Weekend Tribune sits down with the lady behind Sushi Samurai and Shanghai 10, Mehreen Mansur.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the restaurant business?
I’ve always been inclined to all things artistic. But the real reason I started this was to fill a socioeconomical gap in the food scene in Dhaka. It seemed as if all the “good” restaurants were overpriced or snobby, preferring to cater to elites who can go to the West for food on weekly travels overseas anyway. It seemed to me that the vast majority of people in Dhaka were stuck eating fried fast food items with little variety and below par ingredients. I wanted to fill that gap and create high quality but still affordable food.
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How did you get started?
I was just curious to try my hand at a small business run from my home kitchen. At first, I never anticipated more than a few orders a day, max! I started Sushi Samurai for a variety of reasons – I really wanted to ramp up the competition and do my part to raise the bar in the food scene here. I craved North American style Chinese food which is why Shanghai 10 came about. It’s not the typical Chinese you get here and we boast that we have no onions in our kitchen! Pure white meat. Training the chefs for both brands was equally tough, as I wanted to implement close versions of what I grew up eating overseas, moving away from the traditional Japanese options available, and just having more fun with the food and allowing our customers to partake in that too!
What are your day to day responsibilities?
Ensuring the operations are running like a well oiled machine. My management team is great and the chefs are all very responsible and aim to please. I have a really dedicated hard working, loyal staff and quality control team with me that we owe our entire success to. We have top sashimi experts at the upper level in our kitchen who ensure proper protocol and handling. All the recipes and concepts come from me, so our kitchen operates without a “head chef” system. There is an egalitarian policy and that creates a friendly atmosphere in our kitchen.
What's your secret to keeping customers coming in?
Great customer service, all the way! Customer first attitude. Striving for higher consistency standards than many in town. We truly stand by it.
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What are some of the items from the menu which are popular among your customers?
Our sushi of course are popular for Sushi Samurai. Whether basic California rolls (of which we have four varieties) or fancier flame torched highly complex artful options, we are here for all tastes. Our sticky rice and bulgogi and lettuce or kimchi bowls are super popular as they offer all food groups in a bowl. Our Nagasaki Ramen is a big hit! Our sashimi tartare salad bowls are a super healthy option that I created for myself and family as balanced light lunch options.
At Shanghai 10, our medley of dim sum are top notch and at Tk350 per platter with sauces. We have lots of items. Prawn sui mai, Prawn Hargao, Broccoli cheese mushroom, all of our dim sum are popular. In hot dishes, general tso, orange chicken, wow fried rice, and chicken bok choi reign supreme. Crab Cream cheese Rangoon wontons are a hit too! We don't use onions in our main dishes or other fillers, only silky pure meat.
How much should we expect to pay at your restaurants?
Both average to around Tk800-1,000 per head, but depends on how hungry you guys are! It can be as low as Tk350 per dish and that is really satisfying! You will get a fine dining experience no matter what the bill size.
What are your future plans?
Horse & Horse is the Continental cuisine restaurant we are opening in Banani, Road 11 – it will feature proper NYC style weekend brunch, authentically seasoned continental foods, and a great selection of modern cutting edge salads and dishes for Dhaka to enjoy!
What is that one thing you would like to tell your customers?
I am a mass market high quality brand. We hope you enjoy our contribution to the food scene in Dhaka, and look out for more yummy treats coming your way!