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Popular restaurant hidden on a residential street, “Organic Vegan” VegiLicious

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Popular restaur... Popular restaur...
By Keiko Fukuda

I heard that VegiLicious is an organic vegan restaurant as you can imagine from its name, and not only that, it is a Japanese restaurant. How could I resist going there? The restaurant is located in Huntington Beach, a surfers’ town. It stands quietly in a corner of a mall, about a 10 minute drive towards the ocean from the 405 Freeway. It is surrounded by relaxed residential streets away from busy streets.

I arrived at the restaurant at 2:30 in the afternoon after the peak lunch time. I saw 2 groups of people eating enjoyably. The lady who was cheerfully talking to the customers as she was serving, was Atsuko Nakao, and the gentleman who came out and talked frankly to the customers who were having desserts, was Akira Nakao. They are the Japanese married couple who run this hidden popular restaurant, and also the only working staff who does everything for the restaurant.
First, I tried their popular menu item, the Kobe BBQ Bowl. I came up with a simple question. Why Kobe beef, at a vegan restaurant? I understood after they explained to me that the meat was made from soybeans which had been developed for vegans after a series of trial and errors, and made almost as identical to the real thin-sliced grilled beef. Even though I knew that it was made with soybeans, I felt the meaty texture in my mouth. It went very well with the sweet and spicy sauce and the brown rice underneath, which gave me quite a bit of satisfaction. Not only that, the fact that “it is not meat” gave me no sense of guilt that I usually feel. The salad dressing is also house-made. They must be very passionate about the business for being so particular about organic ingredients, making everything in-house, and running the place only by themselves.

The owner, Akira-san, is a 2-time adult-class all-Japan wrestling champion. After coming to the US, he had worked at 2 Japanese restaurants as a manager before he opened this restaurant. While working, he gradually developed a desire to run his own organic vegan restaurant. I asked him the reason. He said, “While I was managing my own health as a wrestler, I actually felt myself getting over the exhaustion faster, and healthier by eating more pork than beef, more chicken than pork, more fish than chicken, and even more soybean products such as tofu and natto than fish as my main diet.” He said that he came to his senses to this eating style which he currently offers, through his own experiences.

After taking 7months to find the property, and another 10 months to build, VegiLicious finally opened in February of 2013. When you look at the menu, you see a lot of choices, and a rich variety of items; 3 rice bowl dishes including the Kobe BBQ, as many as 7 kinds of curry dishes, 1 ramen bowl, 5 combination plates, soups, salads, appetizers, sandwiches, and desserts. You can also purchase their house-made salad dressing at the store section.

Because of the way their dishes are prepared with organic-only ingredients and no additives, which takes time and labor, this married couple are the only ones working for this restaurant in order to save labor costs. “Everything, from buying, cooking, and serving, to cleaning is done by us only,” says Akira-san. Even so, the couple wears a cheerful smile, and doesn’t show any stress, maybe because of their healthy food and lifestyle they lead, and offering it to their customers. It seems like they are living in a spiral of maintaining health by the power of food despite busy work, providing satisfaction to the customers by the good food, and getting even busier. I got a strong impression that only because they do everything by themselves, their mission-like desire, to “Make people healthy and happy with organic vegan cooking”, is being conveyed directly to their customers, and the number of their fans is growing.

I asked how many customers they were attracting because of that thinking, and how many rotations they have for dinner time sales. They said, “It depends. Some spend only 15 minutes to finish, and others, like a big group for instance, could take 2 to 3 hours to enjoy the whole experience.” You can easily guess how popular they are by knowing that the wait time could be as long as 30 minutes in the waiting line to get in.


住宅街の隠れた「オーガニックビーガン」人気店

VegiLicious、店名から想像できるようにオーガニックビーガン料理の店。しかも日本食レストランと聞けば行ってみないわけにはいかない。その店があるのはサーファーの街、ハンティントンビーチ。フリーウェイの405号線を降りて延々10分ほど海の方に進んだモールの一角にひっそりと佇む。周囲は、繁華街とは程遠く、のんびりした雰囲気漂う住宅街だ。

