Dining » Dining Review

More than just sushi

Try brunch at Kemuri.

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GREEN TEA PANCAKES: A perfect texture, with crunchy granola and zingy berries.
  • GREEN TEA PANCAKES: A perfect texture, with crunchy granola and zingy berries.

We're not sure what's supposed to come to mind when you talk about brunch at a restaurant most known for its selection of raw fish. But the things that do are rather unappetizing: tataki and eggs, sashimi and waffles, yellowfin tuna nigiri and a side of hashbrowns? Lucky for us that's not what you'll find when you walk into brunch at Kemuri in Hillcrest on a Sunday morning.

You might start with a build-you-own Bloody Mary ($4). The server brings a mason jar full of ice and a healthy pour of vodka. Everything you could imagine dolloping or heaping into the jar sits atop a bar in front of a huge aquarium. There are pickles (bread 'n' butter as well as dill), strips of beef jerky, bacon, pickled pearl onions, cornichons, olives, hot sauce and Worcestershire. Drop in a hunk of wasabi if you're brave. We were advised to by the hostess and were glad we took her up on the suggestion. It made for a nice even kick throughout.

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One of the best strategies at any brunch for four or more is to order something sweet for the table. This way, everyone can get a taste of, say, the French toast without having to waste an order on griddled bread. The Green Tea Pancakes ($10) make for a great breakfast appetizer. A short stack of green-tea-infused pancakes is topped with fresh blueberries and strawberries, ginger honey, chantilly cream and crispy peanut granola. We're not sure how they got it in there, but the green tea gives the pancakes a muted herbal flavor that's sweet and pleasing. The fresh berries add a needed zing, the cream is delightful, the granola a nice, crunchy touch. The pancakes themselves are of a perfect spongy consistency, allowing you to eat them without feeling weighed down.

"The shrimp and grits will not last long," a server warned diners at a nearby table. We took this as somewhat of a sign. We're a huge fan of shrimp and grits and we've been lucky to have them at places that have made them sing. Ten Ten in Baltimore and Cafe Amelie in New Orleans come to mind. The Shrimpa 'N' Shiitake and Shishito Grits ($14) are up there with some of our favorites. The War Eagle grits are al dente, not gloppy. The shrimp are nicely spiced and sauteed. The dish is topped with thinly sliced shiitakes that give an earthy flavor. An orange, peppery oil provides a needed punch. This is a well-rounded dish, presented well to boot.

The Eggs Benedict with Soft Shell Crab ($15) was hit and miss. Overall, this dish was tasty and beautifully presented. English muffins serve as a buttery, toasted base. Those are topped with fried soft shell crab, orbs of delicately poached eggs and a yuzu wasabi hollandaise sauce. The flavor of the dish delivered, and execution would have been perfect if not for the eggs. We like a runny yolk, but when some of the white is still in its liquid state, it's just unappetizing.

The sweet potato hash that came on the side (served with the pancakes as well) warrants a paragraph all its own. Everyone at our table absolutely loved the hash. A variety of cubed sweet potatoes was pan-fried with onion and bell peppers, both green and red. The slightly crisp, earthy peppers and onions complemented the starchy sweet potatoes. It's a warm and satisfying side.

On weekend nights, Kemuri hums: full tables, busy servers and the general commotion that comes with a full restaurant. On Sunday morning, it's more laid back. Sunlight enters through the huge Kavanaugh-facing windows, the staff seems at ease (if a bit lackadaisical at times), and everything moves at a relaxed and convivial pace. While a sushi dinner here will set you back a bit, the brunch menu is quite affordable, and surprisingly so given the haute-ish surroundings. A higher-end sushi restaurant might not be top of mind when you think about where to eat brunch, but perhaps it should be.

Kemuri
2601 Kavanaugh Blvd.
Little Rock
660-4100
Kemurirestaurant.com

Quick Bite
The Eggs Done Your Way ($10) is one of the cheaper items on the menu, but don't let that fool you. It's two eggs any way you like (a friend ordered them scrambled and topped with cheese, which looked divine), a side of fruit, bacon or sausage, some of that wonderful hash, and miso butter toast. Not a lot of frills here but a solid breakfast.

Hours
11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday. 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday. 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Other info
Full bar, credit cards accepted.


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