The opening of a new restaurant can be quite daunting. But with knowledge, entrepreneurial zeal and a quality product, the task is much more manageable.
Brian Choi – owner/manager/chief cook of Kinja Sushi & Japanese Cuisine – looks back at the past two-and-a-half years of his restaurant’s operation and adds in customer service as an additional plus.
A Korean native, Choi came to the United States five years ago, having trained as a sushi cook in his homeland, as well as researching the restaurant business.
In Lincoln, Choi worked for his aunt at Shogun restaurant in southwest Lincoln before opening Kinja.
“I always wanted to have my own restaurant business,” he says, but finding the right location was a concern.
“I was looking for a place where I could make good sushi that people would like and still make a profit,” he adds, referring to finding a location that was favorable for customer patronage and a reasonable rent for the restaurant area.
Kinja’s Pioneer Woods location and the restaurant’s intimate atmosphere have proven to be the combination Choi was looking for. Smiling, Choi said business has been good. “It’s comfortable, but I’m always hungry for more.”
Choi is an appealing blend of modesty and enthusiasm as he and his staff strive to satisfy Kinja’s customers. This desire is evident as Choi often counsels and explains the restaurant’s menu to diners unfamiliar or apprehensive about trying sushi.
Kinja’s extensive menu begins with 17 appetizers ranging from Heart Attack (battered jalapeno, cream cheese and spicy tuna - $4.50) to Yaki Tori (two skewers of grilled chicken, shrimp and vegetables with teriyaki sauce - $7.50), plus five salads ($3.50 - $7.95) and miso or Kinja soup ($1.50 and $3.50, respectively).
Dinner entrees include four teriyaki ($13.95 - $15.95), three katsu ($11.50 - $12.50) and three tempura ($10.50 - $12.50) offerings. The restaurant’s “Special Dinner” category includes Steak & Lobster (teriyaki glazed sirloin pairs, cold water lobster tail, vegetables and steamed rice - $20.99) or Bulgogi (thinly sliced and marinated beef cooked with assorted vegetables - $14.95). Five rice bowl options range from Bibimbab (white rice topped with seasoned vegetables, beef, egg and chili pepper paste - $13.50) to Sake Don (salmon and smoked salmon with assorted vegetables over sushi rice with Japanese seasoning - $14.50) or Una Don (barbeque fresh water eel, avocado and vegetables over steamed rice with eel sauce - $15.95).
There are five vegetable roll, eight cooked roll and nine raw fish roll options ($3.99 - $7.50); three spicy Volcano roll ($11.50 - $15.50); and seven deep-fried tempura roll ($8.50 - $11.99) choices. Then there are the eight sushi and sashimi (raw fish only) combination entrees ($16.99 - $64.99).
Choi has had some fun naming his 19 special rolls (cooked or raw fish) choices. Diners with a sense of adventure, or good wit, could try the Kiss of Fire Roll ($10.50), Sex and the City Roll ($11.50), the Play Girl Roll ($11.95), the Lobster Monster Roll ($12.95) or the Kinja Special Roll ($14.99) from among Kinja’s many varieties.
The restaurant’s menu also contains noodle options, as well as 23 two-piece sushi and 17 five-piece sashimi choices.
“We try to serve our customers something new and special,” Choi proudly says.
In addition to the regular dinner menu, Kinja offers lunch and Happy Hour (4 - 5:30 p.m.) specials.
The restaurant’s beef, chicken and salmon teriyaki entrees are most popular with the non-sushi diners, according to Choi, with the sushi and sashimi combinations appealing to Kinja’s raw fish aficionados.
Choi reports that his customers are quick to laud Kinja’s fast service and excellent quality food. “And the good prices too!”