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Japanese immigrant Toshihiro Kasahara forever changed Seattle’s food scene in 1976 when he decided to use sugar in his teriyaki sauce instead of the traditional sweet rice wine at his new restaurant, Toshi’s Teriyaki Restaurant. Though Kasahara’s restaurant garnered much-deserved praise, it wasn’t until 1983 that Korean immigrant John Chung created a version of teriyaki that catered to the lunchtime rush and established teriyaki as an iconic fast food of Seattle.
Decades later, teriyaki is commonplace across the country, though oftentimes “Japanese in name only” as the New York Times reported in 2010. KSP Restaurant Group, the team behind Poke Burri, Lifting Noodles Ramen, and the Asian food hall PH’EAST in The Battery Atlanta, hopes to distinguish itself from the mall kiosk and stand-alone teriyaki fast-food restaurants with their latest concept, Atlanta Teriyaki.
The team at KSP, led by Seven Chan and Ken Yu, have made a name for themselves by taking traditionally Asian foods and giving it a modern twist. With this formula, the group has found success in their sushi burritos and donuts at Poke Burri and their modernist take on traditional ramen at Lifting Noodles.
“We always just want to put a new impression of what somebody thinks of a certain food or a certain kind of cuisine,” Chan said in an interview with What Now Atlanta. “Like with ramen, you go everywhere and you expect kind of the same thing. But for us, you come in and you have something you’ve never had before, something that may change your whole impression of ramen.”
When approaching teriyaki with that mindset, KSP wanted to elevate the ingredients they were using, from the sushi-grade Japanese rice to the from-scratch teriyaki sauces they make in-house.
“We’re elevating it for people that are only used to one very specific kind of teriyaki, and I think for most people that’s the mall, you know that kiosk in the mall food hall,” he said. “This is a place that tries to make really good teriyaki and focuses on that. I don’t think that really exists out there. I don’t think people have tried teriyaki in a way that if you go to Japan and saw my grandma making that recipe for 50 years.”
The concept for an upscale teriyaki restaurant has been bouncing around KSP for three years. However, it was pushed back when the group started opening more Poke Burri and Lifting Noodles locations.
“It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a very long time, something we’re super excited about and we just have not had the chance to do,” Chan said. “Now we have the time, we have the resources, so why not?”
Located in the We Suki Suki collective, where Lifting Noodles Ramen first launched, Atlanta Teriyaki will open in mid-August.