If they did nothing else, enterprising young restaurateur brothers Chris and Alex Kinjo would already be assured of a Hall of Fame placement in Atlanta’s restaurant world.
First, they opened MF Sushibar in Midtown, the likes of which our town had never seen – everything, it seemed, was made in-house, by hand, from the perfectly sized sushi mouthfuls (often made personally by Chris “Magic Fingers” Kinjo, whose nickname initials are part of the restaurants’ names) to the hand-grated fresh wasabi root to Alex’s mouth-blown glass vessels that decorate the entryway.
The brothers quickly one-upped themselves, opening Nam. Representing the other half of their Japanese-Vietnamese heritage, Nam was a knockout of elegant, contemporary style and fresh, clean Vietnamese cuisine. This time, the brothers’ mother oversaw the kitchen, while Alex again applied his design touches.
What could possibly follow all that?
How about 8,000 square feet in a new skyscraper at the city’s busiest intersection? Just past the Peachtree-Piedmont crossing, drop off your car at Terminus’ valet station and look for a slender glass door with a barely visible sign.
MF Buckhead is a soaring, gorgeous space, with inventive touches everywhere, from the walnut Zig-Zag chairs at the sushi bar to the overhead light fixtures that look like huge blossoms with gold petals. Beyond the sushi bar area, where up to a dozen sushi chefs hover over the fresh fish flown in daily from Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, another spacious dining room faces Peachtree Street. Upstairs, a hip lounge with low-slung white couches; behind a locked door, an omakase (“chef’s tasting”) room waits to open, its fixtures and furniture still wrapped in plastic.
Atlanta’s recent dining headlines are all about big-name restaurateurs who’ve opened shop here – including Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market at the new W Hotel in Midtown. They’re nationally known players, just discovering that Atlanta is a real restaurant town – but in terms of drama, risk and exciting food, they have nothing on the Kinjo brothers’ homegrown efforts.
The Kinjos’ handmade ethos continues here, from the grated wasabi root to the coarse salt on the edamame beans. They also introduce another first: the only Japanese-style robata grill in town, fueled with imported coal, where chefs control the temperature by fanning with small bits of paper. A sake sommelier can guide you through an extensive list of cold sakes. Shochu, the clear, cold distilled Japanese spirit, shows up in mixed drinks.
If you’re on an expense account, by all means sample the wide range of delicacies available few places outside Japan: the grilled Kobe beef with slivers of garlic and specialties such as quail and duck. But it would be a terrible mistake not to go simply because you just love sushi, plain and simple.
Here you will find the clearest, most beautiful interpretations of simple tastes like toro (tuna), black cod, yellowtail and grilled eel, fabulously fresh and perfectly seasoned with the basics – wasabi, vinegar, sesame oil, green onion, shiso leaf. It isn’t cheap, but it is a terrific value – especially at lunch, where the full-meal specials include soup and salad for less than $20.
In one more departure from the original MF location, MF Buckhead offers house-made desserts (including green tea ice cream) from a pastry chef trained at New York’s Le Bernadin. But you’ll probably prefer to stuff yourself to bursting with sushi and sashimi, then linger over big, steaming cups of green tea before making your way home.
3280 Peachtree Street, inside the Terminus Building, Atlanta
Hours: Lunch and dinner daily.
Credit cards: All major.
Parking: Complimentary valet.
Dress Code: Your most stylish contemporary clothes, from dark designer jeans to a skinny suit.