Haru Sushi works to remain a ‘friend’ to La Jollans despite the pandemic
Despite restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Haru Sushi in La Jolla is still open to serve the fresh, creative dishes that patrons have come to know.
The restaurant at 7441 Girard Ave. is currently open only for dinner but continues to provide Japanese staples such as sashimi, nigiri and rolled sushi, ramen (noodle soup with meat and specialty toppings), teppanyaki (meat or seafood grilled with toppings and sauce), yakisoba (egg noodle stir-fry with meat and vegetables and soy sauce-based yakisoba sauce), hibachi (sauteed seafood with soy sauce-based hibachi sauce) and more.
Since opening Haru Sushi in 2018, manager Nak Joon Kim has prided himself on providing the freshest fish at a neighborhood-style restaurant. Almost all the customers are local, and the majority of first-timers come back, he said.
“We are happy that most La Jolla people know us,” he said. “It’s a hidden place for our La Jolla neighbors. I wanted that kind of concept. I see the customer as not just a patron, I see them as a friend, a neighbor. In La Jolla, the people know the businesses in the community, they know the restaurants and the ones that take care of the customers. A customer is not just money; we think of the customer as someone to share with, and they like that.”
Kim said Haru stands out in that everything is “very fresh and healthy,” with high-quality fish offerings that change as fishing conditions do.
“We don’t have anything precooked,” he said. “That way, the food is fresher and tastier. When you make a salad, you don’t want one that was made that morning, you want it crispy and fresh. And we think about people’s health. We use fibrous vegetables in everything we make.”
The La Jolla restaurant is Kim’s fourth in San Diego. He trained at the Japanese Culinary School in his native South Korea and worked for Sheraton before coming to the United States and joining his sister’s sushi restaurant in Denver. He opened his first San Diego sushi spot in 2005.
“I want to do my style, my thinking, my concept,” he said. “I know the culture and I know the food, and if I like something, hopefully the customer will like it. I make the food in the homemade style. I eat my own food every day.”
Kim said hot dishes such as ramen and teriyaki are popular with customers and that people often order a variety of rolls because they “can’t decide” on just one.
When COVID-19 hit, a lot of customers bought gift certificates to continue to support the business, he said. Sales are down a little, “but not seriously.”
Kim said he is trying to operate as close to business as usual as possible, though onsite dining is only allowed outdoors. “I want to do what we do best. I keep the quality, same freshness and all the same things the people liked, and the customers can still do takeout.”
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