Diners get the best of both worlds at Kinja, where sushi chef Byoung Ho "Eddie" Lee and his wife, So Hyun "Sophia" Lee, have run the North Division restaurant since relocating it from Tacoma in 2013. Assisted by daughters SooJi Shin and Minji Shin, the family has since added Korean food to their mostly Japanese-inspired menu. So in addition to lots of flavorful signature rolls passing by on the conveyor belt (which is temporarily offline), the menu also features Korean classics like bi bim bap and bul go gi.
What will you be featuring for the Great Dine Out?
SOOJI SHIN: Chicken Katsu Bento Box, Black Pearl and the Jane Roll. These items have become extremely popular amongst customers. Our bento box comes with a variety of choices [shrimp tempura, gyoza, California roll, nigiri sushi, salad, rice], all for one price. Our Black Pearl roll is topped with all sorts of fish [tuna, salmon, yellowtail, red snapper, crabmeat] and our special sauces, which makes the roll delicious and fresh. And our Jane Roll [shrimp tempura, spicy crabmeat and tuna] will satisfy your crunchy, spicy cravings.
Every restaurant has handled shutdowns, restricted dining and mask mandates differently. What was your plan last year, and how did it evolve?
After shutting down, we only allowed takeout, but after a while we partnered with DoorDash, UberEats and GrubHub for delivery services. Ever since we used these delivery platforms, it helped with our restaurant's advertising. We are short-staffed due to the COVID-19 restrictions so food preparation may take a little longer than usual.
Any upside or good news from this past year?
Even after switching to takeout and delivery only, it still kept our restaurant very busy. We still make our food with extreme care, and we're adding more larger portions.
How have your customers responded throughout this past year?
Our customers have shown gratitude, appreciation and support for our business, and we are very grateful. We have been seeing more familiar customers from pre-COVID days, and we have also noticed there are new faces too, which also makes us very happy.
Since yours is a family-run restaurant, you have an additional level of concern, not only for the business but for each other. How did that affect the family?
For the last question, before COVID-19 hit, our restaurant was open seven days a week, which was exhausting. Now, we rest on Wednesdays, which allows us to spend more time at home and with each other. After removing dine-in from our restaurant, this gave us more time to garden and plant more outside at home, and allowed us to adopt two pet bunnies: Mocha and Vince.