There was a point last year when Houston could have lost Chris Kinjo. His brother had begun work on another project in Atlanta, and, with all the bad luck he’d had since moving to Houston — an unfortunate kitchen fire that forced him to close his restaurant for many months, as well a dispute that caused him to part ways with his former partner — if he hadn’t signed the lease for the MF Sushi in the Museum District, Houston would have lost one of the best sushi chefs it’s ever had.
Thank goodness we didn’t. Opening just two weeks ago, the new MF Sushi in the Museum District is like the bespoke version of the old MF Sushi. Sleek and contemporary and simply stunning in design, this restaurant, even at two weeks old, is destined for greatness.
“The first time I saw what Chris [Kinjo] could do, I knew that he needed a stage. And that’s what I’ve designed for him here,” said Chung Nguyen of MC2 Architects, the firm responsible for the MF Sushi buildout.
The sushi bar, custom designed and made of pale polished hinoki wood, was built so that the fish case sits inside the bar, flush with bar surface. On the wall behind the sushi bar, there is a framed, backlit, three-dimensional white wall sculpture depicting a mountain range. Silky white string hangs in front of the sculpture in a curtain, filtering the light so that it emits a soft glow from behind.
Kinjo’s position is behind the bar, right in the middle. He is flanked by two or three sushi chefs on each side. There is no obstruction between diner and chef, so that anyone sitting at the 12-seat bar has front row seats to the best sushi show in town. If you’re sitting in the center seat, as I was, you are less than two feet away from Kinjo, and you get to see it all. How he slices his fish. How he mixes his sushi rice. It’s the little details that are a joy to watch: the painting of the nigiri with nikiri glaze; the vigorous zesting of a yuzu rind, from fruit hand picked from his garden; the precise placement of a paper thin, bright orange carrot ribbon on top a sashimi dish.
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“I raised the booths so that you could see the sushi bar from the booths, too,” said Nguyen, who said that the sloped ceilings above the sushi bar also contributed to the “stage” design theme. “We could probably have seated 14 at the the sushi bar, too, but Chris only wanted 12.”
Those 12 sushi bar seats are going to be the hottest ticket in town for Kinjo’s famed omakase, or chef’s tasting dinners, which can often run to 20-plus courses and last three hours or more. Right now, he’s still training his staff, but he’s accepting reservations for omakase beginning August 7, 2015, and they will undoubtedly book up very fast. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call to snag your seats early.
We leave you with scenes from the inside of the beautiful new MF Sushi.