Sushi restaurant to open DowntownWritten by Danielle Stanton | | email@example.com
New York-born chef Kengo Kato, who has been preparing sushi in Toledo for seven years, had the opportunity to pull up his Toledo roots and take his sushi-making skills to Denver, but food blogger Josh Wagy of Smash Toledo was not about to let that happen.
“[Kato] was thinking about moving out of Toledo; he had a good job offer in Denver. Me and Smash Toledo want really great chefs to stay in Toledo. We came up with a little funding and a budget and we got backers to help and we made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,” Wagy said.
Wagy and Kato are now co-owners of Kengo, a sushi and yakitori (skewered meat) restaurant set to open by Sept. 1 at 38 S. St. Clair St. in the Downtown Warehouse District. The restaurant will be the first sushi bar to come to Downtown.
“It was a pretty unanimous decision on where we wanted to put our restaurant,” Wagy said. “Rent was a great price and everything has been lining up really nicely for us. We got the money in the bank and we’ve signed the lease and it’s a go.”
Currently, the two are working to transform their rented space from an empty room with just a three-bin sink to a 25-seat dining area with a five-seat sushi bar. They already have an architect laying down plans and recently met with an electrician.
A fabrication shop in Delta is building Kengo’s sushi bar and local woodworker Craig Mossing is creating the platter boards for the sushi rolls.
The final effect they’re hoping for is urban and organic with lots of art. They will not have any white plates, only ceramic bowls, Wagy said.
“We’re going to have local artists doing murals. It’s going to be a fun, casual, eclectic atmosphere.”
The menu will be unique as well, they said. They’re calling it “small and more traditional” than what other sushi restaurants are offering. The courses will be cut down in size and available à la carte or in a combination platter to keep it simple, they said.
Kato will buy fish fresh at area markets as well as in Livonia, Michigan, and from places as far away as Honolulu and Japan, he said.
“I really want to work with local farmers and stay local,” Kato said. “I will work with Honolulu and Japan and all over the U.S. I have guys that will deliver (the meat) daily and in Livonia there’s a warehouse where I will personally go pick it up. I just want to do everything fresh. I don’t have a walk-in cooler or freezer. Everything is going to have to be fresh.
“I’m going to have a sushi bar and I’m going to purchase a yakitori grill where I’ll be skewering all kinds of meat and fish and grilling them. Yakitori is a Japanese street food and comfort food. I don’t want to be a pretentious restaurant. I just want people to enjoy themselves. I want to go back to the roots of a Japanese chef and do simple things.”
Kato was born and raised in New York City. His parents owned two Japanese restaurants in the city, where he worked from a young age. As an adult, he worked in a traditional Japanese restaurant for seven years and helped other people open up restaurants, but this endeavor will be the first time he has opened up his own restaurant.
The opportunity to own his own restaurant and the support from people in Toledo convinced Kengo to stay, he said.
“This is an opportunity. I’m originally from New York and my friends and family want me to come back there to do my thing. A friend gave me an offer in Denver. [But] people here just have been really great to me and supportive of me. I’ve gotten so many text messages congratulating me, and [saying] how happy they are I’ll be staying in Toledo. I just love the support and Josh is so supportive.”
The plan is for Kengo to be the first restaurant in the city with sake on tap. Wagy said they’ve also been in talks with Maumee Bay Brewing Co. and Black Cloister Brewing Company, both of which said they would come up with a beer designed especially for Kengo.
Tags: Black Cloister Brewing Company, Craig Mossing, Downtown, Josh Wagy, Joshua Wagy, Kengo, Kengo Kato, Livonia, Maumee Bay Brewing Co., Michigan, New York, Smash Toledo, sushi, Warehouse District, yakitori