery from a local sushi chef. Everything from scaling through filleting -- just what I needed. While I was doing OK with a santoku and a Victorinox chef's knive (for cleaving the head off), I wasn't getting the results I had with the deba. Why this deba?
I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a knife that I was only using for a few minutes a couple times a week. For me, it wasn't like a gyoto, petty, or yanagibi/sujihiki. I had seen a couple here locally, of which the Yoshikane V-Tokuko was the most interesting to me, based on its balance and the way it was finished, including a bit of relief on the choil for the forefinger. I had also seen the Konosuke line and found its fit and finish to be exceptional.
I did consider the $100-price-class knives like the Tojiro
, but as I was wearing out my arms already working on fixing an abused yanagiba, I didn't want a project with my deba as well.
On the other end, the Konosuke
appealed to me, but at presently over $300, seemed a bit excessive for the amount of use the knife would get.
The Tanaka Kasumi
was pretty much a dead tie for the Kaneshige, with the decision coming down to the relieved choil and the quality I had seen on the Konosuke knives (apparently a child brand/company of Kaneshige), and that it came into stock before the Tanaka. First Impressions
The deba arrived within a week of my getting my Konosuke funayuki
, so it was already up against hard competition for my attention. The box lacks the beautiful wrapping that I had experienced in Japan, but it was very functional. I purchased the saya and it fits well. For me, this lets me keep a relatively uncommonly used knife in a drawer without worrying about it. The saya is nicely made, with a non-captive pin that works well so far. My deba weights 332 g or about 11.7 oz.
Fit and finish on the blade is very good, with no warp or twist that I could detect. The choil relief is very nice and the spine is very lightly softened on the face (and not on the back, though it is not "sharp" against your fingers).
There is no back bevel on the heel in the factory grind.
The handle and ferrule probably would have gotten higher marks from me had it not been that I had a Konosuke right next to the Kanishige. The Kanishige has a more "commercial" feel to the handle finish and the ferrule could easily be plastic, from the look of it. The finish on the ferrule goes from polished to finely sanded, as if a polished ferrule was sanded down to fit the handle, but then not re-poliched. There are also some gaps between the ferrule and the handle that weren't filled with glue that I'll have to attend to. There is nothing terribly objectionable about the work, but it is not up to my perception of the level of quality of the blade, and a big step down from the Konosuke fit and finish.
Konosuke funayuki ('laser") with the blonde ferrule
Kaneshige ferruleBut how does it work?
I came back from Sun Fat with a fresh red snapper and a dozen shigoku oysters. My knife made fast work of the oysters and with a beer in hand, I took a look at that snapper. Oh, don't worry, it wasn't the brand new deba that pried open the shells!
The deba's balance was good for me and it immediately felt comfortable in my hand. While the handle was smooth, I didn't feel any lack of control or slipperiness, even with fish goo on my hands. The collar cut cleanly on both sides, without effort, mainly using just the weight of the knife. I was surprised that I didn't go cleanly through when I went to remove the head. It might have been me "babying" the knife -- I'll follow up on this when I've got some more time with it. It's not like trying out a gyoto when you can carve up anything and everything in the pantry to see how your new toy works! In any event, there was no visible evidence of any edge damage from cleaving the spine, even without a back-side micro-/mini-bevel to increase the strength of the edge at the heel.
The belly of the knife was curved enough and sharp enough to easily open the fish along the back and belly, again with little effort. The angle of the bevel took a bit of getting used to as I have been doing this work with a thin, double-bevel santoku. Once I felt the angle, it followed the bones cleanly and the feel of the tip against the spine was nicely felt through the handle. When it came time to remove the fillet, the deba very cleanly went through the ribs. Tip work with the deba easily removed the ribs from the fillet and trimmed it nicely. My wife isn't a big fan of fish skin, and it came cleanly off the one fillet without any excessive damage, even with my relatively unskilled hand gently slicing the deba with the skin against the board.
The 180 mm size didn't feel too large for a snapper sized for two.
So far, I'm pleased with the performance of this knife and mainly able to overlook the disappointing fit and finish on the handle.
Stay tuned -- We can't eat more than a few fish a week, so it may be a bit before I can comment more on the "cleaver" performance or how it responds on the stones.