• Steven Keith

Kita closes, but this setback really is only temporary

I was scrolling through the Facebooks a few days ago when I stumbled upon the most awful announcement from one of my most favorite restaurants in the entire region. “We apologize for the inconvenience,” the post from Kita Modern Japanese began, “but we are going to be temporarily closing until further notice.”

Sushi platter from Kita Modern Japanese
Sushi platter from Kita Modern Japanese

OH NO, I thought, pretty much crying inside. I had just recently enjoyed yet another four-star experience there with platters of gorgeous sushi, pork tenderloin with nutty furikake rice, a head-on whole fried fish, beef curry and, of all things, a banana-bourbon cocktail that you’d have to taste to believe how good it was.


New York strip from Kita
New York strip from Kita

As restaurants continue to struggle during the aftermath of COVID, an announcement like that can be a veiled reference to lots of different challenges. Insurmountable financial troubles, short-staffing issues, management or ownership changes, the inability to get supplies or even a actual COVID outbreak itself.


And by now, we’re all smart enough to realize that some of those closures won’t be “temporary” after all.


But my Kita scare has a happy ending. In this case, the “technical difficulties” cited in the post turned out to be just that.


I spoke to the manager of the Southridge restaurant on Sunday who confirmed Kita’s point-of-sale system went down right before they opened Friday and they were unable to get replacement equipment over the weekend. They tried to operate on a “cash only” basis for a day or two, but so few people still carry cash that they weren’t able to keep the doors open for just a handful of customers.


But he told me Kita hopes to have the issue resolved early this week so they can reopen quickly.


Thank goodness for that. To see why this is such a big deal to me, please read on …


• • •


Whether by calling, emailing, tagging me on social, stopping me in the grocery store or coming up to me on the street, readers are constantly asking me if I have a favorite restaurant in town (I do) or if I can name my top five (I can) or if I can tell them where they should go to eat.


Sushi from Kita
Sushi from Kita

Well …


That last one is a lot harder to answer than you might think. What’s good to one person may not be good to another and, more importantly, the place I recommend may not be the “vibe” they’re looking for at all.


So I always have to do a little digging.


Are you looking for fine-dining or casual fare? Lots of energy or a quiet ambiance? Ethnic flavors or down-home comfort food? Spend a lot or pinch some pennies?


Outdoor seating, a good wine list, a children’s menu, happy hour specials, the list goes on.


Once I get a better sense of what a “good” restaurant means to them, then I can definitely steer them in the right direction. And while I do have my own personal favorites, I don’t dine out at them nearly as often as I’d like.


Why?


Because one of my primary goals as The Food Guy is to not only shine a light on good locally owned restaurants, but also seek out those out-of-the-way or lesser-known hidden gems that most people may not find on their own.


Pork tenderloin with furikake rice
Pork tenderloin with furikake rice

As a result, I’m constantly visiting as many new places as I can to find that next great place. That’s how I once discovered newcomers like Bellissimo in Belle and Olive Tree Café in South Charleston, which have both gone on to enjoy incredible success and growth in recent years.


That’s the part of this “job” I love most, although I do miss being a more frequent regular at some of my favorite haunts.


Like Kita Modern Japanese.


Just as many of their legion of now-loyal fans did, I too had to get over the initial stigma of objectively evaluating a restaurant in the same spot where several very mediocre failed restaurants once operated. (Located next to Chipotle and across from Panera Bread at Southridge, Kita replaced the less-than-stellar Red Fire Asian Grill, which replaced a couple of other equally lackluster places.)


I did that by giving Kita a chance – and then visiting again and again – quickly realizing it’s a place that just keeps consistently crushing it with amazingly inventive dishes and impeccable service. That’s when I knew Kita would become one of my top go-to spots for as long as it was around.


I’m grateful it’s still going to be.


  • IF YOU GO: Kita Modern Japanese is located at 2815 Mountaineer Blvd. at Southridge in South Charleston. For current hours and more information, call 304-205-5200, visit www.kitamodernjapanese.com or check out the restaurant’s Facebook page.


Kabocha cake with ice cream from Kita
Kabocha cake with ice cream from Kita

• • •


Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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