Food & Drink Awards 2017

LUX - Food & Drink Awards 2017 73 Most Innovative Sushi Restaurant - Singapore Sushi Airways offers a unique gastronomic adventure on board Singapore’s first and only aircraft themed restaurant. Owner Arul Inthirarajah tells us more about this innovative establishment and how it cultivates a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Company: Sushi Airways Contact: Arul Inthirarajah Contact Email: [email protected] Address: 20a Baghdad Street, 199659, Singapore Phone: 0065 6291 1151 Website: Sushi Airways is a sushi bar and Japanese restaurant which takes as its design inspiration the classic and timeless qualities of the DC-3 aircraft in order to differentiate itself in a highly competitive food and beverage landscape. Arul discusses the inception of this creative concept and how he has developed it into a popular restaurant. “When I first located the property that Sushi Airways now occupies in the iconic Arab Street quarter of Singapore, and decided to use it for a restaurant, I realized that the area was crowded with a plethora of eateries offering Middle Eastern and Turkish cuisine, providing a magnet for diners to come to the area. Somewhat counter-intuitively, I felt that it would be an advantage rather than a disadvantage to offer a cuisine that would stand out from the crowd, rather than to play to the existing gallery. I also recognised that it would take skilful execution and a dedicated vision to make it succeed. “After much research, I decided on a restaurant that would initially attract customers on the basis of its theme, but that would subsequently retain their patronage by offering them consistently excellent food. I needed a concept that would make this restaurant equally attractive as a destination restaurant for diners further afield. “After evaluating the unique architectural features of the property, I came to the conclusion that its long narrow shape, its many windows and the elevated location on the upper level of a two-storey listed property lent itself to being developed thematically into the interior of an aircraft. It was only after all this that I decided on the cuisine to be served. Japanese cuisine was quickly becoming more appreciated in Singapore, so I opted to open what would be the only sushi restaurant in the area at the time. I found an experienced chef to provide a strong operational footing for the new business, and the first design for the restaurant was finalized and implemented. It was thus that Sushi Airways was ‘air-borne’.” It is the level of excellence that the establishment provides that has helped it to grow and flourish despite the competitive nature of Singapore’s restaurant market, as Arul explains. “Since inception, word of mouth, a strong social media presence, and repeated mentions in the press (including numerous inflight magazines which highlight Sushi Airways as a place to visit in Singapore) have all contributed to the restaurant’s success. We had to deliver in overall customer experience to maintain these numbers, and I am pleased to say that I believe we have. “At lunch, our clientele are mainly office executives who frequent us for our set lunch specials. We are also popular with ladies-who-lunch who favour our a-la-carte menu. Some patrons have also chosen to make Sushi Airways their choice for corporate entertainment. It is certainly different from your run-of- the-mill Japanese restaurant. Lately, we have even had the pleasure of receiving a thumbs-up in satisfaction from CEO Tony Fernandes of AirAsia after he dropped in for lunch. “For dinner, our customers are usually young to middle-aged adults who focus on our exotic seasonal menu items and the top selling favourites, our signature Maki rolls. These are discerning clientele who are well travelled, knowledgeable about Japanese cuisine, and who appreciate the exotic and the unusual, like shirako (cod sperm or milt), uni (sea urchin) served in their shells (so fresh that one can taste the waters of Hokkaido as one slurps up their roe), and crisp deep-fried sawagani (tiny crabs found in the cold mountain streams of Japan) which one pops into one’s mouth with a delightful crunch.” The menu is a key draw that brings people back for more, as Arul is eager to emphasise. “My chef and I work together to update our main menu every eighteen months and our seasonal menu that changes every week. Our regulars look forward to the consistent quality of our food and our innovative and exciting menu choices. I have also designed and implemented a unique uniform for our service crew, which is a cross between a kimono and a traditional “My chef and I work together to update our main menu every eighteen months and our seasonal menu that changes every week. Our regulars look forward to the consistent quality of our food and our innovative and exciting menu choices.” Chinese qipao, an outfit that is not only original, but elegant and practical as well.” Looking ahead, Arul has a number of exciting plans to grow Sushi Airways even further, as he highlights in his concluding comments. “To take Sushi Airways to even greater heights, we recently brought in a top-notch team of seasoned sashimi chefs led by our new Executive Chef. This has allowed us to enhance our ability to deliver a superior ‘Omakase’ experience for our customers as an additional dining choice. ‘Omakase’ means ‘leave it up to the chef’, and is usually offered in the finest of Japanese restaurants, allowing our Business Class diners a chance to savour a First Class experience.”