Archive for August, 2009

Observations from Friday

A few random observations and experiences from today.

This week we have had predominantly guys eating lunch.  Over 80% of the lunch crowd are male. Except today when all of a sudden it became 70% female.

Instead of a jam-packed lunch session, we had a steady trickle of customers.

Putting chairs out immediately after the main lunch period ended extended our carry-over business by another hour and a half.

2 food reviewers that had come to taste the food returned tonight with their friends for omakase. That has to be a good sign.

When people drink sake they get much more forward and funny.  It’s nice.

Two colleagues from an office upstairs at OUB came in and drank a bottle of Seikyo Maboroshi Jyunmai. They randomly asked if I was single and then decided that they will return next week with one of their female friends that (in their words) is a “perfect match.” Note: they just met me.

We had our first spilled bowl of soup today. I am amazed it took more than a week before an accident like that happened.

People like to customize take-away boxes even though they could get the pre-packaged takeaway for cheaper.

Everyone eats salmon. To the point where we ran out. Good thing more will be flown in tomorrow.

Oh yeah, props to the couple that enjoyed the 8 course omakase… while standing the whole time!  All the seats were taken but that didn’t stop them from eating. Trendsetters!

Time for a shower and hopefully deep dream-filled sleep.

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August 29, 2009 at 12:06 am 3 comments

Larger than life logo

During opening week it was a pleasant surprise to get various “Congratulations!” bouquets and messages.  I’d be standing in the restaurant and all of a sudden flowers would show up.  This must be what a girl being wooed feels like. 🙂

Bright yellow flowers, roses, trumpet-looking petals, all kinds of floral arrangements! One of the bouquets even had apples.

Earlier this week, one of the most bizarre opening day presents showed up.  Courtesy of “Shantika Industries.”

Standing Sushi Bar logo

DSCF0243

I have to applaud Shan and Tika for their creativity.

Shan and Shane 

Speaking of Shan, here he is at Standing Sushi Bar along with Shane (one of his repeat visits).

The restaurant has been open a week now. After I get some sleep I’d like to write down my thoughts on how it went.  Let’s just say I am 3 kg lighter now.

Everyone, eat sushi!

August 27, 2009 at 10:48 pm 1 comment

Day 1

It has been a hectic couple days. I’m about to head to SSB for Day 3 but was just browsing through some of the pictures from our opening day.

Pre-opening 
In the morning… pre-opening calm.

Coral
Coral and I. She’s been an instrumental part in all of this… from early February when we were watching TV and she asked me, “Whatever happened to your sushi bar idea? Maybe you should look for available spaces again.” Now she’s the manager!

Lights 
Our very small sign at the top right of the shopfront. It’s a long wooden panel with nothing on the left. Might want to put more stuff up or maybe should leave it as a minimalist sign.

SakaeMgr 
Sakae Sushi is across the hall from us. I chatted with their manager, Doreen, and took her on a tour of Standing Sushi Bar. We have stuff they don’t have, they have stuff we don’t have. We shall do customer exchange and make OUB Centre the new sushi haven!

Kawasan otoro 
Time to get the fish ready! Kawasan prepares a big block of otoro… cutting it into the smaller pieces (netta) that are in the sushi display cases. Mmm… melt-in-your mouth fatty tuna belly.

Rayne 
Rayne is camera shy. I had to snap this one when he turned his head back. He was probably thinking, “As the owner, do you want to take my picture or do you want me to prepare the fish so that we can actually have something for the customers to eat?”

Roy 
Roy has been working in the Japanese restaurant industry for 20+ years. Here he is reassuring me that we will be fine. Peace!

DSCF0194 
A few of our lovely staff: Nicolette, Taryn, and Charlene.  Don’t they just want to make you smile? I have no idea why but every time I say anything to Charlene, she bursts out laughing. Even if it’s along the lines of, “One of you has to play dishwasher for the day since our machine isn’t usable yet.” On a sidenote, Nicolette, Taryn, Roy and Coral have tattoos. This was apparently an unspoken job requirement I was looking for.

Hokkaido Crab 
One of our opening week specials… Hokkaido crab. Massive!

Twitter 
That’s me on my laptop using TweetDeck.

Flowers 
Flower bouquets congratulating us begin to arrive. As my friend Bernard mentioned, he had never seen one guy get so many flowers. I did feel a little funny my name was on the bouquets.

Potato salad 
One of Roy’s specials. I was skeptical at first… potato salad?? But then I ate it. Awesome.

