Since the moon, the North Pole and Florida had already been discovered, what was left on Thursday for Chip and Jan Kunka, who live in west Bradenton, was to find a new neighborhood Japanese restaurant they could love.
The couple set out for nearby Paradise Bay Plaza around 11 a.m. equipped with their appetites and ended up in the newly opened Kiku Sushi & Grill, 7338 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, next to Chicken Salad Chick in the Plaza.
The restaurant, which opened last week, bills itself as a Japanese dine-in and take-out spot that serves sushi along with meat and seafood grilled on a hibachi and does it all in a dark leather and art-inspired atmosphere.
“We saw that it was open finally,” Jan Kunka said. “We’ve seen the sign for a while and we like sushi and sashimi.”
“And it’s right in our neighborhood,” Chip Kunka added.
About 40 minutes later, the couple was beaming proudly at what their exploration had yielded.
“It’s amazing,” Chunk Kunka said of lunch at Kiku, which started with miso soup and salad finished with colorful sushi rolls and sashimi presented delicately and artistically on huge white plates. “It’s very good. Very fresh. Great texture. Great presentation.”
The couple had ordered the lunch special, which is 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and offers three sushi rolls from a list of 29, miso soup and salad for $13.95 or two sushi rolls and the extras for $10.95.
“The plate is beautiful,” Jan Kunka said.
It’s sushi and hibachi
The goal of the Li family, from Buffalo, N.Y., was to open an upscale restaurant with lots of dark, cushy leather booths and a sushi bar where families could watch Kenny and Lou, the artistic sushi chefs, prepare fantastic plates, said manager Fenny Chen.
The family also has mounted a TV for sports fans and built a goldfish pond in the restaurant for the children.
“All of this was designed by the Li family, including the art,” said Chen, pointing to lovely Japanese dolls and other figures that give the establishment a Japanese touch.
It’s amazing. It’s very good. Very fresh. Great texture. Great presentation.
Chuck Kunka on his lunch at Kiku Sushi & Grill
The Kunkas need not worry now about running out of adventures. They can go years here without trying everything on the menu, which is pricier for dinner.
There are 15 appetizers from the kitchen and 11 more from the sushi bar ranging from $3.95 to $13.95.
There are 32 regular sushi rolls or hand rolls from $4 to $9.75 and 23 special sushi rolls, all priced around $14.
But there are also side orders such as hibachi fried rice for $2.95.
“Everything is very, very fresh,” Chen said when asked what the restaurant will build its word-of-mouth reputation around.
Unlike most Japanese hibachi restaurants, the hibachi grills at Kiku are in the kitchen and not at table you sit around. A hibachi combination featuring N.Y. strip steak costs $20.95 and comes with clear soup, salad, vegetable and fried rice. Other hibachi options include chicken, calamari, salmon, shrimp, scallop, tuna, lobster and more.
Kiku also serves teriyaki and tempura entrees and udon soup combinations.
“This space was empty,” said Penelope Mabrey, of SERVPRO of Bradenton, which helps many restaurants get started. “I’ve watched this. I go to all the new restaurants. This is my area. It’s really exciting to see new restaurants open.”
“Right here in the Plaza we have Fratello’s Chicago Pizzeria, Bonefish Grill and now sushi in the center,” Mabrey added. “I think it’s great.”
Kiku Sushi & Grill is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant serves beer and wine and takes all major credit cards. For information or to order: 941-242-2141.