Kowalski’s popular sushi chef, known as Dragon, makes nice over rice in Eden Prairie. He rolls out the hospitality for take-out customers daily with tuna, tempura, California, and, yes, even dragon rolls.
How did you get your nickname?
From friends when I was a student in Burma. It’s a long story.
Where did you train?
I learned how to make sushi as a teenager, from old Japanese ladies in Thailand. I’ve only been making sushi professionally for three years, mostly at Kowalski’s. Before that, I worked at a restaurant in Chicago. Sushi is popular right now, so I thought if I took up the business, it would be good for me.
Do you miss the restaurant environment?
Making sushi at a restaurant and a grocery store is different; I like the grocery store better. All of the people around me are friendly. Restaurants are for people who already love sushi. Here it’s different; some people have never tried sushi before.
How do you make the introduction?
Some people think sushi means raw fish, and they are scared to try it. I explain that sushi does not mean fish at all; it means rice and vinegar in Japanese. I let them try cooked sushi, like tempura shrimp; after they try it, they often like it.
Is there a secret to making good sushi in Minnesota?
You just have to know how people around here like it. When I make the spicy sauce, it’s milder than at other sushi bars. And I don’t put a lot of prepared-sushi packages in the cooler; I prefer to make it fresh for people.
What is the most popular item at your sushi bar?
The tempura shrimp and the spicy tuna. The first-time customers just want to try something popular and regular, like the California roll.
What’s your latest?
This holiday season, we tried to make new kinds of sushi. We tried blue-crab rolls and also spicy tempura chicken. We still make them, but I don’t do a lot; people love the fish.
What kinds of customers do you see?
A lot of kids around here buy sushi. Some of them collect the quarters in their piggy banks or whatever. When they have $5 or $6, they come to buy sushi. Other people buy sushi from me every day, and never miss a day.