Our Gourmet: Excellent Japanese arrives on Elm St.

November 14. 2017 9:33PM
The hibachi grill at Kisaki is in the kitchen, so the chefs don't have to put on a show -- but the results are no less artistic, as this Hibachi Shrimp entree shows. (COURTESY)
641 Elm St., Manchester; 668-8001; www.kisakimanchester.com


Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sunday: noon to 9:30 p.m.

Prices: Soup/salad/apps (including sushi apps) $1.99-$9.99; sushi entrees $10.95-$20.95; hibachi grill, noodle/rice/tempura/teriyaki entrees $8.95-$37.95; lunch specials $6.95-$13.95.

The scores for Kisaki
Atmosphere: 17/20
Menu: 19/20
Food: 19/20
Service: 18/20
Value: 19/20
TOTAL: 92/100

The Sushi Regular entree at Kisaki also makes an excellent appetizer shared by two diners. (COURTESY)

The ranks of restaurants and bars in downtown Manchester seem to expand weekly, and the newest entry puts a very good Japanese bistro smack in the middle of it.

Kisaki is a great addition to the city’s full-tilt cuisine competition. Any aficionado of Japanese cuisine will find it pleasing to the tastebuds and the pocketbook.

Located on the northeast corner of Granite and Elm streets, Kisaki has been open less than two months in a spot previously occupied by various eateries and drinking establishments. This one appears to be invested for a good run.

It is large, occupying what used to be at least two storefronts, directly across the street from the SNHU Arena. It is comfortable, with a large cocktail bar/lounge area and plenty of restaurant seating near the street-fronting windows. And it is reasonably priced, offering fresh seafood, sushi and hibachi plates for a nice dinner, and all manner of traditional Japanese dishes of meat, noodles, rice and vegetables for lunch, dinner or takeout.

When we visited last week, there was nothing going on at the arena and the weather had turned cold, so there were not a lot of people on the street. But inside Kisaki there was a good crowd enjoying drinks and sushi in the restaurant and bar.

We joined the lounge patrons and sampled some sake, then decided to settle in and enjoy our dinner at the bar. It is a spacious lounge with room to spare on the bar top for drinks and full-plated meals. There is a sushi-preparation area between the kitchen and the main dining area, but the bar is around a corner and a few posts and feels separated.

Sake is well explained on the drink menu, with flavors and brands listed along with prices and alcohol content. Being relative newcomers to the sake scene, we benefited from bartender/server Holly’s advice and chose a cold sake, with a comparatively low alcohol content, flavored with coconut and lemongrass.

Kisaki offers one sake served warm and half a dozen iced varieties, and for $14 two people can split a small bottle of the flavored rice wine. The colder the sake the better it is, we were told, and the flavors tasted tropical and delicious — right there on Elm Street on a cold November night.

On to the entrees

We are sushi lovers from way back, and the Sushi Regular entree ($17.95) served as a hefty appetizer for the two of us. Featuring eight pieces of assorted sushi over rice, we dined on three varieties of tuna (white, red and yellow tail) and one salmon, and that was complemented by a six-piece California Roll (rice wrapped around the ingredients) with cold crabmeat, cucumber and avocado.

The sushi dish was artfully arranged, with a flower arrangement on the side of all the seafood and our assorted sauces in individual little serving dishes. While we sipped the sake we feasted on the sushi, and when we were about half finished with the sushi our entrees arrived, and it all made for a great and well-timed dinner. (For the record, there are many, many sauces available at Kisaki, but the ones we chose and enjoyed to the max were Sriracha sauce, a spicy mayo sauce, and the chef’s special Yum-Yum sauce, which is aptly named.)

Udon, and shrimp

Thick, stir-fried udon noodles with meat or vegetables are a favorite of mine, and the Chicken Udon ($10.95) at Kisaki was one of the better udon dishes I have had. Lots of tender white-meat chicken and vegetables were mixed thoroughly with a full plate of udon in a hot stir-fry. A mild sauce was also mixed throughout the serving, and it was tasty and healthy and very fine meal.

The udon entrees and many of the dinners at Kisaki come with a bowl of miso soup and a small green salad, and for the money this udon dish was definitely one of the best-priced full entrees we’ve found downtown. Delicious, too.

From the hibachi entree section of the menu (the hibachi grill is in the kitchen, where it belongs, so there is no performance pressure on patrons or chefs) we chose Hibachi Shrimp ($16.95) and we were thoroughly engaged by the outstanding flavor of the shrimp, the rice, the broccoli and zucchini squash, carrots and mushrooms. All of it had the same, subtle, smoky sort of taste, almost in the background and not strong enough to identify, and certainly not strong enough to obscure the substantial serving of shrimp.

The Hibachi Shrimp seemed a simple dish, but little touches such as scallions and white onions in the fried rice, a great mix of vegetables with a smoky-grill sauce, and a slight sesame enhancement to the shrimp in the same richly-flavored sauce made the complete dish special.

It was a bummer when it was gone, but the good news is that there are 16 other Hibachi entrees to choose from, including the granddaddy of Kisaki, the Hibachi-All-In-One ($37.95), which has chicken, steak, shrimp, scallops and a lobster tail. Some day, I vowed, I will have that in front of me. And perhaps I’ll share.

The downtown lunch crowd must be loving the presence of Kisaki, with lunch specials, sushi/sashimi rolls and combos, teriyaki, tempura, rice and noodle lunches available from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and nicely packaged to go for takeout orders. Well-priced, too.

Kisaki also boldly beckons on the front page of its menu, “All you can eat available!!!” — but we didn’t get into that on our first visit. It is, however, a mouth-watering temptation to ponder.

It was all good at Kisaki, in fact it was very, very good. Even beyond the food it was good. Our dinner, with a bottle of sake, three entrees and one glass of wine, came to $65.85, before tax and tip. You can’t beat that, right there on tropical Elm Street on a cold November night.

Our GourmetManchester

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