Acclaimed Chef Chris Kinjo Opening MF Sushi in Houston This Week

Categories: Restaurant News

mfsushi1.jpg
Photos courtesy of MF Sushi
Chef Chris Kinjo serving omakase at the now-closed MF Buckhead in Atlanta.
When sushi chef Chris Kinjo opened MF Buckhead in Atlanta in 2007 with his brother, Alex, the restaurant was a swift success.

The hometown daily -- the Atlanta Journal-Constitution -- gave it a five-star review (but good luck finding it on the Journal-Constitution's Web site, easily one of the worst I've ever seen) and even Creative Loafing's Cliff Bostock was swayed by the place, writing that MF Buckhead was "a testament to the brilliant style and hospitality of Alex and Chris Kinjo, who have opened the restaurant after scoring hits with MF Sushi and Nam in Midtown."

John Kessler, food critic for the Journal-Constitution, took his readers on a whirlwind tour through one of Kinjo's breathtaking, $300-a-person omakase meals in a 2009 blog post, raving over such dishes as "kawahagi (thread-sail filefish), served in kimojoyu, a sauce made by blending its own liver with soy sauce and seasonings" and "small, whole octopus whose "head" is filled with roe that pops in the mouth." Kinjo's omakase quickly became famous not only for its unusual dishes, but for the price: The Journal-Constitution named it the "most expensive meal in Atlanta."

Even Bon Appétit was wowed by Kinjo's skills, naming MF Buckhead the sixth best sushi restaurant in America -- ahead of Texas's own Uchi -- in 2009, with Andrew Knowlton citing the "26-seat sushi bar, an omakase (chef's choice) room, and three private dining rooms" as just a few of the intimate details that made MF Buckhead so special.

But five years later, the bloom was off the rose and MF Buckhead closed.

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The private omakase room at MF Buckhead was one of the restaurant's main attractions.
"It was a difficult decision," Sa Kinjo, cousin to brothers Chris and Alex Kinjo, told John Kessler at the Journal-Constitution on the eve of MF Buckhead's last dinner service in February 2012. "We had filed Chapter 11 and had hoped to work through this, but a judge has just signed the papers on Chapter 7 for a full liquidation."

And although the Kinjo brothers indicated that they would reopen MF Buckhead in a smaller space, that never came to pass. A few short months later, Tomorrow's News Today - Atlanta was reporting that "sources say the Kinjos are no longer in Georgia and are instead (planning to open) in Houston, Texas."

Their sources were accurate, as it turns out, because Chris Kinjo has been busily -- if quietly -- working to open a brand-new sushi restaurant along Westheimer in the Galleria area, which he's calling MF Sushi (also confusingly referred to as MF Izakaya on the restaurant's Web site).

MF Sushi, located next door to Nazar's at Westheimer and Fountainview, is billing itself as "sushi tapas and lounge" (cue groans over the increasing and increasingly nonsensical application of the word "tapas" in restaurants) and "elite escape." And although the menu section of its Web site is still under construction, MF Izakaya says that it plans to offer "flown-in Japanese fish to almost-unattainable sake."

Our own source says that Kinjo "still has his talents/passion and is excited to open in a low profile but nicely done location," and God knows that we're certainly excited to check it out. But in spite of Kinjo's considerable talent, it remains to be seen whether Houston can (or will) support another high-end sushi restaurant with the likes of Uchi, Kata Robata, Katsuya by Starck and others already dominating the raw fish scene.

MF Sushi is scheduled to open this week.


Location Info

Uchi

904 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Kata Robata Sushi & Grill

3600 Kirby, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Katsuya by Starck - CLOSED

2800 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

MF Sushi

5887 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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6 comments
lechiffre
lechiffre

Aren't these guys Vietnamese trying to pass off as Japanese?  That's pretty fake and pretentious.

vydakinfo
vydakinfo

It will do well for a while.  But 99.99% of Houstonians know absolutely nothing about sushi.  They merely go where it takes good.  They eat the wrong fish, spend twice as much as they have to, have no idea what they are eating and tend to be impressed with themselves. 

DrRobert
DrRobert

How many sushi restaurants does one city need?

binkley
binkley

Izakaya is a Japanese bar which serves food (Wikipedia has a good description):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izakaya

The original name "MF Izakaya" implies a more casual place than the original in Atlanta.

brumblebug
brumblebug

I may be a bit of a traditionalist on this issue, but I agree that "sushi tapas" is a bit over the top. While I'll never argue against another sushi restaurant, there is a point where some can basically jump the shark. I just hope it's as good as the sushi I usually find at the fusion restaurants that i go to, which already push the envelope sometimes. But then again, I make my own sushi a lot at home with fish I get from http://www.sushinut.com and one could argue that what I do is some kind of sushi tapas as we get a lot of different types of seafood and mix and match as we please. I hope the restaurant is successful, and he's hit the right market for this kind of thing. :)

Helena28
Helena28

Sounds good but going to be a tough market and hard slog.....sushi scene in Houston is saturated at every price point with new places opening daily.

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