Norwich’s longest-running sushi restaurant celebrates 15th birthday
- Credit: Archant
If Shun Tomii had followed his original plan, he wouldn't be in Norwich today, running a beloved family restaurant.
Shiki, on Tombland, is the city's longest-running Japanese restaurant, having opened in 2004, and arguably one of its most popular.
Its authentic dishes - with a focus on otsumami, sharable dishes from sushi to gyoza - have been enhanced by a distinctly Norfolk flavour, with plenty of local ingredients, including Colman's mustard, and a Norwich City season ticket holder in the kitchen.
This year, the restaurant marks its 15th birthday, with a special event on Sunday, from 12pm, based around okonomiyaki, a savoury Japanese pancake, in honour of Pancake Day.
But head chef and owner Mr Tomii had taken steps on another path before his life in the kitchen began, as he prepared to work at a French supermarket in Japan after leaving the University of East Anglia (UEA).
'My mum had opened the restaurant,' he said, 'and she said she needed help. I came back and didn't know anything about cooking but at the time we were going downhill. It was a mess, really - the quality was not as good as it is today.'
So he returned to Japan, where, for two years, he trained at a restaurant in a busy district near Tokyo.
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He said in the last 15 years, people had become more open to trying new cuisines.
'When I first came to Norwich 25 years ago there were a few Chinese restaurants, Thai and Indian, but it's very different now,' he said. 'There are big chains, Yo Sushi, Wagamama - there has been an extension of our kind of cuisine.'
But he said part of the job is still enticing people to try something new.
'Even after 15 years we still have people who have never been and have lived in Norwich for 30 years,' he said. 'We have people who eat wasabi as though it is avocado. Part of our role is to try and relax people and explain the ingredients.'
In a tough climate for restaurants, Mr Tomii said there had been slight ups and downs - last year was hard work, but the last two months had been strong - but that it was always a challenging industry.
For now, he said, they'll be sticking to what they know, serving good Japanese food - and dashing to Carrow Road between shifts.