Back of sushi bar 
Behind the sushi bar right before we open.

Elizabeth
Our crew went out to pass out some flyers 30 minutes before opening. This nice young lady got one of the flyers, said she wanted some lunch, and asked if she could eat now. So yes… our first customer was 10 minutes before official opening time. That is a good sign! Thank you Elizabeth for being the first brave soul to eat at Standing Sushi Bar! (though technically I think she got customized take-away so she didn’t eat it there…)

Leon and Jonathan 
The next two customers – from the Microsoft crew! Leon and Jonathan. The latter bringing a little street cred into the shop with his gang sign.

Tamago 
Note the tamago nigiri on the right. It’s one of Kawa-san’s specials. I guarantee you will not have any tamago like it in all of Singapore. Must try.

Serene
Serene dramatically eats in the early evening. One of our first dinner customers!

Sushi action 
Kawa-san begins the sushi action

Handroll and tea 
Handroll anyone? Oh, just a small mention – we have free hot green tea and water for all, so just ask!

Twitterverse
Twitterverse is represented! @amandaxr, their friend, and @alkanphel are standing!

Janice
Janice presents me with the fortune cat. All shops need one of these!

P1000012
Hello fortune cat. I shall nickname you “standing sushi cat.” I am glad you don’t like smoking.

Crowd
Look at how relaxed people are while they are standing and eating. :)  (on a sidenote, I was looking at the line of people outside Sakae yesterday and thinking to myself that the amount of time they’re standing in line to wait to get a seat, they could be standing and eating already…)

DSCF0218 
Shane has been a loyal repeat customer. In the span of 2 days he has eaten 3 times at the restaurant! (And I don’t force him to do that as a condition of our friendship).

DSCF0220 
Friends! Including picky eater Peishan who I was glad to see eat inari and tamago happily. Maybe one day she’ll try out the fish. On an unrelated note, I think Jussi should shave his beard.

DSCF0219 
Long-term planning – we’re already hoping for the next generation of sushi lovers to join us!

And that, friends and neighbors, was day 1.

August 21, 2009 at 9:07 am 14 comments

The standing sushi bar to start them all

It’s finally here.  Opening day!  The lack of sleep and frenetic work that has defined the past couple weeks has left me in a state of mind where I can’t quite believe what’s happening.

It was a little over a year ago when I was in Tokyo and went to my first standing sushi bar (Uogashi Nihon-Ichi). I had been in Japan for about a week, eating my way around Nagoya, Shirakawa, and Tokyo when I chanced upon this eatery in Shibuya.  A couple blocks past the world’s busiest Starbucks and along the same street as a Mcdonalds.

Uogashi Nihon-Ichi standing sushi bar shibuya

A friend of mine was just in Tokyo and went to the exact same sushi bar. I hadn’t taken photos of it so was very pleased she sent these to me.

stand and eat!

There are a lot of reasons why this sushi bar resonated with me. I’ve been laying here in bed thinking about that April. It was a nice time, I was with a nice girl, and I love sushi.

August 19, 2009 at 4:26 am 3 comments

Wow, this is harder than expected!

5:50 in the morning.  Went to sleep a little past midnight and woke up at 3 am. Maybe it’s from the jet lag… a week in Seattle trying to adjust to Pacific time only managed to screw up my internal body clock now that I’m back in Singapore. I don’t think it’s the jet lag though, I think it’s the sushi bar.

After a month of delays, we’re FINALLY looking at an opening date. It was going to be August 20, but amusingly enough, that falls on the first day of the 7th month.  Hungry Ghost Festival.  Singapore is still a land of traditions and customs, and belief is that opening a new business (particularly F&B) during the 7th month is a bad, bad thing to do.

Okay. I’m not one for such practices but the folks dining at the restaurant may be. I received many unsolicited comments today about the dangers of the August 20 opening date that I’m convinced we need to open on August 19.

There is a lot to do in the next 36 hours. Top on the list – get that food shop license! Without the license my restaurant is just a showroom for people to admire.  We passed the inspection last week, but I still need to submit some paperwork. Spent 2 hours today at their office waiting in line only to be told that I need a copy of Kawa-san’s (our Japanese chef) employment pass. This wasn’t listed on the items that are required for submission. So it’s back to the NEA I go later this morning.

What else… we need to contact all the suppliers we have earmarked to order our fish and foodstuffs from. Then pray that they’re able to live up to what they say in terms of delivery times. Quality we’ve already determined, but when dealing with things like fresh fish and air cargo you never know when things get held up through customs.

