City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Omakase meal at MF Buckhead (loooooooong post)

Just about a year after opening MF Buckhead, owner/chef Chris Kinjo opened his upstairs omakase room — an 8-seat sushi bar where he prepares a special menu of his choosing. (”Omakase” is the term guests in Japanese restaurants use to signal they’ll leave the dinner in the chef’s hands.) Until now, he has steadfastly refused to let customers peek inside, opting instead to build the mystery.

The menu features the best, most exotic and most seasonal kinds of fish Kinjo’s buyers can score at the the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. 

The price for such indulgence doesn’t come cheap. Kinjo says the meals (which, for now, he prepares every Thursday) will cost between $200 and $350. You can read my story about it here. 

My wife and I scored two seats at one of the first such dinners. Our bill for two, with one extremely nice bottle of daiginjo sake, was over $600. But it was a meal we’ll never forget: 18 courses plus dessert, 4 hours, a roomful of people who became fast friends. There were more than a few transcendental taste moments, as well as a couple of “We’re eating WHAT?” moments. 

We documented it as best we could with our iPhones. So please forgive the grainy and sometimes blurry images. (They get blurrier, the deeper we get into that bottle of sake.)

We settled into Italian white leather chairs, from which we had a nice view over the dining room downstairs. By about the third time I made the geek joke about being on the bridge of the Enterprise that my wife told me to shut up.

Pastry chef Lisa Matsuoka (left) was enlisted to serve. 





After a champagne toast, Kinjo presented us with the guest of honor — a wild madai snapper that he filleted as we sat there. Half of the fish would be served as sashimi, half steamed and served later in the meal. 









As Kinjo worked the snapper, his co-chef Fuyuhiko Ito brought this seasonal delicacy — a nabe (hot pot) with clear noodles, chrysanthemum leaves and marshmallowy mounds of shirako, or cod milt, or cod sperm. (Why am I thinking of Stifler from the “American Pie” movies?) The Japanese love and know where to find creamy sea foods; shirako is milder than uni (sea urchin) and without the metallic edge of monkfish liver, but somewhat akin in the way it melts and coats the tongue. On the left is a ponzu dipping sauce.






Next up comes a few clean slivers of the madai snapper — clean, sweet, firm. 







More sashimi comes next. These are meaty slices of ainame — a Japanese grouper — fanned around a red radish cut like a sea anemone (or maybe a pompom) and brightened with the finely grated yuzu (Japanese citron) zest. You can’t really see it, but these are funky footed bowls. 





Here we have kawahagi (thread-sail filefish), served in kimojoyu, a sauce made by blending its own liver with soy sauce and seasonings. This was a more pungent fish, so the liver sauce really stood up to the flavor. 






 These lovely bowls hold akamutsu — an expensive and hard-to-find variety of deep-sea snapper with a buttery texture and complex, lingering flavor. 






Now we move on to sushi. The slow increments in heft, flavor and complexity of each of the preceding dishes has the effect of making us all very hungry, so some rice is looking good right now. This is a fish Kinjo call “mekki aji.” He says it has shiny green skin. I can taste the sharp oily flavor I associate with shiny-skinned fish. 





Next, two slices of inada — a wild baby yellowtail painted with a concentrated tare sauce. The texture is slick and unctuous. 






Ok, this picture could be something from a medical textbook for all you know. But it’s not. It’s sumiika — a fantastic fresh squid that was scored with a knife, charred on the grill and topped with a fresh sansho leaf. Sansho berries are ground into a tongue-tingling condiment (related to Sichuan peppercorns) often served with eel. The fresh leaves have a little of that dusky spice.







Here is cooked anago (sea eel) served with plum paste. The tiny purple flowers are shiso blossoms. 










This bad boy is a fresh abalone that cost $400 a pound. We each got three slices. Raw abalone is quite chewy — a little like eating surf clam and a little like eating the skin off a bongo drum. But it’s an appealing chewiness (your teeth always vanquish), and the flavor is inimitable. It’s kind of like clam, kind of like scallops, but with a sweetness wholly its own. It’s a flavor that goes right to the memory banks. 







These are “octopus caves.” Inside lurks a small, whole octopus whose “head” is filled with roe that pops in the mouth. There’s also a whole fried sawagani river crab that you keee-runch right down to its pincers. Do you want to see inside? 





Here it is. 










Are we stuffed yet? No! Because the madai snapper has returned for an encore, this time steamed in the gentlest fish broth imaginable (Kinjo uses only soft water) and sided by a priapic okra pod. 

It’s a treat to see this flawlessly fresh fish presented two different ways. 








Braised lotus root stuffed with lobster mousse. It’s excellent, but I’m starting to hit the food wall. One member of the dining party who woke up at 5 a.m. has quietly nodded off. Another is on her way. 









But what’s a food wall when you have something this refreshing? Clean-edged tiles of tuna — not fatty toro but just plain tuna — topped with a chunky moromi miso, a variety of miso used as a condiment. It’s so bright on the tongue, salty and sweet, and the tuna is of a quality you don’t often find in sushi bars anymore. It almost makes me sad, this sudden memory of primo tuna. Maybe that’s the sake talking.




