by Maria Castillo Stone
For our very first “Citizens of Capitol Hill” interview, we’re featuring Banzai Sushi and Teriyaki House. If you’ve been in Calgary longer than I have (I’m still five years or so young in this sunny city), you’re probably familiar with Banzai Sushi when it was situated downtown on 4th Ave, until it’s move to Elbow Drive.
I had moved to Calgary in 2013, fresh from two years spent living and working in Tokyo. My husband and I were out and about, and craving Japanese food. He took me to Banzai and I had a hot bowl of Udon tempura that I had been missing.
Since then, Banzai Sushi has been going on strong and blessing the community of Capitol Hill with their second location since last October.
During their busy schedule, I had the privilege to meet the team, get a glimpse behind the scenes, and interview the manager Soo Cheol Jung.
Why did you choose Capitol Hill for your business?
I already have a Banzai restaurant in the SW - I used to have one downtown, so I wanted to have another one somewhere in the NW community. Capitol Hill has a great location, it’s safe, and I like the busy traffic on 10th Street and 20th Ave, which is great for me!
In the 3 months that you’ve been open, what do you like about running a business here?
Firstly, the neighbours, there are good neighbours here. Since I’ve been open, they’ve been very interested in my business, have said positive things, and given great feedback. Secondly, the commute from here is easy to travel in all directions.
For someone who’s never been to Banzai Sushi, what would you recommend for their first visit?
For their first visit, if they like sushi, I would recommend the Poke bowl. (Author’s note: Poke bowl: pronounced PO-KAY, originates from Hawaii where native Hawaiians feasted on freshly caught fish massaged with sea salt, seaweed and crushed inamona or kukui nuts. Later on, immigrants from China and Japan introduced soy sauce and sesame oil.). The great thing about our Poke bowl, is that you can customise it your own way - the base, protein, sauce, toppings, the overall taste. (Author’s note: You can also customise the bowl if you have dietary requirements)
If people don’t like the sound of raw fish, the beef or chicken-don (Japanese rice bowl topped with beef or chicken) is also good too!
How about you, what’s your favourite dish here?
My favourite dish here is the beef rice bowl.
What’s your biggest influence in running Banzai Sushi?
My inspiration are the customers - cooking for them. I’m cook for them, give them the food and to see them enjoy it, that makes me happy. It’s all about the customers.
What inspired you to get started in the food industry?
I studied Food and Science in South Korea - it’s not just about the cooking, it’s also about the ingredients, the chemical reactions, and the nutrients. Afterwards I came to Canada in 2006, and started my career as a chef in Japanese Village (10 Ave SW). After 10 years, I became the head chef, and then we had a couple of sister restaurants - Banzai Sushi and I became the General Manager and the owner.
What are your favourite ingredients to work with?
Beef. Steak! Especially good steak - makes everyone happy! Marbling and the content of fat makes good steak. More fat=more flavour.
What’s the one essential tool everyone should have in their kitchen
A good knife. The thing to remember is: a well sharpened knife - you cannot cut your finger, yet a dull knife - you will cut your finger. A sharpened knife will cut smooth and won’t take a lot of effort to cut through ingredients, unlike with a dull knife where you’ll use more force and be more likely to injure yourself.
What was your favourite dish as a child?
Everyone always says their mum’s cooking is the best! So for me, it’s fried rice made with garlic, egg, soy sauce, ham, vegetables and green onions. I still like it!
What’s your favourite place to eat in Calgary?
I like Han Corea. I enjoy eating there as they make a pretty good stir-fry pork with spices.
Do you have a favourite movie or book that you recommend to people?
It’s a Japanese book: 400 En No Mug Cup De 4000 Man En No Mono Wo Uru Hoho (400円のマグカップで4000万円のモノを売る方法 - 高井洋子/著) by Yoko Takai (which translates as: Making 400 Million Yen From a 4000 yen cup)
What’s your favourite part of Calgary?
I like to spend time with my kids, walking in the park behind my house in Rocky Ridge.
Many thanks to Soo Cheol Jung, Yeong Gwang Kim and Yeong Ran Kim for allowing me to visit their lovely restaurant!
Banzai Sushi and Teriyaki House are open Monday - Saturday 11-9pm and Sunday 12-8pm.