Chef Gordon Ramsay visits Sushi Ko, Thousand Oaks, CA, a sushi restaurant based in California run by award winning Chef Akira and his family. His children Hana and Sammy are upset as they see their father becoming more depressed and his wife Lisa is constantly criticizing him. They named Sushi Ko after the successful Sushi Ko restaurant that Akira worked in located in Bel Air. Business was booming when they opened but now it has dwindled away, it is devastating to Akira to see the restaurant so empty. They are losing $15-20,000 each month and are in hundreds of thousands of debt. Relationships are strained between Lisa and Akira and Akira and his children.
Gordon arrives and meets Lisa and Akira and they tell them the problem is there are no guests. Gordon wants to sample the food and is recommended to try a sushi pizza by Akira. He orders a bowl of miso, the sushi pizza is not recommended by Server Ashleigh but he decides to try it out of curiosity, the green tower and the salmon sashimi. The server informs him that he has ordered some of the best and the worst. The miso soup doesn't taste fresh, is salty and isn't very hot. The green tower has a grey hair in it so he decides not to eat it. The salmon sashini is frozen and chewy and the sushi pizza is rancid, an insult to pizza and Gordon spits it out. Gordon gathers the staff in the kitchen and discovers that the kitchen staff don't wear hats for service. Gordon discovers the soup is kept warm overnight and he tells them the pizza is an insult to both pizza and sushi. Gordon sits down with Hana and Sammy to discuss the restaurant and they admit they don't like being there and that they believe their father has given up but he won't listen to them. Sammy reveals he has given his father a total of $20,000+ from his own income as a photographer to help them stay afloat.
Gordon witnesses a dinner service with a busy restaurant due to Gordon's presence. To cut costs the sticks used to serve sushi are reused and some have bits of food left on them and are sticky. The customers aren't happy with the tempura broccoli they are served saying it is doughy and mushy. Gordon suggests to take the dish off the service and discovers that the fryer is malfunctioning and isn't hot enough. He also discovers that the mayonnaise is kept outside which Gordon says is a health hazard. He also finds that one fridge is hot and showing a temperature of 50, Akira tells him that it broke down 4 months ago. There is a box of ice to keep the items in there cool and Akira tells him it is only for vegetables. Gordon however discovers dairy, eggs and meat in there and is told it is a mistake for them to be in there. Gordon tries to get through to Akira but he doesn't respond to Gordon and Lisa tells him he thinks he has given up, Akira has no answers for Gordon. Lisa rants away about Akiras problems and Gordon tells her to be quiet to give Akira a chance to talk. Gordon sits Lisa, Hana and Sammy down to talk about Akira, Lisa tells Gordon about Akira when they first met and that he was a funny guy, whereas now he is a broken man and no longer smiles. Gordon tells them they need to bring Akira's confidence and self esteem back for the restaurant to work. Akira returns from a walk around the lake and they all talk positively about Akira to help lift his spirits. Gordon has refitted the kitchen with new equipment; new refrigeration units, deep fat fryers, a new freezer and a hob burner and Akira is overjoyed with them. Gordon also reveals that Akira is to cook in the kitchen in a come back service for relaunch night.
For dinner service there are two salmon specials alongside the sushi menu. Akira is excited about being behind the counter but wife Lisa does not appear to be supporting him, saying he is still not working hard and doesn't think he will follow through with the change. The first order went out to the customers incorrect as Akira did not check before sending the dish out and Lisa nags at him. He corrects the mistake and refocuses on the task sending out food that the customers enjoyed. Gordon tells Akira that the change is night and day and that he looked like he enjoyed what he was doing. He next talks to Lisa to say that she hasn't changed and she wasn't positive and was cold like a block of ice. He tells her to back off and she agrees she is a bitch to Akira and it's not a good way to be. Overnight they makeover the restaurant and Akira and Lisa appear holding hands and cuddling. They have revamped the décor with a fresh, contemporary design with artwork by son Sammy. The menu is also revamped with more modern sushi dishes.
Relaunch night sees traditional taiko drummers to begin the evening and a gong announces the reopening. Akira pushes the food out quickly and the customers are happy with the food until Akira loses focus and is focusing on other tasks than cooking. Without leadership, the kitchen is falling apart as Akira is taking dishes out to the table instead of solely cooking in the kitchen as the chef. Akira takes Gordons advice and returns to the kitchen, focusing solely on cooking. The staff however pulled together while Akira was away from the kitchen.
What Happened Next?
In the following days, there was an upturn in business and Akira and Lisa were working as a successful team. They decided to move the restaurants location to one with a lower rent and were searching at the time of filming. The restaurant closed in August 2009. Owner Lisa believes that the relaunch was too little too late and that the business had already failed. Sammy posted this on his blog,
"After four years of being at The Lakes in Thousand Oaks Sushi Ko has shut its doors. We have all tried so hard from the beginning and put in so much effort but it just never worked out. It feels as if we have somewhat lost a part of ourselves, and it is a bitter/sweet ending. Only a few months after we filmed Kitchen Nightmares and all got rejuvenated and excited to be there again, we got the bad news. We all went from being on such a high and happy with the “new” restaurant and then shortly after got pushed to the bottom. Somehow business got worse after we filmed it and the center seemed more deserted then it ever has been. Partly the economy, and partly ________, it was just not looking good. I am glad I got to go into the kitchen and learn the new menu and how to cook tho, it has been a great experience and I did not want it to stop. We(family) all had to bite our lips and keep it in for a month before we decided what we were going to tell everyone and what we were going to do, and it was really hard emotionally for all of us to go in there day after day knowing it was all going to end. After we started telling people with a month to go we all felt a little better. We decided to close doors to the public on the 8th of August, almost exactly four years after we opened."
After Sushi Ko had closed Nate 'n Al Delicatessen opened in it's space, this has since closed and reviews were bad. In it's place now is Unami Burger, a popular burger chain. Reviews are good.
Sushi Ko at the Lakes R.I.P - Sammys Blog
Nate 'n Als Deli Yelp
Umami Burger Yelp
Umami Burger Website
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