As I got more serious about cooking, I splurged and bought myself a very nice Kai Shun santokuÂ like the previously reviewed Tosagata Hocho. I used its preternaturally sharp edge with joyous dispatch for about 6 months, until I woefully cut some citrus with it and left it dirty overnight, eroding that wonderful edge. I’ve never been able to get that magic edge back, even with pro sharpening.
On a visit to a local Asian market, I found a series of Thai-made Kiwi brand knives. In the store, they were nearly free: The large tapered chef’s knife (model #21) that soon stole my heart cost around $4; the paring knife was $1.50.
These knives are very sharp and schuss through veggies and meats like it’s nothing. Don’t go hacking at bones with the thinner models, but Kiwi also makes quite usable cleavers for around $8. The miraculous part is, the knives hold an incredible edge for months with proper use of your steel, and they take a new edge with aplomb after a few strokes on a stone.
I have owned knives by Wusthof, Kyocera, Calphalon, and Ikea (::shudder::) and the Kiwis are the most consistently sharp, most durable, and have the most effective shapes. I’ve bought or suggested them for all of my foodie friends, and people can’t get over how wonderful they are. They don’t look like much, but they’re well-balanced, very sharp. It doesn’t hurt that I could have picked up a full set for less than my crappy block-o-food-manglers cost 10 years ago.
As far as longevity goes, I’ve had my main chef’s knife for about four years, have steeled it every time I used it and given it a few good hones on my Spyderco Sharpmaker. It’s still wicked sharp, and while I haven’t babied it, it looks none the worse for wear. I used my paring knife to whack the lid off a persnickety glued-shut can of Lyle’s Golden Syrup, and in my zeal, the tip bent over almost double. I thought, Oh no! But then I bent it back in place with a pair of pliers, and it’s basically good as new.
They’re definitely the Jeep Wranglers of the kitchen. I suggest buying them locally if you live in an area with Asian markets; if not, they can be picked up online at generally higher prices.