Elder CMCers remember the glory days of Kinya Sushi at the corner of Bonita and Indian Hill. It was a convenient sushi place that allowed large groups to Sake bomb for a low price. The key was to avoid the sushi at all costs. Over the past several years, Kinya had changed management. Just recently, it received a new name: King Kong Sushi.
Walking into the restaurant, anyone who had been to Kinya will notice a number of positive changes. The interior has been redesigned to be nicer and the new, more creative menu suggests that the old restaurant has been thoroughly transformed. Alas, the old clunker has simply been taken to the dealer and repainted; the appearance and atmosphere are better (although the furniture still had the Kinya logo on it), but the same cannot be said of the food.
Because the menu is more creative than other sushi restaurants in the Claremont area (granted, this is not saying a whole lot), there are offerings beyond a simple spicy tuna roll. You may be tempted to sample these exotic rolls. This is a mistake. For instance, King Kong’s menu features “Tuna Sashimi Chips,” a favorite of many top LA sushi restaurants, Matsuhisa among them. King Kong deserves credit for attempting something new but the restaurant fails on the execution. The dish that emerges from the kitchen is a massive volcano of raw tuna with little taste surrounded by what looked like Tostitos chips. The point of this dish is a few bites of high quality, lightly marinated tuna sashimi combined with a few tiny chips. King Kong instead seems to be attempting to recreate a plate of all you can eat Super Bowl nachos… only with raw fish. The waitress warned our table when we asked for two orders of the chips that the dish was a lot—needless to say we should have listened. We were left with two huge mounds of tasteless fish.
Another waiter suggested ordering the “French Kiss” and a tuna roll with a special sauce. Strange is the only way to describe the French Kiss. The roll was essentially a typical sushi rolls — except that it was covered with French fries (hence the French part). While I am a fan of fusion cooking, this cultural mash up may have attempted too much. Although the fries did add a bit of a crunch, other ingredients (think cucumber or jalapeño) could have easily provided a crisp texture without the added grease. If you are a French fry fanatic, give it a try, otherwise steer clear. The tuna roll with the special sauce was fairly hum-drum; it had thin strips of tuna wrapped around the outside. It would have been fine if it had stopped there. But it didn’t. Unfortunately, the roll was drowned in this brownish sauce that smelled and tasted like raw fish. And not sushi grade raw fish.
The non-creative dishes are fine—not great, but not bad. The spicy tuna roll was okay, a slight up grade from the dangerously fragile spicy tuna rolls at Collins, but a down grade from the spicy tuna roll available at Kazama Sushi. While the standard sushi rolls aren’t spectacular, they are fairly generous. You are unlikely to leave hungry if you order more than one.
With that said, if you are looking for a place to take a big group Sake bombing, King Kong is your best option. It is easier to get to than other places because you don’t have to drive (although you will miss out on the ambiance of Sushi Cruise’s building), and the restaurant is very willing to work with larger groups. The Sake and beer prices are low, especially if you call them to organize your group. The staff is extremely friendly and will be very accommodating for the group. Additionally, the restaurant is a cleaner and more pleasant than Kinya ever was. My suggestion, however, before taking all of you friends there for your birthday party, eat somewhere else.