Updated: Mar 29, 2019
Open daily 12.30-23.00. Address: Miodowa 9, 31-055 Kraków. Phone: +48 536 705 706.
Until about five years ago, sushi restaurants in Krakow were very few and far between. Then suddenly, like proverbial mushrooms, they began to proliferate to the point where, today, we are almost spoilt for choice. Sushi connoisseurs often say that there still isn't the quality available but I have to differ – getting good sushi in this town is no longer a problem, but getting affordable sushi often is; and it is this obvious gap in the market which Nine Kitchen is trying to cash in on. The owner, Kamila Mroczek, is a Canadian Pole from Vancouver, and clearly knows this fact. “Vancouver is a city with a large Asian population where Japanese and Korean food is widely available and comparatively inexpensive. Our aim is to try and emulate that here..we try to aim ourselves at the section of the market which is looking for high quality food without having to fork out too much for it.” In a competitive market, that could be a wise move. Opened four years ago and celebrating at the moment with a very reasonable half-price birthday offer until Jan 31st, I dropped by on a freezing Friday evening recently to see if the quality on offer is as good as when it opened.
The restaurant is located in Ul. Miodowa – the heart of Kazimierz – and in a bustling culinary scene in this area, that can be a double-edged sword. Just within a few hundred square metres here now, there are several Asian restaurants. What sets Nine Kitchen apart is that it is a Fusion-style sushi bar, whose menu offers a range of Asian and European dishes. The interior is fairly basic – bare brick walls, plenty of greenery, brightly lit and large windows opening out onto the street – airy and fresh, perfect for the summer although perhaps lacking cosiness for the colder months. There is a back room though in the S-shaped layout. The overall ambiance is calming and the music soothing and gentle, which for me is a big thumbs-up. Music policy should be given much more thought in general and several otherwise decent eateries I've been to have been spoilt by poor, loud or simply no music at all. There is a sushi master carefully preparing the food behind the bar, and the waiters are attentive, if perhaps lacking in perfect English.
The menu is divided into starters, soups, salads, noodle dishes, mains and desserts, with a separate sheet for sushi – clearly the main event of the restaurant. Beers always come first and there are three Asian ones on the menu – Sapporo, Kirin Ichiban and Asahi. (0.33l, all 13zl). Kasia tried a sweet Japanese wine called Choya Silver (150zl, 11zl). In general, the list of alcohol is not extensive, but this is not normally a priority in an Asian restaurant, where beer is the best alcoholic accompaniment. I kicked off the meal with garlic and chilli fried prawns, served with a mini salad and citrus dressing. Not a specifically Asian dish, it is a good representation of what the menu is trying to do – appeal to people who may not be too au fait with Asian cuisine. It was well-cooked and delicious, the prawns fresh and crunchy – a perfect starter, and priced at 24zl, the most expensive one available. My partner's deep fried vegetable tempura looked and tasted great too – crisply fried and satisfying, the brocolli in particular was very good. I tried a ramen soup next – containing udon noodles, egg and salmon, it was a good entree which could serve as a lunchtime snack, with a generous amount of fresh tuna and noodles, modestly priced at 12zl.
Moving on to the sushi, there is a wide choice of California, futomaki, uramaki, sashimi, nigri and hosomaki; prices range from 12zl for six pieces of futomaki to 31zl for sashimi sea bream or tuna. I decided to have six pieces of grilled futomkai with butterfish, calabash, cucumber and crushed pistachio (16zl) and eight pieces of uramaki with tuna, cucumber, chives, radish, spicy mayo and tobiko. (27zl). Kasia tried the California, deep fried in tempura (24zl). While I'm by no means an expert on sushi, I know my onions enough to recognize good fresh fish and ingredients, and there is nothing inauthentic about this. At this price, I have to say it's some of the best sushi I've tried in Krakow, and I'm sure that once the word gets about regarding the reasonable prices, this could become the go-to place in Kazimierz for an inexpensive Asian feed in a restaurant setting. There is no great mystery about sushi; it's basically rice and raw fish with vegetables with soy sauce, ginger slices and wasabi paste. (Sorry, Sushi connoisseurs). While I know there is an art to it, I think restaurants in this city (and country) have been taking advantage of the perceived exoticism of it for a while, so it's refreshing to see someone de-mystifying (and de-pricing) it. There are several 'zesztawy' (meal deals) available where the average price per piece is 2-3zl and there is an eat-as-much-as-you-want option for 79zl, Monday to Frday 12.30-5.30pm.
My main dish was salmon marinated in miso paste, served with stir-fried rice with ginger, pea puree and teryaki sauce (31zl). It was presented, as was the sushi, on cool rough black slates, a nice touch. The dish was, while not a revelation, a decent enough stab at pan-Asian cuisine which will probably appeal to everyone and offend no one. While I applaud the attempt to woo the average punter with such fusion-style fare – and this was by no means a failure – my one reservation about this restaurant is that in broadening its appeal so, it may never truly be respected as an absolutely authentic experience. Still, when the food is generally so tasty, who cares? My dessert was a green tea cheesecake – light but not too dainty, sweet and just Asian enough to justify being on the menu. The other options were mango mousse, chocolate cake and black current ice cream, the latter which I also tried and can confirm was a refreshing accompaniment to the cake. I have a feeling this addition to the Kazimierz dining scene will be around for some time to come. While it's a double-edged sword trying to do 'Sushi Fusion' as it styles itself - in other words, sushi plus a few other dishes (and perhaps concentrating on just sushi would be a better option), Nine Kitchen does enough to justify its continued existence in the burgeoning Asian restaurant market. This is no nine-day wonder.
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