店に到着したのはランチタイムのピークを過ぎた午後2時半。店内では食事を楽しむ2組のグループの姿があった。サーバーを務めながら明るく客に声をかける女性は中尾亜津子さん。そして、デザートを食べている客のテーブルに現れ、気さくに話しかける男性が中尾昭さん。この店は日本人夫婦が二人だけで切り盛りしている、隠れた人気店なのだ。

まずは、人気メニューの神戸BBQボウルをいただいた。ビーガンなのに神戸BBQとは一体?と素朴な疑問が浮かぶが、ビーガン向けに開発された大豆製の代替肉を、工夫に工夫を重ねて薄切りの焼肉そっくりに仕上げていると聞いて納得。大豆とわかって口に運んでもしっかりとした食べ応えがあり、また甘辛いソースと下に敷かれたブラウンライスとの相性も抜群で満足度は高い。さらに「肉にあらず」という事実のおかげで、普段感じる罪悪感とも無縁だ。サラダのドレッシングも手作り。オーガニックな食材にこだわり、手作りにこだわり、さらに夫婦二人だけで店を回していくとなると、相当な熱意がなければやっていけないに違いない。

オーナーの昭さんは、日本で二度の全国大会優勝経験がある社会人レスリングのチャンピオン。アメリカに渡った後、今の店を持つまでに、ロサンゼルス近辺の2軒の日本食レストランのマネージャーを務めた。その中で次第にオーガニックビーガンの店を自分で経営したいという気持ちが募ってきたのだという。その理由を聞くと、「レスリング選手として自分の健康を管理していくうえで、牛肉よりも豚肉、豚より鶏肉、鶏より魚、さらに魚よりも豆腐や納豆といった大豆食品を食生活の中心に据えることで、疲れの回復が早く、体調が良くなっていくことを実感したのです」と、自らの実体験から今手掛けている食のスタイルに目覚めたのだと教えてくれた。

そして、物件探しに7カ月、工事に10カ月かけて、2013年2月、VegiLicousはようやく開店にこぎつけた。同店で出されているメニューに目をやると、神戸BBQボウルをはじめとする丼3種、カレーは実に7種、ラーメンが1種、コンビネーションミールが5種、そのほかにもスープ、サラダ、アペタイザーからサンドイッチ、デザートまで選択肢は豊富にある。さらに手作りドレッシングは店頭で販売されている。

オーガニック食材と添加物を使用しないという手間と時間がかかる調理法のため、人件費を抑える目的で前述のように店で働くのは夫婦のみ。「仕入れから調理、接客から掃除に至るまで全部私たち二人でやっています」と昭さんは語る。それでも自らが実践し、客にも提供する健康的な食生活のおかげなのか、夫婦は明るい笑顔を見せ、疲れなどは感じさせない。忙しく働いても食の力で健康を維持し、その料理で顧客に満足感を与え、さらに忙しくなり、というスパイラルの中で生活しているようだ。そして、二人だけで何もかもを手がけているからこそ、彼らの「オーガニックビーガン料理で人を健康にして、幸せにしたい」という使命感にも似た思いは、直接的に顧客へと届き、店のファンを増やしているのだという印象を強く受けた。

その結果、どれだけの客を呼び込んでいるのか?店の売り上げの代わりにディナータイムは一体何回転するのかと聞いたが、「食べたいものだけを食べて15分で帰る人もいるし、2、3時間、食事を楽しむグループもいるので一概に言えません」とのことだった。それでも、空席待ちに30分の列ができると聞けば、人気のほどは推して知るべし、だろう。



VegiLicious
16821 Algonquin St., #103, Huntington Beach, CA
(714)377-3928

https://www.vegilicious-us.com

Wednesday-Monday
11:45am-3:00pm, 5:30pm-9:00pm

Closed Tuesdays
#VegiLicious #organic #vegan

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The possibilities of Shochu

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By Yuji Matsumoto

While sparkling wine and flavored wine is no doubt popular, another surprisingly popular beverage is shochu (distilled liquor).

Shochu on-the-rocks, mixed with lemon soda or with Calpis soda are also popular among American consumers.

From the restaurant side’s perspective, especially in California, the greatest advantage of selling shochu is that despite being a distilled liquor, as long as the alcohol level is less than 24 percent, shochu can still be sold with a Beer & Wine license. Surprisingly however, few restaurants are effectively incorporating shochu into their alcohol list. Judging from the response from customer, it seems as if more participants were interested in purchasing shochu than Japanese sake, which means there are still great sales opportunities for shochu.

