Kinja Sushi Bar & Restaurant
Kinja Sushi Bar & Restaurant brings Japanese flavors back to the neighborhood in a fun and modern atmosphere at the former Ta-Ke Sushi location.
When Ozumo closed its 8,000 sq. ft. sushi restaurant on Broadway last November (as reported on Inside Scoop), owner Jeremy Umland mused that he might consider opening a similar restaurant in Oakland on a smaller scale. But another restauranteur beat him to it. On March 6, Joe, owner and chef, opened Kinja Sushi Bar & Restaurant in the former Ta-Ke Sushi location at 357 Grand Avenue. Joe created the restaurant’s name, Kinja, as a mash-up of “Korean Ninja,” the warrior displayed on the restaurant’s new sign.
Kinja’s interior has a more modern look now. Joe kept the wood on the walls and shelves and the booth frames reminiscent of a temple. He also kept the cherry blossom ceiling drapes that both add a traditional touch and help to baffle sound. But he rewired the facility and gave it a facelift. Joe elevated the sushi bar and replaced table tops with granite for a contemporary look. All customers are greeted with water served in a steel cup and offered tea as soon as they are seated. These sleek steel cups keep beverages cold or hot longer. Two large screen televisions above the sushi bar give customers a silent chance to keep an eye on the Warriors, A’s, and Giants. Soon the waiting area will be upgraded and purse hooks will be added to the stools at the sushi bar.
Joe was born and raised in San Francisco, where he lived until moving to Oakland eight years ago when working at Amakara, the well-regarded contemporary Japanese restaurant in Dublin. Although Joe playfully displays a copy of Sushi for Dummies behind the bar, he acknowledges that the chef at Amakara was his Japanese cuisine sensei. He hopes to replicate the quality of Amakara’s food prepared with his own twists, in an ambience that is “fun for everybody – customers, employees, everybody!” Joe says with an energetic smile.
Customers who sit at the sushi bar chat readily with Joe, who eagerly describes the dishes (he tastes everything himself) and shares stories about himself and the restaurant. The California roll is his favorite item on the menu. Ask for another of his favorite dishes, Tamago – sweet egg over rice. Tamago egg is classic Japanese folded omelet. The omelet is sweet, has a light texture, and is served over sushi rice and with soy and wasabi sauce for dipping (tamago is the Japanese word for egg.) It does not currently appear on the menu.
Many of the servers are new to the role and he discreetly offers them guidance. “Come check us out,” he encourages us. “See for yourself. I hope we don’t disappoint you!” When I visited, my guest and I enjoyed the extra flavorful broth of the Miso Soup and the Shrimp Tempura Udon. Chasing the thick wheat noodles in the udon with chopsticks was worth the effort. The fresh flavors of the Triple Kinja Roll (salmon, cucumber, and avocado roll topped with tuna, hamachi, masago, and micro greens) were delightful. If you can save room for dessert, try the Green Tea Tempura Fried Ice Cream. One delicious order amply serves two.
Joe and his sous chef, David, prepare traditional Japanese dishes as well as creative cross-cultural versions that fuse Korean, Mexican, and California cuisine flavors every day except Tuesday when the restaurant is closed. Although parts of the website are still under construction, the entire menu, with descriptions, is posted online. Names of their creations include nods to the neighborhood, like the AC Transit Roll (featuring soft-shell crab) and Los Cantaros (tempura shrimp, real crab topped with ebi, avocado, mango, cilantro, lime, unagi sauce, and tomato). The latter dish acknowledges Los Cantaros Restaurant & Taqueria. which his brother operates across the street. Meanwhile, their mother operates a Korean restaurant in Dublin.
357 Grand Ave.
Oakland, CA 94612
510 – 452-2443
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, 11:30am – 2:00pm
Saturday, 11:30 – 3:00pm
Tuesday & Sunday, closed for lunch
Monday, Wednesday & Thursday, 5:00pm – 9:00pm
Friday – Saturday, 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Sunday, 5:00pm – 9:00pm
Tuesday: closed for dinner