Meridian Industrial

KANSAI ASIAN BISTRO

6/1/2024 | MIASHA LEE

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Belchertown has a melting pot of cuisines from American to Italian, Mexican, Irish and Mediterranean. This year, folks can look forward to a new dining experience at Kansai, an Asian infusion restaurant that offers Japanese and Korean food. Kansai has a lot of Japanese options including sushi, ramens, hibachi, curry, and some of its Korean dishes are bibimbap, spicy pork, bulgogi and Galbi.

Though Kansai opened on April 11, the restaurant didn’t advertise that they were opening that day. Sushi Chef Donnie Kim said, “We put the open sign on and did a soft opening to see how things would go. It was pretty busy and I noticed that one of the customers had made a post on the Belchertown forum that Kansai was finally open and a few photos of our food. The next day, we were packed.”

Kim is also one of the partners at Kansai alongside Mitchell Gohn and Louis Ryu. Kisara in Easthampton and Kaisen in Agawam are their other two locations. Gohn is in charge of the servers and making sure the front of the house runs smoothly. He will be at Kansai full time as a sushi chef and manager. Ryu has been a chef for 26 years. He’s in charge of the kitchen staff, scheduling, ordering inventory, driving to Boston to pick up their fish, and takes care of a lot of the behind-thescenes tasks.

Kim has been in the food industry since he was 18. A family friend had opened the first Japanese restaurant in the area back in 2004 named “Oishi Sushi” located in West Springfield. This is when he learned how to prepare and serve sushi. His good friend at the time, Gohn, hung around the restaurant while he worked. Soon enough Kim was training him on the sushi bar. Twenty years later, here they are — still working together.

Kim, Gohn and Ryu were looking for a third location and noticed that Belchertown didn’t have the type of cuisine they can offer, so they thought it was a good idea to make that happen there. “We know Belchertown is an up-and-coming town,” said Kim. “It’s building and getting bigger. We thought it would be a good idea to open up there. We just want people to feel like they’re in a modern restaurant with an inviting friendly atmosphere. A nice sit-down place where they can bring their family and friends and enjoy their time and the food.” He went on to say, “What’s special about Japanese and Korean cuisine is the presentation — the work that goes into making a plate and the preparation of it. It takes a lot of work, time, and every ingredient needs to be very fresh.”

Kim loves when the customers are in awe of what he can do with sushi and appreciative of the time and effort he puts on their plates. He also likes to talk with the customers and get to know them. When people sit at the sushi bar, Kim likes to have them watch the beautiful plate that is created right in front of them, he said.

One go-to special plate Kim likes to prepare is called Tuna Tataki. It’s a seasoned piece of fresh tuna, lightly seared on the outside, thinly sliced on a plate with their house special sauce and different toppings each time. One plate he might add fried shallots and fresh scallions on top, another diced mango and sweet potato crisps.

Palmer resident Marie Fontaine has been to Kansai twice. She sat at a table by the sushi bar and thought it was amazing watching them make the food in front of you. “I second guessed my meal,” Fontaine shared. “Everything looked so good and fresh. I had the Boston roll, Philly roll and sweet potato roll. I think it has brought jobs to the community and some life back into the area.”

Local Realtor Dakota Richards, who primarily does business in Granby, Belchertown and South Hadley, stopped by and tried the teriyaki chicken bowl and crazy bowl roll, a soft-shell crab tempura with crab, cucumber topped with avocado, eel sauce, garlic chili mayo and sweet potato crunch. “It’s always great to have another local food establishment to dine at in the area with diverse options,” he said.

Right now, Ryu, Kim and Gohn’s goal for Kansai is to provide good food and service for the community of Belchertown and other surrounding areas.

KANSAI IS LOCATED AT 1 MAIN ST. IT IS OPEN TUESDAY AND
WEDNESDAY FROM 4-9 P.M., THURSDAYS FROM 11:30 A.M. TO 9 P.M.,
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY FROM 11:30 A.M. TO 9:30 P.M. AND
SUNDAYS FROM 12-8:30 P.M.

 

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