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Epicurious: Whistler’s Kazu Tsuchibora bringing a new flavour to town through Kumo

Traditional Japanese katsu sandwiches are on the menu every Monday and Wednesday in Function Junction
Kazu Tsuchibora packs a few katsu sandwiches for pick-up orders at his new restaurant Kumo in Function Junction.

In a town that has nearly endless food options, with cuisines from all around the world, one man is bringing something new to the people of Whistler—Japanese Katsu sandwiches.

Katsu simply means a crispy fried cutlet of meat made with traditional Japanese panko breadcrumbs. But for Kazu Tsuchibora, a Gifu, Japan native and Whistler local for the past six years, it means a chance at owning his own restaurant and bringing the people of Whistler something new and delicious in the process.

“Everybody likes sandwiches. I’m just try to do it a little bit different for Japanese taste. We are doing katsu. Katsu means deep-fried with egg. It’s very popular food in Japan, everybody likes katsu in Japan,” said Tsuchibora.

“It is very traditional; the katsu sandwiches [are] very popular in Japan. And we wanted to give an added option to everybody because its new thing from Japan. Vancouver has everything, but here, especially [during COVID-19], people can’t get everything from Vancouver. It is difficult, so we wanted to try a new way, a new thing, to give people something new.”

Initially, Tsuchibora moved to Whistler with a plan of staying for just a year. But like so many others in this town, he fell in love with Whistler and decided to stay. So, he got a work visa and began working at Teppan Village.

“I just came here for snowboarding, I was supposed to go back to Japan after one year,” he said.  “But I’m living here, and it has so much good praise that I decided I don’t want to go back to Japan, I want to stay here longer.”

It wasn’t until a few years later, after receiving his permanent residency, that Tsuchibora began thinking of one day starting his own business. And after a friend from the farmers’ market told him about Chirp Co-Kitchen, a shared kitchen that businesses can rent hourly instead of having to deal with the costs of a full-time kitchen, the plan started to come together.

And in March of this year, that idea came to life, and Tsuchibora started his restaurant Kumo—named for the Japanese word for cloud because of the online ordering format. 

Despite only being open on Mondays and Wednesdays for lunch right now, Tsuchibora—who still works as a chef at Teppan Village on the other days of the week—has big plans for his restaurant that include catering and one day finding his own space and making this his permanent job. However, the first step towards that is gaining popularity in the community.

“Our focus is on getting popular in Function. So, I’m focused on the locals. Also, I want to get into some catering, for like conference events and business. I want to bring delivery to a company or event for lunch or something,” he said.

“[We are] serving only Facebook and Instagram for now on the pre-order but I thought the Function people, some have no Facebook, no Instagram, but our goal [is to get] more popular. So, I’m trying to think, ‘how do I get more popular using the Facebook?’ I should bring sample or just menu to [businesses]. It’s now doing well but I’m trying to do more to get popular.”

While the menu is small, with just three unique sandwiches including chicken katsu, potato katsu and a vege sandwich—as well as the option to combine any of the three into one—the food doesn’t leave you wanting more.

Served on a soft fresh bun, the thick-cut chicken and potato katsu are served with teriyaki sauce and finely shredded cabbage mixed with mayo and mustard, giving a fresh element that pairs well with the deep-fried topping. The vege sandwich comes with the same finely shredded cabbage but also includes tomato, lettuce, avocado and a special vegetable sauce.

When asked what makes his sandwiches so good, Tsuchibora took a moment before explaining that it’s the combination of the good price, convenience and delicious traditional Japanese flavours that keeps people coming back.

“Sandwiches [are] very easy to eat, it’s not very expensive, easy to eat going into summer,” he said. “Good for walking, they bring it hiking, the winter sports, they can take it everywhere.”

Each sandwich costs between $11 and $11.50 and is served with edamame. Also, if you are in the mood for some dessert after your meal, Japanese roll cakes have recently been added to the menu and cost between $15 and $17 for a full cake or four dollars for one piece.

You can learn more about Kumo, or place an order for pick-up, on their Facebook or Instagram page.