In case you missed it, Kemuri sushi, seafood, robata is adding a second location west of Little Rock to its Hillcrest headquarters, moving Kiyen’s Seafood Steak and Sushi from its location off of Chenal Parkway.
This means that Kiyen’s chef-owner, Kiyen Kim, had to move, which he did, to his second location, Kamikaito, on Main Street in the Argenta neighborhood of North Little Rock.
Kiyen’s at Kamikaito kept most of Kamakaito’s menu (including, as the sign posted outside the entrance boasts, 65 kinds of sushi rolls), while adding two pages to the menu of Korean entrees (including Bulgogi, Stone Bowl Bibimbap, Jamppong and Korean Chirashi), Korean barbecue and a selection of “Kiyen’s Fusion Entrees”.
Maybe it’s the result of the pandemic, through which Kamikaito has remained open some of the time and closed to others, or maybe it’s the result of these two Asian fusion restaurants merging, but the current version is not an improvement over what Kamikaito used to be.
A recent visit produced a mixed result – some interesting items, including a few starters and one starter to recommend, but also some significant disappointments.
Our visit, very early in the dinner cycle, meant we had very little competition for cooking attention, which may explain why our three starters, two entrees and a host of sides all hit the spot. the table at the same time. Of course, part of the problem was that we had ordered too much, but it was just too much food to handle.
We can certainly recommend the marinated pork, presented as a seasonal dish (in what season, we wonder, wouldn’t pork be available?) on the Korean barbecue menu: slightly chewy pieces of pork, some of which were a little bigger than a bite. size, in what the menu describes as “Chef Kiyen’s special mixed marinade”, grilled with onions, zucchini, cabbage, carrots and sweet slices – we hope we didn’t really bite into it – d a jalapeno pepper. The menu says it’s supposed to be “Grilled Tableside”, but it came out of the kitchen instead on a sizzling plate.
It was a nicely nuanced mix of spice, sweetness, and maybe a little vinegar, but not so hot that it made our palate or nose flare up (did we mention we were skipping the peppers?) . It’s $25 for just the barbecue plate; for $5 more we had a combo including miso soup and salad (except we didn’t get salad), steamed rice and “various Korean side dishes”, which included thin and crispy sheets of nori (seaweed), two different preparations of marinated bean sprouts, broccoli in a spicy sriracha-type sauce, lightly garlicky zucchini and sweet kimchi.
One of the other best things on the table: the Honey Crispy Shrimp appetizer ($10), which we’d previously enjoyed as takeout amid the pandemic. The nine medium prawns were lightly breaded and crisp fried in a lightly spiced honey based sauce, plus a small bowl of spicy-sweet aioli.
And we ordered the Shumai again (five for $7), plump shrimp dumplings that were supposed to be pan-fried but weren’t (the menu also specified that we had to choose between “original” or “wasabi”, but neither did we have this option), with a small cup of garlic and soy sauce which accentuated the meatballs but which we thought we could do without as well.
We were slightly disappointed, or at least not impressed, with the Gyoza Pan appetizer ($7, we chose pork over vegetables), half a dozen lightly pan-fried potsticker dumplings on one side, which were a little chewier than we would have liked and came with more than enough cup of lightly reddish, slightly spicy dipping sauce.
The biggest non-hit of the evening was the Seared Tuna ($23.50), one of Kiyen’s Fusion entrees, a relatively small amount of sliced ahi tuna very lightly seared and garnished with a little garlic Sweet mince that did nothing to enhance the flavor, of which there was very little. We also couldn’t find that and “Kiyen’s specially mixed dipping sauce” was a big help.
He took up a small portion of a large plate, overwhelmed by the seasonal salad, the vast pile of bland tempura vegetables, and the unusually spicy Kiyen fried rice. Intrepid Companion, which based on Kamikaito’s old seared tuna offering with sliced avocado, was looking forward to this dish but was significantly disappointed. She also found that the seasonal salad, which she got twice – once on the set and once as a replacement for the miso soup she expressed disinterest in – was not made up primarily of iceberg lettuce, which would have been more appropriate for the rather watery ginger vinaigrette, but mesclun with some cherry tomatoes. (The menu mentions a $3.50 “house soup,” described as “a light onion broth with mushrooms, crab, scallions, and tempura flakes, but apparently that’s no longer available.)
The service – other than the whole order hitting us at once – was quite good, and our server, rather than refilling our water glasses, brought us a bottle of water from which we could pay us as needed.
Kiyen is in Kamikaito
- Address: 521 Main Street, North Little Rock
- Hours: 11am-2pm and 5pm-9pm from Tuesday to Thursday, 11am-2pm and 5pm-10pm from Friday to Saturday
- Food: Asian fusion (mainly Japanese, Korean and sushi)
- Credit card: M, V, AE, D
- Wheelchair access: Yes
- Information: (501) 891-6172; facebook.com/pages/Kamikaito/1209829695790404