Even without a bartender, shochu highball can be easily prepared by mixing shochu with lemon juice, grape juice, lychee juice and carbonated water, with high profit rate. There is no difficult explanation involved other than “Japanese vodka” for easy understanding and acceptance by American consumers.

Also, maritinis, mojitos, Bloody Mary, and various other vodka and tequila-based cocktails can be made with shochu. Therefore, I look forward to more American consumers trying shochu.



焼酎の可能性

発泡酒やフレイバー酒は言うまでもなく人気だが、意外にも焼酎が好評だ。

焼酎はロックやレモン割り、カルピス割りどれもアメリカ人にうける。

レストラン側から見ると、特にカリフォルニア州では、蒸留酒にもかかわらずアルコール24%以下ならBeer & Wineライセンスでも販売できるのが最大のメリットだ。しかし、現場をみるとこの焼酎を有効的に活用しているレストランは意外と少ない。お客の反応からみると日本酒を買って帰る人より焼酎を購入したい人が多いということは、販促によってまだ伸びる可能性があるということだ。

バーテンダーがいなくても、レモンジュース、グレープジュース、ライチジュースと炭酸で簡単に利益率の高いカクテル(酎ハイ)ができる。

何も焼酎を難しく説明することはなく、単に“Japanese Vodka”と言えば簡単に理解され、アメリカ人に受け入れられる。

このほかにマティーニやモヒト、さらには、Bloody Maryなどウォッカ やテキーラで作れるほとんどのカクテルが焼酎で出来るのでぜひ試されたい。



日本燒酒的可能性

不言而喻,發泡酒和加香酒很受歡迎;但令人驚訝的是,日本燒酒亦廣獲好評。
加冰塊、檸檬或可爾必思的日本燒酒均獲美國人好評。

以餐廳的角度而言——特別是在加利福尼亞州——最大的優勢是在於儘管其歸屬於蒸餾酒;但因其酒精成分只有24%或以下,故只須持有啤酒及葡萄酒許可證,即可販賣之。然而感到意外的是,去到當地時會發現很少餐館能夠有效地利用這些日本燒酒。從客戶的反應來看,與購買日本酒回家的人比較,更多人希望購買日本燒酒;所以根據促銷活動的展開,日本燒酒的銷售量仍大有可能增加。

即使沒有調酒師,一樣可以利用檸檬汁,葡萄汁,荔枝汁和碳酸輕鬆製作高利潤的雞尾酒(日式highball,即日本燒酒摻汽水)。

無須複雜艱難地解釋何謂日本燒酒;只需簡單地說「日本伏特加」,即可簡單容易獲美國人理解和接受。

除此之外,大多數可以用伏特加和龍舌蘭酒製作的雞尾酒——如馬丁尼和莫希托,以及血腥瑪麗等——都可以用日本燒酒製作,請務必一試。



소주의 가능성

발포주와 플레이버주는 늘 인기를 끌고 있는데 의외로 소주도 좋은 평가를 받고 있습니다.

소주는 온더록이나 레몬와리, 칼피스와리 모두 미국 사람들에게 인기가 있다.

레스토랑 입장에서 보면, 특히 캘리포니아주에서는, 증류주라도 알코올이 24% 이하면 Beer & Wine 라이센스로도 판매할 수 있어 큰 메리트가 있습니다. 그러나 실제 이 소주를 효과적으로 활용하는 레스토랑은 의외로 적습니다. 고객의 반응을 보면 니혼슈를 사가는 사람보다 소주를 구입하려는 사람이 많은데, 판촉만 제대로 한다면 아직도 성장 가능성이 있다고 볼 수 있습니다.

바텐더가 없어도 레몬주스, 포도주스, 리치주스와 탄산으로 높은 마진의 칵테일 (츄하이)을 간단히 만들 수 있습니다.

소주를 어렵게 설명하지 말고 간단히 "Japanese Vodka" 라고 소개하면 미국 사람들도 쉽게 이해하고 받아들일 수 있습니다.

