Findlay Market’s Sen by Kiki Makes Waves

Sen by Kiki, which offers fish and other aquatic cuisine, opened June 30 at Findlay Market.

click to enlarge Hideki Harada, owner and chef at Sen by Kiki and Kiki College Hill. - Photo: Maggy McDonel
Photo: Maggy McDonel
Hideki Harada, owner and chef at Sen by Kiki and Kiki College Hill.

Findlay Market’s new seafood hookup is a real catch.

Sen by Kiki offers fish and other aquatic cuisine, including freshly shucked oysters ready to enjoy right at the market with all the fixings.

Owner/chef Hideki “Kiki” Harada says Findlay Market has been extremely welcoming, even throwing his new stand a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the grand opening June 30.

“It’s more than I expected,” Harada says. “It’s been really cool.”

People often ask Harada what “Sen” means. It translates to “fresh” in Japanese, but some dedicated fans of Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki’s films have found a connection with the names of both of Harada’s restaurants, Sen and Kiki College Hill. Sen is the protagonist in 2001’s Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, while Kiki is the title character in the 1989 animated film Kiki’s Delivery Service.

“A couple of kids came up, they asked, ‘Is that why they’re called that?’” Harada says. “It’s coincidental. Great films, though. I’m a huge fan.”

Calling his stand the equivalent of the word “fresh” is quite important, though. Freshness is key when buying seafood, which means Harada works hard to guarantee he sells only the finest available. Sen by Kiki also offers other dishes prepared in-house, such as kimchi, roe and smoked trout dip.

With all this fresh fish, many people immediately consider using it for sushi. Harada has some tips for home cooks looking to make their own rolls at home, including the ideal sushi-grade fish for beginners (his staff can help choose items and think through options).

“Salmon is the most forgiving,” Harada says. “I always call salmon ‘the omelet of the sea’ because you can really butcher it, but it’s also kind of easy to cover up your errors. Because of all the fat on salmon, with no real sinew, you can cut against the grain, or you can go with the grain. There’s really no wrong way to eat salmon.”

When cutting sushi-grade fish at home, Harada says fewer accidents happen when using sharp knives. When a blade is dull, more force is exerted to make a cut, and that’s when a cook can lose control of the blade and become more open to injury.

“Don’t saw at the fish,” Harada says. “Slice. Slicing is one direction – typically toward you, not away.”

Fish used in quality sushi may seem mysterious to the uninitiated: what does sushi-grade mean? Is sushi-grade fish better than others? Harada, who’s been serving sushi-grade fish for years, has the answer.

“Sushi-grade fish is a process,” Harada says. “We’ve invested in a cryo freezer that takes everything down to -40 F. Per the health department, in the state of Ohio you have to freeze [fish] for a certain time in order to kill off any parasites.”

A regular freezer will do, he explains, but the fish freezes inappropriately and bleeds moisture, meaning all that good flavor just seeps away. With a traditional freezer, fish should be frozen for around 72 hours, while fish in a cryo freezer like Harada’s only needs to freeze for 15-17 hours.

“We try to get everything whole,” Harada says of the fish he purchases for the stand. “We process everything in-house, so then we take a portion of it and put it in the super freezer so we can label it sushi-grade. Then we can take the consumer in the right direction when they ask for it.”

For those obsessed with oysters, Sen by Kiki will become a new favorite spot at Findlay Market. The stand has been keeping a variety of mollusks available to buy individually or by the bucket.

As of press time, Sen by Kiki is stocked with trout, tuna, bronzino, local tilapia, marinated and ready-to-grill octopus, bay scallop, mussels, giant prawn and more. There also are convenient light bites ready to go along with, of course, whole fish.

Sen by Kiki, Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine,

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