Popular Sushi Thursdays to Continue Through June at Venue 655 Restaurant
Grand Lake Casino restaurant will showcase authentic Japanese and sushi dishes during special promotion.
Oishii and onaka ga ippai. While they might not have heard these two Japanese phrases during the last month, the waitstaff at Venue 655 Restaurant has definitely heard the English translations, “the food tastes delicious” and “I’m full”.
Since Sushi Thursdays began in May, the Grand Lake Casino restaurant has been drawing rave reviews from guests for its weekly offering of sushi and Japanese cuisine.
Responding to its guests’ enthusiastic reception, Venue 655 Restaurant has announced that the popular Sushi Thursdays will continue through June.
From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every Thursday, the regular menu at Venue 655 Restaurant will be replaced with one showcasing a selection of traditional and innovative Japanese dishes, including fresh-rolled sushi.
For Sushi Thursdays, the entire restaurant goes Japanese during both lunch and dinner. In addition to the Japanese cuisine, soy sauce replaces salt and pepper on the tables, ginger and wasabi are included on each plate and chopsticks are available for the adventurous diner.
“Sushi Thursdays has been very well received,” said Barbara Starchman, Grand Lake Casino food and beverage manager. “Everybody likes it.”
The menu includes a wide array of sushi rolls, ranging from a California roll with crab, avocado and cucumber to a mango crunch roll that is a tempura shrimp roll topped with fresh mango slices, tempura flakes and sauce.
Shrimp spring rolls, crab rangoon and egg rolls make up the appetizer menu. Served with miso soup, fried rice and vegetables, the entrees include chicken, beef and shrimp teriyaki.
Steak served with vegetables and fried rice is also available for both lunch and dinner.
Starchman credits Keiko Gann for the success of Sushi Thursdays. A bartender at the casino’s Center Bar, Gann was also the inspiration for the dining special.
A native of Japan, Gann created the menu for Sushi Thursdays using many of her own recipes. She also prepares the authentic Japanese dishes each week, including hand-rolling the sushi to order.
Gann has more than 30 years experience in the restaurant business as both a bartender and a cook. She also owned Japanese restaurants in Anderson, Mo., and Ohio. Most recently, she was involved in a restaurant in Joplin, where several members of the casino’s management team and some of her fellow coworkers were customers.
On a couple of different occasions, Gann prepared food for casino team members. That’s how the idea for Sushi Thursdays was born.
“Management, they love this too,” Gann said as she gestured at an assortment of appetizers, entrees and sushi rolls. “They asked me if I thought Japanese food would work at the restaurant once a week. I said, ‘yes.’
“This area is so cheated. Grove, Miami and Seneca, there is nowhere to go eat the sushi. I knew how many people from this area drive to Joplin to eat, so I knew people would like it here.”
While she enjoys her bartending gig during the remainder of the week, Gann is very happy to be sharing her heritage with the casino’s patrons once a week through the food she meticulously prepares.
In Japanese cooking, deliciousness and presentation play equal roles in every dish. To ensure each dish served on Sushi Thursdays meets this high standard, Gann spends every Wednesday getting ready.
“Japanese food is a lot of work. It’s like art, how you make it look. Bartending is easier,” Gann said with a smile. “Prepping is the important part. We have one day of prep. All the vegetables are hand chopped. Everything is prepared ahead of time, except for the sushi. You don’t make a pre-made sushi. You make each one right there when it is ordered.”
Jose Ramos assists Gann with the prep work as well as in the kitchen on Thursday. Gann has high praise for Ramos, who was the restaurant’s dishwasher before she taught him to cook, then how to make sushi.
“Jose picks up everything so fast. I show him once, then he can do it,” Gann said.
In addition to chopping vegetables, Gann and Ramos prepare three of the five different sushi sauces, hundreds of shrimp spring rolls and, according to Gann, “tons of crab rangoon.” Even the teriyaki sauce for the chicken, beef and shrimp teriyaki entrees is homemade.
“I make my own teriyaki sauce. Nobody has a teriyaki sauce like mine,” Gann said. “It’s only available here.”
When Sushi Thursdays started, many diners at Venue 655 Restaurant were excited; others were more hesitant.
Gann, who moved from Japan to Oklahoma to marry her husband in 1982, understands that authentic Japanese food can be intimidating, especially sushi.
That’s why the menu features what Gann calls “American-friendly sushi,” which means the sushi rolls and entrees are made with cooked fish. Raw fish is only included as a topper on two sushi rolls, the rainbow roll and the Fuji roll.
Another American aspect of the menu is a most untraditional ingredient not normally found in Japanese food — jalapeño. Adding jalapeño to sushi might sound like a gamble, but it’s a winner at Venue 655 Restaurant. In fact, the two the most popular items on the menu are the firecracker roll and the jalapeño bomb, both of which contain jalapeños.
For anyone who has never tried sushi or Japanese cuisine, Gann believes the delicious dishes and sushi rolls on the Sushi Thursdays menu will turn you into a fan.
“Everyone likes it,” Gann said. “I tell people try it once. They do and they like it. They say, ‘Oh my. Keiko, we like your food.’”
For those who are already lovers of authentic Japanese cuisine, come satisfy your craving at Venue 655 Restaurant’s Sushi Thursdays. It’s as close as you can get to Japan on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.
Venue 655 Restaurant is located in the Grand Lake Casino, 24701 South 655 Road, Grove. Call (918) 786-8528 for more information.
The restaurant is open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.