091015kissui5A beef negimaki lunch box from Kissui, filled with fresh vegetables and rice. Below, the entrance with its traditional salt pile.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


091015kissui2In the vestibule of Kissui Sushi, a Japanese restaurant in the Markham Place shopping center in Little Silver, a little shelf filled with salt is the first thing that you notice.

Called morijio, meaning salt pile, the displays outside Japanese businesses are part of an old custom with various interpretations, but Kissui owner Jenny Nguyen tells us that it is “over the shoulder for good luck.”

Having eaten the sushi at Kissui many times, PieHole was looking for a little luck in the form of a hot lunch.

091015kissui4Though empty when we visited for lunch, Kissui’s the sushi bar is often busy at dinner. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

With Fuji in Shrewsbury, Sogu Sushi and Toki in Red Bank and others, Japanese restaurants have become almost as common on the Greater Green as pizza parlors. It’s the little nuances, the niceties or characteristics that distinguish one from the other.

Kissui has been a neighborhood staple for about 20 years, featuring natural wood decor and a comfortable absence of pretense. You’ll find families and younger children filling the tables and sushi bar at dinner, and the service can be a little slow.

At the bottom of its online menu is category titled Lunch Box, listing 15 entrees such as chicken tempura, salmon teriyaki and steak-and-California roll. The sides that accompany the meal aren’t listed.

The only question asked when we ordered the beef negimaki lunch box ($9.95) was whether we’d like soup or salad with it. Simple and uncomplicated.

The negimaki is as traditional a dish as it comes, with six pieces of beef filet marinated in teriyaki sauce that are wrapped around green scallions and broiled served in one aluminum tray compartment. A mound of sticky rice and steamed carrot and broccoli filled another. Two pieces of gyoza, or pan fried pork dumplings, rounded out the lunch box.

Most Japanese restaurants offer a lunch special of a bento box or lunch box. This one was closer to the traditional style, because it included rice and fresh vegetables. A step closer to authentic would include pickled vegetables and a small piece of fruit.

Kissui is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.