Chef Mike Santos
When we decided to transform Tyn Lounge into something else, we looked at the competition around the area and new trends in dining. At Tyn it was more of a fine dining French/ Italian/Mediterranean cuisine place. There were a bunch of different restaurants around this area that offered the same types of food, so there was no distinction. I realized around this area there’s not many Japanese restaurants, and Japanese is a trending culture and a tending cuisine with the foodies – sushi, ramen, different sort of stuff, so it made sense to transform to a Japanese restaurant.
I am not Japanese, I am Filipino, but I have a lot of Japanese friends and they thought it was a great idea. This side of the city has a lot of Japanese and Koreans here on work visas and short term contracts. There’s a lot of small Korean restaurants around this area, but no Japanese ones and I thought this would be a perfect location.
The transformation into Gohan Sushi Lounge took about three months. We decided in January 2014 and opened up last April. We still ran Tyn Lounge with a limited menu, and we had all the corporate bookings from companies doing end-of-project parties and so on that kept us afloat during the transition.
Gohan Sushi transforms at night into something else. There are a lot of sushi restaurants here in Calgary already, and we didn’t want to be just a traditional sushi place, we wanted to appeal more to the younger generation and bring back some pop culture from Japan. There’s the body sushi event: that’s an actual traditional art form in Japan, not just something we invented, or something to objectify women, it’s the actual culture there. Since we’re a diverse city, I wanted to bring a piece of that tradition to Calgary.
We also have different live music and entertainment. We have an electronic violinist for “No Strings Attached,” a saxophone player presents “Sax in the City,” sometimes comedians, fundraising events, saki tastings, speed dating, something to get the younger generation in, check out the food and check out the atmosphere.
We have live DJs, international DJs and DJ champions. We partnered up with Beat Drop. a local music school with DJ classes: as part of student graduation we give them their first experience DJing in front of a live audience in a real venue.
There’s a lineup most nights. People love the atmosphere, but we get the best of both worlds since we’re not strictly a night club. People come for drinks and food, have some dinner and enjoy the evening, and as it progresses, more people come in and it becomes a fun night.
As part of this I’ve visited Japan and learned more about their culture. It’s transformed me – talking to a lot of Japanese people, chefs, saki reps, it’s a whole different vibe that’s helped with that.
I just want people to know that Gohan Sushi Lounge is not your typical sushi joint: come, check it out, go experience, go enjoy.
By Fred Holliss