Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Genki SushiRestaurant Insider
October 4, 2020
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: REID SHIMABUKURO
ANNE LEE speaks with Genki Sushi purchasing and site operations manager DAVID MOON Genki Sushi senior operations director BUNJI MINE and Genki Sushi VP of operations HIROYUKI SATO
Genki Sushi has been in Hawaii for over 27 years and has been a popular restaurant loved by locals and tourists alike.
The restaurant now boasts more than 360 restaurants around the world, even one in Kuwait!
I was able to dine with their executive team that takes the lead on the menu at their Kapahulu location, which was the first one built outside of Japan.
Before each season starts, they start talking about the menu and think up different ideas to bring forth a blend of Japanese and local flavors. They take a consensus from each Genki Sushi location, and ask their staffs what would be good to add to the menu.
The goal is to bring together an affordable family dining atmosphere, quality sushi and Japanese food items at reasonable prices in a unique dining setting.
AL: How did Genki Sushi get its start?
GS: Genki Sushi was founded in 1968 by a young sushi chef name Fumio Saito. At the young age of 24, he envisioned a revolutionary way to introduce sushi to the masses and developed a unique delivery system called “kaiten sushi” (which means revolving).
AL: What does Genki Sushi bring to the Hawaii food scene?
GS: Our goal and vision was to bring the Japanese sushi experience to Hawaii. We were the first to bring a lot of new technology to Hawaii and were also the first to bring the conveyor belt to the U.S.
AL: What sets Genki Sushi apart from other similar restaurants?
GS: We like to use local ingredients, like fresh local ahi. The reason Genki Sushi was opened in Hawaii was to bridge the gap from Japan to Hawaii. There are many Japanese visitors that love our islands and are familiar with seeing Genki Sushi in Japan. So, while visiting, they can feel comfortable dining in a restaurant that they know. For the local clientele, we wanted to share the technology — the first conveyor belt, the bullet express and sushi robot, all created in Japan.
AL: Can you explain what the sushi robot is?
GS: The sushi robot makes sushi rice behind the scenes. Before, we had to make the sushi by hand. These patented machines can make 3,000 sushi rolls per hour.
AL: How has COVID-19 impacted Genki Sushi?
GS: We have had to really look at expanding takeout options. But even with COVID, we were able to remodel our Kona Commons Genki Sushi location. It has reopened, fully renovated with the bullet express added to its store.
AL: What is the restaurant’s most popular dish?
GS: Our bestselling item on Oahu is the Spicy Tuna Gunkan ($3.15), which is made with fresh local ahi that’s mixed with our signature spicy mayo-based sauce. On the outer islands, it’s the Fried Squid Combo ($4.15).
AL: What is your favorite Genki Sushi item?
DM: Spicy tuna, for me, that is Genki. Everyone tries to copy our flavor. We were the first ones to introduce that creamy spicy flavor; this was created for our local palate.
BM: I like the Spam Nigiri when I come to Hawaii. In Japan, it would be uni.
HS: I like the nigiri; traditional sushi items.
AL: What are some of your current specials?
GS: We have our seasonal specials like Salmon Skin Gunkan ($3.15), Rayu Somen Salad ($2.15), Salmon Skin Spicy TNT Roll ($5.15), Imitation and Spicy Imitation Crab ($1.55, blue plate special) and the Kappa Maki Roll ($1.55, blue plate special). These are limited-time items and prices. If you purchase a Genki Sushi mask from us and wear it each time you dine-in, you’ll receive 10 percent off your bill for the rest of 2020!
AL: Can you tell me about the Genki Sushi logo?
GS: It is actually a caricature of the founder Fumio Saito’s face. Bushy eyebrows, rosy cheeks — and it’s not showing anger! It’s showing determination to give the restaurant patrons the best sushi. In addition, “genki” means happy, healthy, cheerful and lively.