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86 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • MARCH 2017 Sushi offerings can help expand a Japanese restaurant's demographic and also increase traffic. Among Millennials who are frequent ethnic cuisine eaters, 38 percent say they eat sushi at least once a month, with 78 percent of those who eat it frequently or occasionally ordering at a table service restaurant, reports the NRA. Adapting to the Market When Michelle Lin, her husband Jian and their partner Peter Chin opened Sumo in Alexandria, Va., five years ago, it was a hibachi-centric concept. Jian had formerly worked in a Japanese restaurant and the couple wanted to create a family- friendly place that their two young daughters would enjoy. "My daughters love eating sushi and healthy foods," says Michelle Lin, whose husband is a chef, but not a sushi chef. Sumo seats 180, not including its 20-seat party room, sushi bar and cocktail bar area. It separates into two dining rooms, one for sushi and the other with hibachi tables where chefs perform their feats in front of customers in traditional Japanese style. "We offer hibachi at lunch, which is pretty busy, although the sushi room tends to be busier during these hours," says Michelle Lin. The hibachi menu offers the standard favorites, including a selection of meat and seafood, fried rice and noodles. Din- ners include the customary clear, miso or seafood soup; salad; fried rice; noodles; meat and/or seafood; and vegetables. Hibachi tables seat 8, but more often than not, the staff push together 2 tables in a circle to seat 16 to 18. Sushi bar seating overlooks the production area and three chefs. Equipment in this section includes two refrigerators, an ice maker, a wooden sushi boat, and sushi knives and a cutting board for prep. The sushi/sashimi menu provides meals and a la carte se- lections, such as regular and hand rolls and rice-free options. Sumo's most popular selections include the Volcano roll with shrimp tempura, red hot sauce and avocado wrapped inside out, deep fried with crunchy spicy salmon, tobiko and scallion on top; the Tiger roll with spicy tuna and avocado wrapped inside out with tuna, white tuna, salmon and a crunchy ingredient on top, served with the chef's special sauce; and the Angry Bird, which includes shrimp tempura, cucumber and mango inside the wrap topped with lobster salad, eel, avocado with eel sauce, mango sauce and tobiko. The main kitchen team prepares all rice for sushi items with a rice cooker. The back of the house, which comprises about a quarter of the restaurant, includes a convection oven, range, fryer, steamer and microwave for cooking. "I'd say the most integral piece of equipment is the fryer for preparing tempura, which we make a lot of," says Lin. "We also get a lot of use out of our flattop, which is used to prepare hibachi items for takeout." Sumo has a happy hour each day between 3 and 6 p.m., offering a sushi roll and drink for half off the regular price. Its bento boxes for kids also have been well received, with options that include chicken, beef or shrimp teriyaki, or shrimp or chicken tempura. This year, the restaurant plans to expand its menu to ramen in response to customer requests. "Sushi is definitely becoming more popular, but local ingredients are not a trend we're seeing," says Lin. "Instead, people are seeking authentic Japanese food." Sushi with a Southern Influence The southern U.S. may not be top of mind for cutting edge sushi restaurants, but O-Ku aims to change that perception. The first location opened in Charleston, S.C., seven years ago, with expansion into Atlanta in 2015 and Charleston, N.C., last September. Managing partner Kimball Brienza describes the concept as high-end Japanese sushi with high- end Southern items. "We source from local fisheries and farms, and include exotic fish offerings with seafood from Japan and Chile as well as Virginia, Maine, California and Oregon," says Brienza. A relaxed atmosphere sets O-Ku apart from other upscale Japanese/sushi spots. Each location features different designs that contain common themes such as up-lit tree branches and e&s segment spotlight