When it comes to 2020-2021 food industry stories, many are rather bleak and unfortunate, and while those are important stories to record, the same can be said for success stories of this time period, as well. These glimmers of hope shine even brighter when viewed against the dark year and a half the East End, and the world, has endured. Kissaki, which first opened in NoHo in January 2020 and has opened five locations in the tri-state area, is one such success story and will celebrate the debut of the new O by Kissaki in East Hampton this weekend.
Following last weekend’s closing of the summer Kissaki X Fish Cheeks pop-up at the Montauk Angler’s Club, owner and serial entrepreneur Garry Kanfer is bringing the staff and flavors of that experiment to a new year-round East Hampton location, the former home of Bamboo and Zok-kon. O by Kissaki joins Kissaki in Water Mill as the restaurant’s second location in the Hamptons, although it may be more accurate to think of them as sister establishments, as the concepts are fairly different.
Kissaki established itself in Water Mill with a menu focused on an omakase sushi experience; in contrast, “O will be more kitchen heavy, based on robata … meat, chicken, seafood on there,” explains Mark Garcia, partner and executive chef of both Hamptons restaurants. So while Water Mill boasts a wider sushi selection than East Hampton, robata items will be exclusive to the new O by Kissaki. For those unfamiliar with the Japanese terms, omakase is an extended sushi dinner, often involving a chef preparing one piece of fish at a time for a guest seated at the sushi counter, and robata is a style of Japanese barbecue, usually involving slow-grilled skewers.
The goal of O by Kissaki is to honor and share traditional Japanese cuisine, expanding the palates of American sushi-lovers beyond basic rolls and other common dishes. The restaurant serves carefully sourced and seasonal dishes including raw and cooked fish, classic maki, Chef Garcia’s specialty nigiri, akamai crudo and hotate crudo. The enticing robata menu is served with petite greens, shaved scallion, micro wasabi and cilantro; shio koji chicken with negi and green kosho; steelhead trout in a fish marinade with citrus egg sauce and ohba oil; and lobster tail with sweet miso butter and togarashi threads. The drink menu consists of many Japanese-inspired cocktails, Blue Door draft sake, wine, beer and nonalcoholic beverages.
Garcia confirms that Kissaki’s popular maki maker robot, which made headlines when the Water Mill restaurant opened, will be introduced in East Hampton, as well. In fact, he and Kanfer hope to implement these helpful robots at all future locations, including the Wynwood location coming to Miami next year. “Maki is a part of fusion that’s always in demand,” Garcia says, emphasizing the robots’ important role in the Kissaki formula.
When asked how the Kissaki formula has proven so successful in this incredibly difficult period for the restaurant industry, Kanfer is quick to point out the not-so secret. “Like everyone who comes to the restaurant tells us, we have a good product,” he says. “That’s what’s definitely bringing them back—we have good food, good service and a pretty successful model.”
Garcia adds that he and Kanfer were quick to react to the changing market in 2020 and made critical pivots to help the business succeed during the pandemic. The Water Mill location was actually opened last summer with the express purpose of providing much-desired outdoor dining to the Kissaki fans who could only order takeout at the two NYC locations under the state guidelines at the time. “The challenge has been very rewarding,” Garcia says.
O by Kissaki opens on August 13 at 47 Montauk Highway, East Hampton and is open Wednesday–Sunday, 5–10 p.m. For more information, call 631-604-5585, email [email protected] or visit exploreobykissaki.com.