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Happiness is… Sachi Sushi

The new kid on the Japanese chopping block survives first six weeks

When Sachi Sushi declared their menu "Japanese with a North American accent", they weren’t lying.

For starters, their menu features Japanese delights mixed with local Canadian produce, from wild salmon to farm fresh asparagus. The juicy tropical mango pieces aren’t quite Canadian.

But more interestingly, the two owner-operators personify their menu to the max, thanks to their upbringing. Dean Mawson who runs the front end of the business, is Canadian born and bred, with more than 10 years living on the west coast. His business partner, Tokyo born and bred head chef Toshiyuki Kobayashi, has been living in the Canadian west for nearly 20 years.

The two transplants ended up meeting in the hallowed halls of Sushi Village, often considered the flagship sushi restaurant in Whistler.

Kobayashi, known locally as "Koba", reigned as Head Chef for Sushi Village on and off for more than 10 years. He was lured to Whistler in 1986 by friends who knew his work in Vancouver’s Kamei restaurant contributed to making it one of the best in the country. Once in Whistler, he prepared the Village’s famous sushi sensations until 1989, when he decided to return to his native Japan. Koba, however, missed his two favourite hobbies – golfing and fishing – and made the trek back to Whistler and the restaurant he knew again in 1995.

It was then that Koba met Mawson, who had been managing Sushi Village for several years in his absence, and the two became firm friends thanks to a mutual appreciation for fine cuisine, fairways and fishing rods.

Talk soon turned to the possibility of opening a place of their own but the rents were too high for them to seriously consider it. Mawson left Sushi Village to manage Casa Tapas and Wine Bar and their dream idea was put on the back burner.

As good fortune for them would have it though, Kaiten Sushi gave up their site in the Summit Lodge on Main Street and after sitting vacant for a long time, the rent eventually came down. Koba and Mawson sprung into action and Sachi Sushi was born.

"Sachi means happiness in Japanese," smiled Mawson. "And it’s also the name of Koba’s son."

The recognition of family has been instrumental to the early success of the busy Sachi restaurant, now in its sixth week of operation. Mawson’s wife, Layna from Frugal Finishings, oversaw the design of the new store, making it a Feng Shui place to be. From a stone water fountain that greets you at the entrance to a sky blue and earthy ochre colour scheme, the room feels family-friendly. There’s several large booths for groups at the back and the sushi bar was completely rebuilt to allow easier access to the chefs at work, including a low counter to allow conversation with them.

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