Kingyo is a relatively new Japanese restaurant and sushi bar in the Rittenhouse Square area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Kingyo took over–or perhaps is just a renaming and reworking–of a space on the 1700 block of Sansom Street occupied for many years by another Japanese restaurant, Genji. Genji had always been a solid, if not particularly outstanding, choice for sushi but with some limitations to the rest of the menu, and spotty service. As I was in the area one day at lunchtime, I decided to give Kingyo a try to see how it compared to some of the nearby Japanese restaurant competition, namely the long-standing Fuji Mountain on Chestnut Street, Vic Sushi on the 2000 block of Sansom, and the new hot spot Zama on 18th Street. Sadly I’d say that based on my lunch experience, it comes up short compared to these other options.
Stepping inside Kingyo, the space appeared hardly any different from when it had been Genji. A small sushi bar takes up most of the narrow space in the front of the restaurant. In the back is a small dining room, and a flight of stairs leads up to a second dining room used in the evenings. The decor is fairly typical of modern Japanese restaurants, with dark neutral carpeting, wooden tables, exposed brick and some traditional Japanese art prints and decorative objects on display.
Kingyo promises authentic Japanese cuisine, but its menu is still rather typical for what one finds in most American Japanese restaurants. Appetizers include various types of Shumai, Edamame, Tempura and Beef Negima-Yaki. Appetizers range in price from $3.50 for Hijiki or Miso Soup, to $18 for five slices of Japanese Snapper Sashimi. Salads include a house special seaweed and daikon radish, marinated seaweed and tuna citron ($4.00 – 9.00, with 50 cents charged for extra dressing.) Entrees cover all the basics, from Beef Teriyaki ($22) to Chicken Katsu ($15.50), with one unique offering being a Wasabi Duck Breast in teriyaki ($18.50). Soba and Udon noodles are available, as well as a wide range of sushi, sashimi and special maki rolls. The most expensive roll is a Tuna Lover for $15.00, but most rolls are quite inexpensive and in the $3.50 – 5.50 range.
The full menu at Kingyo is served at both lunch and dinner time, with three specials offered for lunch on the day of my visit. I chose the “Kingyo Special” lunch ($14.75), which promised to offer a good sampling of different items from their menu. The special began with a bowl of red miso soup, satisfying if not anything unique. It was followed with a creative bento box of edamame, three shrimp shumai, one spicy inside-out maki roll, boiled rice, and chicken and vegetable tempura.
The best of the items was the tempura, which was very lightly fried and crispy, not greasy as some tempura can be. The vegetables were two green beans, one slice of zucchini, and one slice of sweet potato. Two pieces of chicken tempura rounded out the fried selection. The edamame were not especially flavorful and seemed a little over-boiled, and lacking sufficient salt to enhance their taste. The shumai had good flavor, but were a little gummy and not as delicate as they can be.
Most disappointing was the maki roll. It was clumsily prepared, lacking both sufficient rice and fish to be properly formed. Loose grains of rice were hanging off the roll, which was so skimpy on rice that bits of the inside seaweed were showing through bare throughout. With the spicy sauce and flying fish roe, it was difficult to get much of the flavor of the small pieces of fish within.
I was quite full and could not finish all of my rice nor the edamame. My total bill with one small hot sake ($5) was $21.43 before tip. Service was friendly and very efficient, but I can’t say I’d be in a rush to return to Kingyo after my lunch experience. With several other very good Japanese restaurants nearby in Philadelphia, especially with those offering superior sushi preparation, Kingyo did not particularly impress me.
1720 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Lunch: Monday – Friday 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Dinner Monday – Saturday 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Kingyo closed not long after I published this review in July 2010.