이것 말고도 마티니나 모히토, Bloody Mary 같은 보드카나 데킬라로 만드는 대부분의 칵테일도 소주로 만들 수 있으니 꼭 시도해보시기 바랍니다.
#alljapannews #shochu

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An innovative concept which never existed in New York before. “ZAUO” where you can eat the fish you have just caught

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An innovative c... An innovative c... An innovative c... An innovative c... An innovative c... An innovative c... An innovative c... An innovative c...
By Aya Ota

“ZAUO”, where you can have the fish you have just caught cooked, and eat right there----a restaurant with such an innovative concept which is unprecedented in New York, is the talk of the town now.

First, the customer would decide which fish he or she wants to catch. In the restaurant, there are 3 fish tanks, and about 10 different kinds of live seafood items, which alternate every season, are kept there, and consist of rainbow trout, striped-bass, fluke, flounder, lobster, Dungeness crab, abalone, etc. Depending on the kind of fish, the tools and methods of catching differ. Staff called “Fish Attendants” would help you so you don’t need to worry. Once you catch your aimed item, the floor staff cheers for you by hitting a drum. After that, you choose the cooking method of your choice: salt grilled, tempura, simmered in soy sauce, sake-steamed, etc. Half & Half, in which a piece of fish is divided into 2 halves, and one half is used for shabu shabu, and the other half is salt grilled, etc., is especially popular. It makes you feel really special that you eat what you just caught which is cooked immediately while it is still fresh. There are additional services such as making miso soup with the fish head and bones, making crunchy senbei of fried fluke or flounder bones, etc. You can taste your caught item in its entirety without wasting any part.

Besides the above-mentioned fishing menu, for which the fished items are cooked, they offer a rich variety of a-la-carte menu items such as sushi, sashimi, seafood bowl, salad, and miso soup. You can start fishing right away, or you can enjoy sake and appetizers first, and then challenge yourself to fish. The restaurant has 3 stories. The first floor has lively seating near large fish tanks, private room like spaces, and a bar counter. You can watch fish swimming underneath from the mezzanine floor, or the 2nd floor interior gives you the sense of being on a boat, Whether you are a couple, part of a group, or by yourself, you can enjoy various ambiences by going to different floors. Customers often use this place for family outings with children or for birthday parties. From this June, they have just started using the 3rd floor. It is a quiet space very different from the 1st and 2nd floor, and omakase sushi is served there.

I can imagine that in order to realize such an unprecedented concept, they must have experienced a lot of difficulties in building construction and application for permits, etc., on top of gaining the understanding and cooperation of the involved parties. However, “I never really thought that I was struggling,” says Mr. Takuya Takahashi, President of Zauo Inc. cheerfully. He is also the Vice President of Harbor House Inc. (based in Fukuoka), which has developed 13 “ZAUO”s in Japan. This company was founded in1986, and was originally operated as an apparel business dealing with novelty products and uniforms. They expanded their business, and have developed a total of 20 restaurants besides “ZAUO”s, which include izakaya and teishoku chains. In 2014, when he was visiting New York with his brother, the President of Harbor House Inc., he felt the strong urge to do something in this town full of diversity. Back then, he was doing the market research and looking for locations flexibly without focusing on a particular business model. Then, he decided to develop the “ZAUO” concept, which has a strong, unique characteristic that differs from others. Sometimes, the experience and knowledge he gained from “ZAUO”, Japan, was useful, but some things were totally different in the US. Many customers come for the fishing experience without recognizing the restaurant as a Japanese restaurant, and taste Japanese food or sake for the first time. Some want rice as a side menu item of the western cuisine, so they started to offer it for free. In order to accommodate diversified preferences, restricted diets, and allergies, they offer meats, and vegetarian dishes as well. For those who are not accustomed to eating whole fish, they serve it with no skin and bones to attentively respond to the detailed needs. Moreover, they created a position called “Fish Attendant”, which exists only at this restaurant, and educate the staff for it so they can become confident and take joy in this unique position. Mr. Takahashi himself, who has the determining rights, takes the lead on site, so flexibility and power of actuation is excellent.

“I would like to produce joyfulness, focusing on the importance of sense of unity among customers and staff,” says Mr. Takahashi. His quote also holds a wish for having people understand not only the joys of eating something they caught themselves, but also conveying the understanding of expressing gratitude for each precious life to be taken and consumed with respect.


