Mar 3, 2023 - Food and Drink

Kisser in Nashville to open March 24 amid major hype

A selection of dishes from Kisser

A selection of dishes from Kisser. Photo: courtesy of Kisser

Few restaurants have arrived in Nashville with more fanfare than Kisser.

  • It hasn't even opened yet, and it already boasts hype from local and national media outlets.

Of note: Bon Appétit tabbed Kisser as one of the 12 most anticipated restaurant openings nationally for 2023.

Yes, but: If the crush of early accolades is getting to chefs and owners Leina Horii and Brian Lea, they aren't showing it.

  • The husband-and-wife duo, who have both worked at Bastion, tell Axios they simply want to get down to the business of cooking.

What they're saying: "To me, it's like being pregnant for two years and finally giving birth to my restaurant baby," says Horii, who also worked at The Catbird Seat.

Details: Kisser earned fanfare thanks to well-received pop-up events at trendy establishments like Patterson House and the saké lounge Rice Vice. They honed their offerings as they went.

  • They started with a focus on Japanese barbecue, which Lea said is largely defined by "cold, quick smokes" followed by grilling, rather than American barbecue, which is smoked for a long time over low heat.
  • Over time, their menu has expanded to include "more cafe food and regional specialties."

Zoom in: Horii and Lea cut their teeth working in restaurants in New York and their hometown of Los Angeles before relocating here about seven years ago, and they think their menu will add a new texture to Nashville's food scene.

  • "When we moved here seeing a lot of the Japanese food that is out here, it falls into the same categories like a sushi restaurant or a hibachi restaurant," Horii said. "There's so many types of food in Japanese cuisine that don't get represented."
  • Horii says she's especially excited about the dishes featuring fresh udon noodles. Kisser's pastas and fresh noodles are, of course, handmade.

The intrigue: "I don't know what this is, but I like it," has become a common refrain from customers at their pop-ups.

If you go: Kisser, located at 747 Douglas Ave., is planning to open March 24.

  • The restaurant will have a capacity of approximately 35 people, Lea says.

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