Raw potential

He’s served sushi to discerning diners in Tokyo and celebrities in Beverly Hills, Calif. Now, Jacob Takashi has brought his Japanese culinary skills to Red Deer.

Owner and chef Jacob Takashi readies a selection of items in the kitchen of Momo Sushi Thursday.

He’s served sushi to discerning diners in Tokyo and celebrities in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Now, Jacob Takashi has brought his Japanese culinary skills to Red Deer.

The owner of Momo Sushi, which was scheduled to open today, has been slinging sushi in North America since arriving from Japan in 1996.

He started in California, opening a Momo Sushi on Sunset Boulevard. Customers there included actors Tommy Lee Jones and Jackie Chan.

Takashi sold the restaurant to a friend and headed north to British Columbia, opening sushi restaurants in Kelowna, Westbank and Vancouver, B.C.

He said he prefers smaller communities, which is what brought him to Red Deer.

“A small town is better for me. I can make my own customers.”

Takashi also anticipates that local demand for sushi is going to grow.

“There’s very good potential here.”

Momo Sushi, he said, will compete on quality. Serving a variety of sushi — as well as tempura, teriyaki and salads — the restaurant uses its own sauces, developed by Takashi.

His formal training included a year at a professional cooking school in Tokyo. From there, Takashi attended evening classes at a sushi college while working at a restaurant.

“It’s very difficult,” he said of the two-year program. “Not easy to graduate.”

Ultimately, Takashi opened his own restaurant in the Japanese capital. He remembers rising early in the morning to hand-pick fish at a local market.

One of the challenges of operating sushi restaurants in North America is finding quality fish, he acknowledged. The style even varies between the United States and Canada.

“It’s just a little different.”

The name Momo is derived from the Japanese legend of Momotaro. Translated as Peach Boy, it’s about a young boy who is found inside a giant peach by a childless woman.

“I loved the character,” said Takashi.

Momo Sushi is located at 4819 48th Ave., the former downtown location of Restaurant Twenty Seven. Takashi will prepare the food himself behind a glass window that looks into the kitchen.

He hopes to open a second location in Red Deer, as well as a sushi restaurant in Sylvan Lake.

Momo Sushi is open Mondays to Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Customers can dine in or order food for takeout.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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