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Kissaki opens in Water Mill with innovative sushi and a rice-slinging robot

Otoro sushi from chef Mark Garcia at Kissaki,

Otoro sushi from chef Mark Garcia at Kissaki, a new sushi restaurant in Water Mill. Credit: Signe Birck

With fish flown in weekly from Japan, an innovative sushi chef and two robots shaping rice, Kissaki may carve out it a new niche in Long Island's saturated sushi landscape. 

The sushi restaurant debuts in Water Mill Saturday, nearly five months after its first location opened (and then closed for a time) in New York City. As in New York, the takeout menu — the only one available until late June, when a patio opens — will be anchored by omakase boxes ($35 to $140) of nigiri sushi, sushi rolls (futomaki), and bespoke nigiri sushi using seasonal fish flown directly into JFK Airport each week.

Overseeing Kissaki's sushi is executive chef Mark Garcia, a mentee of Chicago sushi don Kaze Chan. Earlier in his career, Garcia was integral to shaping Momotaro, the Chicago restaurant known for its offbeat approach to sushi. (Side note: I ate at Momotaro on my birthday a few years ago and will never forget it).

Garcia is known for impeccable knife skills and adding unconventional touches to pieces of nigiri such as shiitake mushrooms and toasted almonds. The chef is also fussy about his ingredients. Besides relying on a contact in Japan to scan the markets for fish such as kinmadai (a kind of red snapper), kohada (shad), otoro (tuna belly), aji (horse mackerel) and sake (salmon, some of which Garcia torches), he also uses a high-end Japanese red vinegar, akazu, to season sushi rice.

And on the subject of rice, Kissaki relies on two: A koshihikari rice from Japan for in-house sushi, and a sturdier short-grain rice from California for takeout. That rice is, in turn, handled by a pair of mechanized robots, the "maki maker" and the "nigiri maker," who press and shape the grains to proper proportions for both rolls and sushi.

By the end of the month, Kissaki will open a 50-seat outdoor area for dining, and eventually the 20-seat indoor dining room, too, a minimalist space of clean lines, geometric forms and pops of inky blue and dark red. 

Once a liquor license is active, Kissaki will debut a cocktail menu and extensive sake list.

Kissaki is the first foray into the restaurant business for owner Garry Kanfer, a self-described "serial entrepreneur” and resident of the Five Towns. It wasn't necessarily a smooth launch: The first location on New York's Bowery initially shuttered due to COVID-19. When the restaurant reopened for takeout — and opened a second Midtown location — the staff also composed and delivered sushi boxes to hospitals across the city.

Kissaki occupies the spot where Mirko's used to be; that restaurant closed after the 2013 summer season.

Kissaki, 670 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill. 631-709-8855. explorekissaki.com

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