Sushi Song's Wijai "Song" Ketsuwan: "I Do It the Way I Like It and Hope People Like the Same"
We're impressed by anyone who has the guts to open a restaurant of his own -- in case you didn't know, the business is tough as hell.
We're even more impressed when said restaurateur is young.
When one is 35 with three locations under one's belt, we're ready to give a round of applause.
Recently, Wijai "Song" Ketsuwan opened the third location of his namesake Sushi Song restaurant in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
We spoke to the young chef and restaurateur about his style of sushi, late nights, and more.
Clean Plate Charlie: First off, how did you come to be in South Florida?
Ketsuwan: I've been in the States for 14 years now; I'm originally from about two hours north of Bangkok. When I first moved here, I went to live with my aunt in New York [she's in the restaurant industry]. I lived there for a few months, but I didn't like it. I didn't like the weather and everything. My cousins own Sushi Rock Las Olas. They offered me a job, and I came down.
Is that when you got into sushi?
I never cooked before that. I got a bachelor's degree in hospitality and hotel management in Thailand. I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer, but I didn't speak enough English, so I started making sushi. Chef Umimo at Sushi Rock was my mentor. He's Japanese; he taught me everything. I started with him about 13 years ago, but I've worked in sushi restaurants all over the area. I've worked at Thai-Sushi Express in Boca [same owners as Lemon Grass], Sushi Jo in West Palm Beach, Sushi Simon, and Furin in Delray Beach. I worked for other people for eight years before I opened my own place.
How would you describe your style of sushi in comparison to others in the area?
I like to use Japanese ingredients, but Thai like to eat with more flavor; we don't like plain. Like, when I make dumplings, I try to do it the way I like it, and I hope people like it the same. My style is easy and good. I like anything with tuna. I love spicy. My hamachi jalapeño, and spicy tuna tartar with honey, kimchee, and hot sesame are two of my favorites.
When most restaurants close at 11 p.m. or midnight, Sushi Song is open until at least 2 a.m. (4 a.m. in your new location). Why are you open so late?
I like to stay up at night. I like to party. I don't sleep at night, so I'm open the time I like. I get up around 10 or 10:30 a.m. and come here at about 12:30 p.m. now. I have a lot to do these days.
Where do you like to eat when you dine out?
When I'm looking for Thai, I like Sukhothai sometimes and Thai Bayshore. I love the lamb chops at Greek Islands. I eat at Peter Pan all the time; the food is good. I eat everywhere. I like Coconuts and G&B Oyster Bar; SoLita; Marumi Sushi.
Sushi Song is located at 209 SW Second Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-764-7664, or visit sushisong222.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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