When brothers Toshi and Yasu Kazaki opened Sushi Den in 1985, they weren't sure if their concept was going to take flight on Old South Pearl. Neither of them spoke fluent English, and every penny they had went into the restaurant, but the brothers welcomed the challenge. They were passionate about bringing premier sushi to Denver, and it didn't take long for locals to notice. Sushi Den is now in it's 27th year of business, and there's still a wait almost every night. Currently, the brothers are gearing up to move sister restaurant Izakaya Den next door, and they're finishing a 3,000 square-foot passive solar greenhouse in Brighton. They also have some secret plans for the vacant OTOTO space, which closed at the beginning of 2012. Here now, Toshi Kizaki tells Eater about snagging a table at Sushi Den.
Sushi Den is known for always having a wait. It's 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. How long is the wait? Thirty minutes to an hour.
How many covers do you do every night? Usually anywhere between 300-600 customers.
What's the longest wait you've ever quoted a guest? On a busy night, 2-3 hours.
How do people generally respond to the standard Sushi Den wait? We have a lot of regulars and many expect a wait. Most chose to have a drink at the bar and others go across the street to Izakaya Den for a cocktail or a snack while they wait.
How far in advance do you have to make reservations?
Unless you have a party of 6 ppl, Sushi Den doesn’t take reservations. The best is to bring a group of friends or reserve the Denchu Room for a private dinner. Requesting Omakase is a good way to reserve a seat.
Some people view Izakaya Den as the Sushi Den overflow restaurant. Is this accurate? Half accurate. Some go over to Izakaya Den if the wait is long, but Izakaya Den has its own loyal customers, many who we see as often as Sushi Den.
Do you think that will change when the restaurants are right next to each other? Of course, but we aren’t sure of all the changes that will take place just yet.
What is the plan for the OTOTO space? That’s a secret.
Fair enough. Tell us about your regulars. We have a lot of regulars and many make it a weekly routine. Some customers come everyday and order the same dish, and others come a few times a week for signature items.
Any VIPs? have several important groups that book the Denchu Room often and request a special Omakase from me.
Have you ever been offered money or gifts in exchange for a table? We are Japanese – bribes and gifts don’t work with us.
What's the strangest request you've gotten here? One guest asked me to serve whale. I've also been asked to serve fugu (blowfish).
What's the most important tool you need to do your job? Yanagi-ba-bocho — a long and very thin knife used in the Japanese kitchen, to prepare sashimi, sushi, sliced raw fish and seafood.
Where are you eating when you're not here? Pho and dim sum restaurants.
Sushi Den is one of select group of restaurants that did not participate in Denver Restaurant Week. Have you ever? Yes, we did it once, but it was really hard for our staff in terms of the work load. With the variety of our menu, the structure of Restaurant Week does not quite work for Sushi Den.
What's the biggest misconception about Sushi Den? Some people confuse Sushi Den with big chain sushi restaurants named "Sushi Den" in Japan. Our Sushi Den in Denver is individually owned. Others assume the restaurant is expensive. You can order big with wine, Champagne and sake, but we have many items that are priced well for the neighborhood.
· Previous Gatekeeper Features [EDen]
· Sushi Den Coverage [EDen]