This is a homemade explosive device. Okay, it’s a stalk of braised burdock root wrapped with anago (sea eel). The fish is rich with that texture that makes your teeth stick together, and the burdock has a deep crunch and artichoke heart flavor. 








Can we eat any more? No, and yes. And omigod. Seared Japanese wagyu beef (so rich it looks like pink marble when raw) topped with caviar in an uni-miso sauce and white asparagus. It sounds like a pile up of animals that don’t belong in the same zoo, but the flavors are convincing. I think beef this rich goes with any delicious garnish. 








Now, the methadone starts. This is chawan mushi — a light egg custard soup plumbed with bits of chicken, shrimp and uni. The clean flavor of the dashi broth, Kinjo says, comes from quality dried skipjack tuna and soft water. This course comes as a balm. 








Uni sorbet — not sure I want this. It’s very interesting, and very cold.










Ginger sorbet, topped with gold leaf. I definitely want this. Peppery, cleansing, reinvigorating. 










18 comments Add your comment


February 16th, 2009
4:58 pm

Wow! Thanks for biting the cash bullet on that one for us!

James O

February 16th, 2009
5:29 pm

Now this is the type of reporting that we all know and love(and expect from you). Outstanding!

[...] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptJust about a year after opening MF Buckhead, owner/chef Chris Kinjo opened his upstairs omakase room — an 8-seat sushi bar where he prepares a special menu of his choosing. (”Omakase” is the term guests in Japanese restaurants use to … [...]


February 16th, 2009
7:16 pm

Kessler, this is great! I really miss your take on restaurants. You’re the best in the city and the best reason to read the AJC.

Swiss miss

February 17th, 2009
8:42 am

Looks awesome! Thanks for the report.

Mike H

February 17th, 2009
10:43 am

That looks awesome! Any idea how it compares to Masa in NYC? Given the tough economic times, is it hard to score a seat?


February 17th, 2009
11:35 am

i want to be there.


February 17th, 2009
3:11 pm

Masa (where I’ve eaten once) follows a different format. There, you start with 6-8 plated dishes, some hot and some cold. Then you get sushi, piece by piece, handed to you. If I recall, I had 6 or 8 dishes, about 20 pieces of sushi, one handroll filled with toro, and then dessert. Before dessert, they ask you if you’d like one more piece of anything else. It is more a traditional sushi bar in that regard.


February 19th, 2009
1:56 pm

How does it compare with Soto’s omakase (while he was still in Atl.)?


February 19th, 2009
3:37 pm

I miss your reviews even more passionately than I thought I did.


February 20th, 2009
2:43 pm

Thanks, Rose.
Kopp – Very different. Soto had such a unique p.o.v. and palate. Chris (with lots of input from Ito-san) showcases ingredients. There’s a lot more conversation with Chris…

Bob Porter Sr.

February 21st, 2009
3:00 pm

An excellent review of an undoubtably delicious and unforgetable meal, or should I say, “experience”. Your descriptions of the dishes was so detailed I believe I gained a pound or two just reading them.I have been a daily reader of the Constitution (now AJC) for over 50 years, and for many of those years your informative and accurate reviews have weighed very heavily on my choice of restaurant. Regards,Bob Porter

Kim Plafcan and Neil Olliges

March 1st, 2009
8:44 pm

Ben and Becky –

Check this out..a play by play of the MF Sushi experience. Would you two be interested in this? What month will you be free? They do this on Thursdays…

Kim and Neil

[...] in a major way. I just need to find someone else who is willing to spend $300 on a sushi dinner. Check out John Kessler’s “epic” omakase meal here. Braised lotus root stuffed with lobster mousse. Braised burdock root wrapped with anago. Real [...]

MF SHOWCASE « MFSushibar’s Blog

March 18th, 2009
3:29 pm

[...] target=”blank” MF’s exclusive Omakase Room target=”blank” Bon Appétit ranks MF top 10 National Sushi Spots target=”blank” The Atlanta-Journal Constitution: NAM target=”blank” BBA presents Buckhead Business of the Year Award to MF Buckhead target=”blank” MF Buckhead’s 5 Star Rating target=”blank” Wall Street Journal Review: MF Sushi Bar NAM Restaurant MF Sushi Bar MF Buckhead   [...]

[...] an awesome experience.  While I work on the posts, check out Kessler’s thoughts on one such meal from a few months ago. Technorati Tags: myung ga won,korean barbecue,omakase,mf buckhead,chris kinjo,john kessler Tell [...]

Mike Petracco

November 3rd, 2009
6:34 pm

Eat at MF every time I get into Atlanta from Houston. Met the Kinjo brothers when they opened up Magic Fingers in Downtown. Great place. Have not made it to the Omakase room yet however after this wonderful article, I need to do so. Love MF Buckhead. Best Regards, Mike Petracco

[...] has changed since Kessler visited and I soon indulged.  Instead of a super secret reservation list, sporadic offerings, and a [...]