The Food Guy: Will Kita succeed where others have failed?

When a struggling restaurant closes, then the same or different owners announce a series of on-again/off-again new concepts and names that start and stop (or never even start in the first place) over the course of a few years, there’s not a lot of confidence that place is going to make it in the long run.

That’s been the story of Southridge’s long-shuttered Red Fire Asian Grill, which has tried to reinvent itself through various Asian concepts since the original spot closed, but to no sustainable avail.

In the last six months alone, signs announcing at least two different restaurant names that were “coming soon” there never came to be.

So when I heard the new Kita Modern Japanese had recently launched a soft opening in that same location across from Panera Bread next to Chipotle, I had the same reaction I’ve heard from many of you: “Wonder how long this one will last?”

But then a trusted friend shared their experience enjoying a great lunch at Kita last week (reporting fresh ingredients, delicious modern food and great hospitality) and a follow-up Facebook search also turned up reviews dropping accolades like incredible, outstanding, memorable and gorgeous.

So we put our doubts aside and decided to give it a try this past Friday night, only to discover an unexpected “closed” sign on the door when we arrived.

Oh no, I thought, here we go again.

But it turns out the restaurant had just been broken into the night before and they had to close to repair the vandalism on the night we tried to visit. They promised they would reopen the next day, and they did.

We haven’t gone back to dine there yet, but I did pop in this past Monday to pick up a menu and take a quick peek around.

As promised, the inside is really striking — a lot like Red Fire was, but with more elegant design accents and no neon lights or motorized robots. Thank goodness. And an incredibly friendly man I presume to be the manager came rushing up to say hello and shake my hand when I walked in (no kidding) even though he had no idea who I was and I just asked to see a copy of the menu.

A permanent menu is being printed this week, he told me, but a temporary one does show some pretty innovative options.

There are sushi and hibachi offerings, yes, but also interesting choices like brisket bao buns, salmon crudo, several cold seafood starters and surprises like sake-steamed clams, crispy pork belly with tonkatsu grits, tempura candied bacon, charred octopus with yuzu butter, prawns with plum glaze and so much more.

For less-adventurous eaters, Asian-kissed entrees like sweet soy pork tenderloin, New York strip with mashed Japanese mountain yams, pan-seared salmon with lemongrass pesto and pork katsu with miso gravy may fit the bill.

A smaller lunch menu lists a handful of ramen noodle dishes; various teriyaki, tempura or sushi bento boxes; and a large “build your own” poke bowl section.

I’m glad to hear their Friday night closure was only temporary and we’ll definitely go back sometime soon for the full experience.

Could THIS be the place that finally breaks that location’s curse?

IF YOU GO: Kita Modern Japanese, 2815 Mountaineer Blvd. at Southridge, is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, look up the restaurant’s profile page on Yelp.

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and an occasional food blog at He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by e-mail at You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”

Funerals for Sunday, January 26, 2020

Barker, Betty - 2:30 p.m., Lisa Curry Building, Chesapeake.

Brammer, Cebert - 6 p.m., Tornado Apostolic Church, Tornado.

Bright II, William - 2 p.m., Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.

Carnes Sr., Homer - 2 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Coombs, Robert - 2 p.m., Greene - Robertson Funeral Home, Sutton.

Craigo, Cecelia - 2 p.m., Gatens - Harding Funeral Home Chapel, Poca.

Escue, John - 4 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Floren, Barbara - 3 p.m., Casdorph & Curry Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Jones, Ruth - 2:30 p.m., Pence Springs Community Church.

Legg, Edwin - 2 p.m., Tipton United Methodist Church.

Nagy III, Alex - 3 p.m., Berry Hills Country Club, Charleston.

Truman, Jack - 3 p.m., North Charleston Baptist Church, Charleston.

Wilson, Larry - 2 p.m., Tyree Funeral Home, Oak Hill.

Workman, Susan - 2:30 p.m., Morris Funeral Home, Cowen.