Dining Out


Instant Hit Japanese Comfort Food in Nashville

Crab rolls at Kisser
Written by Margaret Littman, Images courtesy of Camille Tambunting

“We didn’t know it was going to succeed. We thought it was going to be a sleepy neighborhood lunchtime spot,” says Leina Horii of Kisser, the 40-seat Japanese comfort food restaurant she opened with her husband, Brian Lea, early in 2023 in East Nashville. Since opening—well, even before, thanks to its pop-ups and farmers market booths—Kisser has been an instant hotspot, with folks lining up before 11 a.m., when the doors open. (They’re only open for lunch four days a week.) National headlines only confirmed what Nashvillians already knew: This is good food served by friendly people.

owners of Kisser

The name Kisser is a play on kissaten, a Japanese word for a tea shop and restaurant where locals hang out. At Kisser, the menu comprises uncomplicated but not simple foods, many of which Horii ate as a child. The menu, inspired by Japanese recipes made with local ingredients—including those grown on the couple’s farm—includes small plates to share, rice balls, noodles, and seafood.

“There are a lot of things on the menu that for Japanese comfort food are very common, but they’re not represented in most Japanese restaurant menus,” Horii says. “I’ve just been so impressed with how Nashville dining has embraced those things.”

The Kisser menu isn’t lengthy: “We keep the menu intentionally brief and small. There are no stinkers on the menu,” Horii says with a laugh. Its breadth and depth welcome people back to try new things. Whatever you order, complement your lunch with miso crème brulée for dessert and sushi rice ale, made in a collaboration with Nashville’s Harding House Brewing Co., as a beverage. You’ve waited in line; might as well make it a long lunch.

Can’t Miss at Kisser

A bowl of noodles at Kisser


These fried rice sushi balls are what first made Kisser a Nashville staple. An order of three has different varieties, such as Japanese curry and snow crab.

Chicken Katsu Sandwich

Horii makes milk bread in-house and uses it to craft the most popular item on the menu. A fried chicken sandwich might not sound that sublime, but the bread, cabbage slaw, and flavorful tonkatsu sauce make it so.

Spicy Miso Bowl

Udon, the thick, chewy wheat-based noodles hold up well to broth and shine in a spicy miso bowl with confit duck leg.

about this restaurant

  • Chef

    Leina Horii and Brian Lea

  • Address

    747 Douglas Avenue
    Nashville, Tennessee

    • Japanese

    • Bistros & Cafes

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