By Linda Garding
In May, 2011 Kobe’s Steakhouse and Sushi Bar opened in the Pinehurst Plaza in Bismarck. The Kobe’s restaurant was familiar to some local residents as there has been a Kobe’s in Fargo for quite some time. In fact, it turns out that one of the reasons Kobe’s opened in Bismarck was due to the requests and suggestions from numerous out-of-area customers. After listening to these requests, it was decided that locating another Kobe’s in the middle of North Dakota made sense.
Kobe’s is an upper scale restaurant with realistic prices, ranging from $2.00 soups to the upper $20’s or low $30’s for some of the full dinners on the teppanyaki (hibachi) menu. They offer both menu service from the sushi bar and back kitchen as well as hibachi service in the evenings and on week-ends where the chefs will cook at a grill in front of the customers. Prior to opening, it was anticipated that the hibachi grill would represent 60% of the business and the sushi and menu service would represent 40% of the business. Instead it has turned out to be the opposite with the hibachi representing 40% and the menu/sushi bar being responsible for 60%.
Tony Anderson, manager of Kobe’s, said they have received a warm welcome in Bismarck both from individual customers as well as other local businesses. It is their goal to be part of the community and since opening they have participated in raffles for schools and other local fund raising activities.
One novel idea was to open at 3:00 a.m. on Black Friday since some stores were opening at midnight and others were opening at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. They saw their early opening as a plan to provide coffee and a few small foods. Instead, the restaurant became so busy, they had to call in all their sushi chefs and wait staff to serve the restaurant full of customers. They were surprised that many of the customers wanted to order full dinners off the menu or sushi rolls from the sushi bar. Their Black Friday event was so successful that they will repeat it again next year as a special middle of the night opportunity for shoppers to take a break from shopping and try out their food.
One of the big tasks Kobe’s had before opening was to find and recruit chefs to come to Bismarck. Several sushi chefs were needed as well as the hibachi chefs who could put on a show for the customers. Currently, all of the chefs are Asian as well as a majority of the wait staff and hosts. Staff have come from several different states as far away as Hawaii, and seem to be adjusting well to Bismarck/Mandan.
Kobe’s has a large number of regular customers as well as new ones who come in to try the food. One night while sitting at a hibachi table, I was next to a gentleman who asked me if I had eaten there before. I told him, “Yes, I am a regular customer.” He said it was his first time there and he was enjoying it so much in terms of the hibachi show as well as the food that he intended to come back on a regular basis.
Another new customer, Carol, said she had no idea Japanese food was so good. These are the type of reviews Kobe’s likes to receive from their customers. Part of their goal in keeping the restaurant special and unique is to add new foods to the menu, sponsor Happy Hour in the bar, develop new drinks and start a catering business. Anderson said it is their goal to keep the restaurant “fresh.” Once the catering aspect starts, a customer can even have a sushi chef come to their home and serve home-made sushi to their guests.
Loyal customers will be happy to hear that Anderson said Kobe’s is happy to be doing business in Bismarck and plans to stay.
All photos by Linda Garding