[Editor's Note] The restaurant business is notoriously fluid, rising and falling on the whims of a fickle public. But Alana's and Kihachi have bucked the tides, consistently remaining among the top Columbus restaurants for years. With both restaurants up for sale at press time, that may soon come to an end. Rather than exclude them both from this year's list, we're giving them a tie for the No. 10 spot. Maybe we're in denial.
At Kihachi, every plate tells a story. In one, a whole fried ayu fish appears to be swimming on an aqua plate, garnished only with a few dense pieces of pink Himalayan sea salt. In another, a woodsy scene appears with a series of bites that not only complement one another in taste, but also in color and texture. A piece of steamed duck becomes a rock in a landscape, while a generous piece of fried burdock is a branch. These dishes from Kihachi's 13-course omakase menu are indicative of the visual feast we've come to expect from the 24-year-old Japanese restaurant.
Chef Ryuji Kimura (known as "Chef Mike" to regulars) is calculating with every decision he makes at the restaurant. Although the restaurant seats 48, he limits capacity to half that number to ensure that no detail is overlooked by his tiny staff. And even on days when the restaurant is closed, he puts in hours of work to prep the dishes patrons have come to love, from the supple Berkshire pork (marinated in miso for two days) to the box sushi pressed with thin limes and the tenderest of rice. Every ingredient has its place, every plate is perfect.
With retirement on his mind, Kimura has put the restaurant up for sale for a future buyer who will purchase all but the name. And thus, we must be as intentional with our limited time as Kimura is with every ingredient he touches.