これまでニューヨークになかった革新的なコンセプト
自分で釣った魚を食べられる『ZAUO』


「自分で釣った魚をその場で調理してもらう」…これまでニューヨークには存在しなかった斬新なコンセプトの店、『ざうお』が話題だ。

客は来店するとまず、どの魚介類を釣りたいか決める。店内には3カ所のいけすがあり、ニジマス、シマスズキ、ひらめ、かれい、ロブスター、ダンジネスクラブ、あわびなど、季節ごとに変わるが常時約10種類の魚介類がいる。種類によって釣り具や捕獲方法が異なるが、「フィッシュ・アテンダント」と呼ばれる店員が助けてくれるので安心だ。お目当ての魚介類を釣り上げると、店員が太鼓を叩いて盛り上げてくれる。その後、塩焼き、天ぷら、煮付け、酒蒸しなど、好みの調理方法を選んで料理してもらう。特に、一匹の魚を半身はしゃぶしゃぶ、半身は塩焼き…という具合に、二通りに調理してもらう「ハーフ&ハーフ」が人気。自ら捕獲した魚介類を、新鮮なまま調理してもらって食べる醍醐味は格別だ。頭部と骨を味噌汁にしたり、ひらめやかれいの骨を揚げて骨せんべいにしたり…という追加サービスもあり、釣果を無駄なく丸ごと味わい尽くすことができる。

釣った魚介類を調理してもらうフィッシング・メニュー以外にも、寿司や刺身、海鮮丼、サラダ、味噌汁など、アラカルト・メニューも豊富に用意されている。来店してすぐに釣り始めてもいいし、お酒や前菜を少し楽しんでから釣りに挑戦してもいい。店は3階建てのビル全体を活用した構造で、1階には、大型のいけすが近い賑やかな席、個室風の席、バーカウンターがある。足下に泳ぐ魚を眺められる中2階、実際に乗船しているような臨場感ある内装の2階…カップルでも団体でも一人でも、フロアや席を変えて異なる雰囲気を味わえる。子供連れの家族層や誕生会などに利用されることも多いという。6月からは3階での営業を開始し、1〜2階とは全く異なる閑静な空間で、おまかせ寿司を提供。プライベートイベントにも対応可能な空間も用意している。

これまでに例のない概念を実現するには、関係者の理解や協力を得ることはもちろん、建設工事や許認可申請など多くの障害があっただろう。しかし、「あまり苦労していると感じたことはない」と明るい笑顔で話す『ZAUO INC.』社長の高橋拓也氏氏。日本で『釣船茶屋ざうお』を13店舗を展開する『株式会社ハーバーハウス』(本社:福岡県)の副社長でもある。1986年創業の同社は、もともとノベルティ商品やユニフォームなどのアパレル業からスタートしたが、事業を拡大し、『ざうお』以外でも居酒屋や定食屋など複数の業態を含め約20店舗を展開する。2014年に、高橋氏が社長である兄と、市場調査を目的にニューヨークを訪れていたときに「多様性あふれるこの街で何かやりたい」と直観。当初は業態を絞り込むことなく柔軟に調査や物件探しを進めていたが、他と差別化できる強烈な個性を持つ『ざうお』を展開しようと決断した。日本の『ざうお』での経験や知識が役立つこともあれば、全く異なることもあった。釣りをきっかけに、同店を日本食店と認識せずに来店する客も多いため、初めて日本食や日本酒を口にする人もいる。西洋料理のサイドメニューのようにご飯を要求する客もいて無料提供を開始した。多様な嗜好性、食事制限やアレルギーに対応するべく肉やベジタリアン料理も提供する。丸ごとの魚を食べ慣れない客には骨や皮を外してあげるなど、細かい要望にも丁寧に対応する。また、「フィッシュ・アテンダント」という他店にない職種に自信と喜びを感じられるよう教育をしているという。決裁権ある高橋氏本人が現場指揮を執っているため、柔軟性と行動力が抜群だ。

「お客様やスタッフとの一体感を大事に、楽しさを演出したい」と高橋氏。自分で釣った魚を食べられる楽しみを伝えるだけでなく、感謝して命をいただくという食育の願いも込められている。



ZAUO
152 W 24th Street
New York, NY 10011
Tel: 646-905-2274
https://zauo-newyork.com/
5:00 pm to 10:30 pm (Last Order 10:00 pm) 7days week
#alljapannews #NY #ZAUO #sushi

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