Young and Hungry

Are You Gonna Eat That? Zentan’s Kinki Fish


The Dish: Kinki Fish

Price: $6.50 per slice of sashimi. It’s also included in the $65 omakase tasting menu.

Where to Get It: Zentan, 1155 14th St. NW; (202) 379-4366;

What It Is: A rare, deep sea–dwelling fish in the snapper family that can live about a century. It calls the Pacific Ocean home, and boring people call it “thornyhead fish.”

What it Tastes Like: Kinki is like tai or madai snapper, except it has way more delicious fat—making it akin to the coveted toro or chu toro varieties of tuna. It tastes smooth and buttery and even a little sweet. (It better, at $65 a pound.)

The Story: It’s the season to get kinki, and not just because the tube tops and flip-flops are out. Kinki fish is only available for what feels like a mere hiccup in time, roughly May through July. That’s why Zentan Executive Chef Jennifer Nguyen has been fighting to get her hands on it. Her plans to debut kinki as part of her new Thursday night omakase menu were foiled when the fish got stuck in customs coming from Japan. She finally got to serve it for the first time on May 15 and plans to offer it the rest of the season, including on the à la carte menu. Bedroom jokes aside, she wants as many people as possible to try this tasty exotic fish because it’s carried in so few restaurants across the country; it’s even rare in Japan, due to its short season.

How to Eat It: Nguyen scales it, debones it, and probably thinks about how expensive it is before pouring hot water on the fish to shock it. It’s then sliced and served as sashimi. No bells and whistles or gussied up soy sauce here, just one sexy bite of fish.

UPDATE: Nguyen hopes to offer the kinki fish the rest of the season but due to its rarity, it's unpredictable when it will be available. Those participating in the Thursday night omakase experience get first dibs, but then it's offered a la carte. Call first to check on availability.

Photo by Laura Hayes

  • Karen Cohen

    Hey, I made reservations based on Jessica's report about Zentan. I had never been there and was excited to go with my husband and eat this rare fish that is mentioned in the City Papers blurb that I got emailed to me yesterday.
    We got to Zentan and asked the woman who seated us about the "special" fish. She didn't know what I was talking a bout. Then we asked our waitress. She knew nothing about the deep sea fish mentioned in City Papers. We insisted that we read about it and a man, perhaps the manager, came over and asked us what we were looking for. I showed him the exact email blurb (below) that was broadcast out from City Papers. He said they were inaccurate and should have followed up by calling the restaurant to check about the special fish before announcing it. I assumed the author, Jessica, did this before she announced it, otherwise where did she get her info?
    Anyway, no special is available at all. Was this a come on to get people into the place? It was hardly crowded and service terribly slow for a non-busy night.
    What a disappointment. So was it City Paper's mistake or Zentan"s?
    You might issue a retraction about this kinki since it IS NOT AVAILABLE Thursdays or any nights presently at this restaurant. Perhaps in the future...


    After trouble with customs, Zentan chef Jennifer Nguyen has finally secured some rare kinki fish. The deep sea dweller from the snapper family is only available roughly from May through June. Nguyen is featuring it on her $65 omakase menu, available Thursdays, and as an a la carte option for $6.50 per slice. Read more about this specialty on Young & Hungry. Zentan, 1155 14th St. NW. (202) 379-4366. (Jessica Sidman)

  • Jessica Sidman

    @Karen Our contributor Laura Hayes, who reported this story, informs me that because of its rarity, kinki fish's availability is a bit unpredictable. We've updated the story to provide more clarity.