One year and one day ago, I plunked down $60 for a Kickstarter campaign for a knife that Kenji Lopez-Alt over at Serious Eats called “the holy grail” of kitchen cutlery: “Incredible quality and design, high-end materials, perfect balance, and a razor-sharp edge.” Swoon… I was hooked.
I’ve been working with my beloved Cooks Illustrated-recommended 8″ Victorinox chef’s knife for over eight years, but it’s had a few misadventures and been chipped and bent along the way. It’s still a fantastic deal at $45, but Kenji’s gushing and my desire for a grown-up knife pushed me over the edge and I took the plunge. I became a Misen backer.
Now, I’ve done enough Kickstarters to know how this goes. You pays your money and you takes your chances. My strategy is to mostly try to forget about the project, though I do take a peek at the emailed updates that are sent out. The less anxious I am about whether I threw away my money, the happier (and more pleasantly surprised) I am when the object actually arrives. This one was supposedly due in May; five months isn’t all THAT bad a delay. I figure I’m investing in someone learning a LOT about business, production, and customer relations in a short amount of time, so I wasn’t really all that worried. But still… I was curious, and when I got my notice telling me my knife was on the way, I admit that I started stalking the tracking page.
Today, the box arrived!
Snazzy, innit? One of the production issues that held up the delivery of the knife was the packaging, so since they went to all the trouble of redoing the packing materials, I figured I do a series of unboxing photos to properly appreciate their efforts.
Inside was a little shrinkwrapped packet that held the plastic knife guard that was a perk for Kickstarter supporters.
It’s plastic with some soft stuff inside. Nothing special, but yay for a free knife cover!
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. There’s a paperboard slipcover over the main box, which feels very solid and rigid. I was a little puzzled as to why they spent a nontrivial amount of money on the box presentation (I mean, you don’t have to convince us, we’ve already bought the darned thing, right?), until I remembered that our knives come with a lifetime sharpening service. So we’ll need a sturdy safe box to transport the knife back and forth… guess I’m going to hang on to the old Victorinox for the week or so that the Misen is out for her spa days!
There she is! Nestled in a bed of soft and sturdy foam, the Misen shines invitingly. There was a protective card that had some tips on how to hold and clean the knife on one side (they urge you to use the pinch method for better control and power)…
and on the other side, some carrot bits for inspiration.
I pulled out my Victorinox to compare the two. The biggest difference that I noticed immediately was the balance of the weight. I can balance the Misen with my finger right where the blade meets the handle, but if I put my Victorinox on my finger the same way, it pitches forward… this means I am always spending at least a little energy pushing down on the handle in an effort to keep the tip of the knife up, whereas with the Misen it sort of hovers in my hand effortlessly. I know it sounds kind of dumb now as I’m writing it, but it really does feel different. How much that extra effort spent to deny gravity costs me in wrist/arm fatigue, I have no idea. But it’s not nothing.
I would guess that, by far, the thing I chop the most with my chef knife is veggies, and the veggie I chop almost daily is onions. So I put the Misen through its paces, and found it to be very nice to use. I mean, it’s brand new and razor sharp, so I didn’t expect anything less. But there was no awkwardness or skipping, nothing felt strange, and the knife felt controlled and precise.
After I chopped half an onion, I tried the Victorinox to compare. It’s not at it’s sharpest right now, and it skipped along the surface of the onion a bit, but the biggest difference between it and the Misen was the height of the blade. The Victorinox has a taller blade, and it was definitely most noticeable when I was slicing the onion held between the thumb and fingers of my left hand… it was definitely harder to manipulate the knife because I had to tent my palm high over the cutting surface to make enough room for the knife to maneuver. The shorter knife was more nimble; it was easier to hold the onion, more stable, and closer to the cutting surface. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this feature will make the Misen a safer knife, as well.
If the Misen sounds like something you’d be interested in, the company is taking names for a waitlist for the second production run. If you’re wavering between the Victorinox or the Misen, I’d urge you to go with the Misen. But the company definitely has issues with their production times, so if you need a knife to work with right now, you will not be at all sorry to have the Victorinox in your hands. Still, I’m very happy with my Misen so far, and I’d love to hear from others who got one as well.