RIYADH: Famous Japanese sushi restaurant Teruzushi, based in the Northern Kyushu prefecture, has opened its first overseas branch in Riyadh.
Located in the luxury VIA Riyadh precinct, the restaurant held a pre-launch event on May 11.
The restaurant was already the subject of attention after VIA Riyadh released a commercial starring famous Colombian-US model and “Modern Family” star Sofia Vergara, who at one point during the clip had a huge knife pointed at her by famous Japanese chef Takayoshi Watanabe, who later serves the actress sushi.
Arab News Japan spoke to Junpei Moriya, a chef at Teruzushi. He began his career aged 18 close to Tokyo in Gunma prefecture, an area famous for its countryside hot spring resort (Kusatsu Onsen) and which boasts the largest flowing hot water volume in Japan.
Moriya, who will turn 30 this year, later moved to Tokyo to learn how to prepare kaiseki-ryori, a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner that requires fine technique and preparation.
He continued on that path for 10 years but one day sent an Instagram message to Watanabe to ask for an opportunity to work at Teruzushi. He worked for two years under the celebrity chef in Japan before being offered a position at the restaurant’s new outlet in the Kingdom.
“It all started when I helped my mother cook by making a little omelet. I was incredibly happy when I saw my mom’s happy face when I made her that omelet,” Moriya told Arab News Japan.
Teruzushi — with 50 years of history across three generations of sushi chefs — is located in the small-town ward of Tobata in Northern Kyushu’s countryside.
Watanabe chose Saudi Arabia as the ideal location for the restaurant’s first overseas venture because it offered a rare and once in a lifetime opportunity to do business in the Middle East.
The Riyadh outlet is located inside VIA Riyadh’s Via Mercato, a luxury food market concept that offers a variety of artisanal and specialty food products to enjoy at home or in the market itself.
There are three Japanese chefs in the Riyadh branch — Watanabe, nicknamed “Sushi Bae,” Moriya, also known as JP, and Haruhisa Kitagawa, nicknamed BB, who hails from Tokyo prefecture.
Moriya said that the lack of sushi culture in Saudi Arabia offers an opportunity for the Japanese chefs to showcase their work, adding that he looks forward to the day when the raw fish dishes are accepted in the Kingdom.
“The most liked sushi is salmon, and tuna is extremely popular as well. As most Saudis like spicy food, yuzu pepper is popular, too,’’ he said.
“At Teruzushi, the food is divided into four seasons resembling the beautiful four seasons in Japan, and I feel that the seasons are one of the best things about Japan,” he added.
The restaurant changes its menu and ingredients with each passing season, with the exception of Watanabe’s favorite dish, kue (grouper fish), which is a mainstay of the celebrity chef’s videos on TikTok and Instagram.
“By having more Japanese food spreading, people understand how simple and delicious it tastes. That way Saudi people would want to come sightseeing in Japan,” Moriya said.