Chef’s Choice: Garry Kanfer’s Kissaki Restaurants Take You on an Omakase Journey

Garry Kanfer
Garry Kanfer (Courtesy of Kissaki)

In a society where choices of food, clothing and technology are virtually limitless, it seems to run counter to logic to not make the decision to get what you want. But maybe we should all try to let go sometimes, and let someone else guide us toward a new adventure. After all, when it comes to cuisine, abandoning the familiar can result in memorable meals and experiences.

Restaurateur Garry Kanfer wants to be your guide. He wants his guests to leave their comfort zone when they visit his sushi restaurant, Kissaki, which specializes in omakase, and put their trust in the sushi chef.

Translated to English, omakase literaly means, “I’ll leave it to you.” That is precisely what sets omakase apart from any other sushi meal.

“I first tried an omakase in 2008 or so,” says Kanfer. “It wasn’t a true omakase experience, but I was hooked, and I began to find omakases at lunchtime or whenever I could. It is a fantastic way to enjoy the art of sushi.”

Kanfer was born in Uzbekistan. His family settled there after his grandparents escaped Poland, following Nazi Germany’s invasion of their country. He came to the United States when he was 7 years old.
He now owns Big Drop Media, a digital advertising and marketing agency that specializes in building brands. Big Drop is headquartered in New York City but also has offices in Los Angeles, Miami and Europe.

Kanfer, a serial entrepreneur, opened his first Kissaki location in Manhattan’s Bowery in late 2019. The celebration was short-lived.

“We opened 45 days before the pandemic,” says Kanfer. “We had to come up with new ideas right away to help build the business.”

Kanfer oversaw Kissaki’s overnight transformation to a rapid production takeout operation solely designed to deliver donated meals to New York’s frontline healthcare professionals.

“We made a name for ourselves, but what really made us famous was the Omakase To-Go Boxes,” says Kanfer. “That is a unique concept and it continues to be very popular.”
Kanfer’s culinary team, led by Executive Chef Chris Jaeckle, believes in honoring and sharing traditional Japanese cuisine with the world.

“Chef Jaeckle’s dedication and diversified experience has led to his true calling — running his own kitchen consulting practice that blends Chris’ passion and curiosity for foods of the world with his ingrained understanding of what it means to operate a trustworthy restaurant that consistently delivers top-notch hospitality and quality cuisine,” says Kanfer.

The business has grown and now includes Water Mill, Bowery, Upper West Side and Greenwich, Conn., locations and an O by Kissaki flagship in East Hampton, with new locations coming to Manhasset and also Miami.

The response from customers has been so great that Kanfer was also able to open Kamasu by Kissaki at Hudson Yards and Saishin at Gansevoort Rooftop.

Quality is critical and the food at Kissaki is focused on mindful sourcing, seasonality and quality. These principles guide the design of Kissaki’s menu, which always looks to present guests with an unforgettable experience.

“We concentrate on fish that are in season,” says Kanfer.

The omakase experience is very intimate as well. Although Kissaki has a full dining room, its omakase is only served at the sushi bar. The sushi chefs take you on a trip, explaining each new offering and serving the sushi in a well-planned order.

“Our chefs are right in front of our guests, preparing their food and then taking the time to describe each dish,” says Kanfer. “It is an incredible education in the tradition of sushi and the skill and dedication it takes to become an accomplished sushi chef.”

Kanfer believes it is difficult to convince someone who will not eat raw fish to try sushi. But to those who are fish lovers, true omakase is something that must be experienced.

“I believe omakase is the best way to enjoy sushi,” says Kanfer. “It is something we want to expose our guests to, and help them open up to a new way to eat sushi. It can change the way they think of sushi forever.”

Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.


More from Our Sister Sites