(NOTE: Sushi House is located on the corner of Park Street and Shoreline Drive. When you go, say hi to owner James Kim for me. This was published in the May/June issue of Alameda Magazine.)
“Sushi House: Sold on Sushi”
Just try getting a table at Sushi House on a weekend night in less than 45 minutes. It’s not possible. With a menu offering generous portions of delicious Japanese-American food at reasonable prices, the crowds keep coming back for more. This is Sushi House owner James Kim’s biggest concern.
“When the customer is happy, I am happy,” says the 39-year-old restaurant owner. “Customers now are not happy with the wait.”
Kim opened the original Sushi House in 1998 in a small, 45-seat space in the heart of Alameda’s Towne Centre. In a few years, he expanded that location to 75 seats. In early 2005, Kim moved the restaurant to the corner of Shoreline Drive and Park Street, which boasts 120 seats and a gorgeous view of San Francisco Bay.
Business has been brisk, and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
What is the secret to this success? Kim says his good fortune does not come from a secret recipe, but is instead the result of providing great tasting, reasonably priced food and satisfying the customer.
And, Kim keeps the customer satisfied with a fusion of Japanese- and American-style cuisine. “Americanized sushi, with generous portions,” he says. Indeed, diners at Sushi house discover an extensive menu, offering separate lunch and dinner selections, with multiple choices for special combinations. The menu accommodates vegetarians, as well. The possibilities are endless.
Sushi House selections include a long list of nigiri (traditional), maki (rolls) and temaki (hand rolls) styles of sushi. There is also a selection of sushi and sashimi dinners, including soup and salad. The menu features the ever-popular Bento Boxes, which are a “box dinner” with several options for combinations, like teriyaki and tempura. For the raw fish shy, the menu provides long lists of mouth-watering options, including charbroiled and deep-fried meat, chicken, vegetables and fish; udon (noodles in broth), donburi (over-rice dishes) and nabe-mono (cooked in a pot).
Two delightful house specialties that showcase Kim’s Japanese/American style are the Lion King, a California roll wrapped with salmon and baked, and the Island Roll, a mixture of crispy prawn tempura, crab meat and cucumber, layered with fresh salmon, avocado and lemon slices, then topped with a special house sauce.
Alameda is just like Home
Immediately before opening Sushi House, Kim left a partnership in a restaurant in Livermore to come to Alameda. Kim’s Korean childhood played a part in his choice of Alameda. “I like the water and the ocean. I grew up on a small island in Korea, like Alameda. And, I know how to prepare fish that is tasty.” Simply put, he knows how to offer food that sells.
Kim also has a loyal, long-term staff. Manager Jason Yoon worked at the original location, but left to start his own restaurant. Now he’s back, more impressed with the skill and talent of his boss, especially when it comes to dealing with the customers.
“James knows how to treat the customer. He knows how to make them happy. Whatever they want, he says, ‘Just find a way to do it.’ ” Yoon realized how difficult this is to accomplish through his own personal experience.
Kim notes that he tries to appeal to many different types of customers—older, younger, Japanese, American and families. The Sushi House offering also includes a children’s menu, with kid friendly teriyaki, tempura and sushi dishes.
The business is a passion for Kim, who travels around the world trying to keep a pulse on the Japanese restaurant industry. He still studies, taking classes each week at the Culinary Institute in San Francisco. He is studying French cuisine and wants to incorporate what he learns into the Sushi House menu. “It’s like music—it’s my job and my life,” he says.
Getting back to his current concerns about keeping his customers waiting, he wants to relay a message: “I feel very sorry about this. With so many people trying to eat, workers might make mistakes. Please understand that we are working on this. Thank you for waiting.”
And, he wants his clientele to know that if they have “any dissatisfaction at all” they should talk to his crew—either to his managers or to Kim himself.
When you go to Sushi House, bring an appetite, but be prepared to wait. Kim is working on shortening that time. Both he and the long line of satisfied customers think it’s worth it.