Big changes are afoot at Kushi. The restaurant's menu has gotten some new energy, thanks to changes introduced by a visiting chef from Japan.
The restaurant brought chef Shojiro Nishakawa to the country through a government program that allows Japanese professionals in various industries to come to the U.S. to expand the country's knowledge of Japanese culture. Owners Darren Norris and Ari Kushimoto worked for about a year to bring the chef to Kushi. Nishakawa not only worked at the revered Izakaya Higashiyama restaurant in Tokyo — his wife also grew up with Kushimoto.
The chef arrived in early October, and spent time getting to know American diners. "He was able to pick up trends pretty quickly and modify our menus to appeal to what people liked," said Norris. "His changes have gotten an amazing response so far."
Among those changes: a revamped lunch menu with a variety of Japanese curry dishes and udon noodle offerings; new small plates and the addition of Japanese hot pot to the dinner menu, along with a technically-challenging omelet dish called dashimaki tamago. There's also a pork belly shabu shabu salad, as well as a new omakase menu. The nabe, or hot pot offerings, change daily, and can be prepared both for individual diners and for groups (more fun for groups, Kushimoto says). He's also been expanding Kushi's dessert offerings beyond gelato, adding a coconut custard and strawberry "cappuccino."
Nishakawa will leave the restaurant Dec. 29, though Norris would love to bring him back eventually. "It's been great to have a new set of eyes here, someone who really knows what's current in Japan," he said. "You can get stuck in a pattern, and you want to do something dramatic to change that pattern without overhauling the whole system or changing the theme or concept of the restaurant. I'd say we're even more true to our theme now."
· Nabe Video [YouTube]
· Kushi [Official Site]
· All Previous Kushi Coverage [-EDC-]