Eli Ramos and Kazuyuki "Kaz" Ishikawa met while working at the Metairie Japanese restaurant Shogun several years ago. Ishikawa, a native of Japan, garnered followers for his culinary style blending traditional Japanese methods and techniques he honed while working in California. Last year, Ishikawa and Ramos, a server in the sushi bar section, started hosting the monthly pop-up series Ohm-Ma-Kaz-E at the Ohm Lounge inside Barcadia. All the events are posted on their K & E NOLA Facebook page (www.facebook.com/kazandelinola). Ramos spoke with Gambit about the pop-ups.
: What sparked the idea for an omakase-style sushi pop-up?
Ramos: Kaz is a native of Japan. He learned the traditional Japanese culinary arts. For five years, he was the executive chef at Boss Sushi in Beverly Hills, where he was recruited by the owner of Shogun, who was looking for new talent to take over her sushi bar. That's where we met. ... He asked if I would stick with the sushi bar, so we established a set schedule; there were six nights when we would work as a team. I noticed he was putting out this incredible food. I would see attempts at doing similar things at places like Nobu and other places in New York and Las Vegas. People were waiting for two hours on a Saturday night to eat in his section. Eventually we sat down and talked and decided to open something together. That was a year ago, and since then we've been doing the pop-up dinners at Ohm, private dinners and catering. We've been actively pursuing a brick-and-mortar location.
: How do the events work?
R: We do two-night-a-month events. We book the dates and advertise them on Facebook. People have to purchase their tickets in advance for the dinner. Tickets to the event are $75. There's also bar and sake pairing options available.
We usually open the doors at 6:30 p.m. and start seating around 7 p.m. We do assigned seats. ... It comes out to about 36 (seats). We really care about the customer's experience to the point where it may seem a little OCD or over the top.
We do a little introduction and then just start popping it out. We do it course by course; everyone gets served at the same time. It's omakase style, so there's no menu. We do six courses and a dessert. ...
The next dates are Oct. 5 and 6, and then Oct. 20 and 21.
: Where do you get the seafood?
R: We generally get seasonally whatever is on hand from Japan. ... We are fortunate that we have a contact in Japan that will go down to the (seafood) market and handpick the ingredients for us. We're able to maintain the cost at a relatively manageable rate, considering that some of the fish you're eating could have been caught a day or two before, flash-frozen in Japan and sent immediately to us. He's out there at 2:30 in the morning looking at the fish and making sure it works. He worked for Kaz for many years and he knows the quality that (Kaz) is trying to maintain.
There are some times when a fish that (Ishikawa) wants to serve may not be available in Japan, so we will try to locally source that, and we use Inland Seafood. We do some of the classics, like salmon — we like to use king salmon — (and) yellowtail; tuna and albacore we get from Japan; and we do an octopus, shrimp and scallop ceviche.