Zooey Deschanel 
Random photo of one of my favorite actresses – Zooey Deschanel. I love you. Come stand and eat at my sushi bar if you’re ever here in Singapore. You’ll enjoy it. We will eat salmon nigiri and drink cold sake together. Wait, are you vegetarian?

At some point I need to buy a ton of Coke, 7 Up, and Ice Green Tea. And their “Light” versions.

The Point-of-Sale people will come later today to finish the installation of the machines and hook it up to the computer system. It would be difficult to actually earn money on this venture if I’m unable to take cash and credit cards.

Uniforms and shirts are arriving today. I hope they fit.

Construction hoarding needs to be removed tonight and touch-up work inside the shop needs to be completed.

The take-away people weren’t able to complete our bags on time so I need to figure out what to do for a temporary solution.

No one knows how to use the credit card machine. 🙂

The chefs have been discussing all the specials and customizations we can do. True beauty of a sushi bar… every piece you order can be customized. Just talk to the chef since he’s right in front of you.  This is leading to minor havoc with creating a static menu. Where do we list the items that we’ll have daily? Where will we put the frequent specials and seasonal items?  All of this needs to get written on the glass boards.  Our printed menus keep changing.

Only one person knows how to operate the dishwasher. (So far – and by operate I mean adjust all the cleaning solutions that have to be poured into the machine so it can work its magic… cleans dishes in only 2 minutes!)

Kitchen equipment people are coming later today to collect a big fat check from me.

We need to buy more paper towels, sponges, and cleaning supplies. Keeping the restaurant clean eats through these materials with a quickness. (I love that line – ‘with a quickness’ – it was from Herbert Kornfeld’s column in The Onion… go read it).

I need to buy a first aid kit in case someone impales themselves on one of our sushi knives.

Printing out flyers for opening day would be a good thing to do. Arranging someone to distribute them would also help.

Similar to the menu, we need to finalize the ordering sheet which is what the chefs will use to keep track of who ordered what.

Did I mention I need to buy a safe?  And re-confirm it fits in the space I want to put it.

The illustrator who is decorating our long wall is a little behind. Need to figure out when he can put his work up. I’m excited to see what he’s going to unveil.

I need to fill out the extra insurance paperwork and submit a cheque.

Tonight and tomorrow morning we’ll continue with staff training.

People keep telling me to prepare a press kit. Need to organize some photographs of our food, the interior, bios of the chefs, concept, menu, etc.

Figure out what the heck this bill I got from some Australian bank is about… I think it’s the link for American Express when they credit my account for card transactions. But we had negotiated no setup cost…

It’s time to submit salaries and use the CPF system soon.  The directions are confusing.

Enough procrastinating. Might as well start the day. I don’t think I’ll fall back asleep.

I am looking forward to a donut from Donut Empire (across from my sushi restaurant).

killer ice cream

August 18, 2009 at 6:35 am 2 comments

Sushi in life

5 years old, fumbling with chopsticks pushing a California roll around the plate. The words of all mothers, “Just eat it, you will like it.” Shishkebab’d my first sushi to pick it up.

I moved to Florida, years passed, mom passed, and I didn’t eat sushi.

At university in DC I found a restaurant near Rosslyn metro stop. My first sushi buffet! What a joyous discovery. Every weekend I’d suggest eating there but the 15 dollar cost was steep for college kids. I’d go alone, bring a book, and eat sushi.

My first year in Seattle I met a girl, we hit it off, and I asked her on a date. Sushi is a good first date. A little adventurous, lightly filling, no mess!

Flying back to Singapore in a few hours. My sushi bar opens this week.

August 15, 2009 at 10:55 pm 1 comment

I am like a prized tuna

I have been outside for a total of 3 minutes in the past 4 days.  Outdoors time = hotel door to taxi + taxi door to office + office to taxi + taxi door to hotel.

When fishermen catch a tuna, they try to minimize the tuna’s exposure to air. It keeps the meat as fresh as possible.

In my case, I will just develop a Vitamin D deficiency.

August 12, 2009 at 9:52 pm 4 comments

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Standing Sushi Bar

Join us at our branches in Singapore's fast-paced Raffles Place business district or unwind in our flagship branch located in the Bras Basah Arts & Historic neighborhood. High-quality, healthy, affordable dining. Open at Marina Bay Link Mall and 8 Queen Street!


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