Like many restaurateurs, David Rasavong is second-generation. His parents operated restaurants in San Francisco and Fresno, and joining them seemed natural.
“In my mid-20s, I decided, maybe I do like this, and I jumped into the restaurant industry,” Rasavong said.
Last year, he opened Banzai Japanese Bar and Kitchen (603 E. Olive Avenue, Suite C in Fresno) in the Tower District.
He also operates the Lincoln Pub & Grub next door.
Sushi Sized for a Behemoth
“They’re definitely a lot more out there in terms of they’re really large, they’re in your face.” — Banzai Japanese Bar & Kitchen owner David Rasavong
Sushi is on the menu as part of Banzai’s specials for Restaurant Week. Thirteen area eateries are offering specials for $20.22 as part of the California Restaurant Association, Fresno chapter event that runs through Sunday, Jan. 30. A full list can be found here.
“Restaurant Week is very exciting for us, just because it’s January and historically restaurants are slower because after the holidays. People are kind of a little bit more low-key. They don’t go out as much,” Rasavong said.
The week offers restaurants a showcase to try new menu items.
“They’re definitely a lot more out there in terms of they’re really large, they’re in your face. And, at Banzai, we want to have fun and this is a fun way to introduce something that’s different and see how people respond,” Rasavong said.
Banzai is selling three sushi-themed meals.
The Yokozuna roll is a deep-fried sushi roll with yellowtail and salmon, topped with scallops, shrimp, tempura, tobiko, green onion, and unagi. It also includes a beer.
“Yokozuna, because I grew up a wrestling fan, and Yokozuna was a big sumo character, and this is going to be our biggest roll on the menu,” Rasavong said.
In the 1990s, the WWF champion Yokozuna was a 500-pound monster of a man. Yokozuna is also the title of a sumo grand champion.
The other specials include:
— A sushi bento box featuring salmon belly sashimi, choice of California roll or spicy tuna roll, house salad, and rice;
— “Tsunami Roll” which is yellowtail, salmon, cucumber, and avocado topped with a variety of fish, Tobiko, unagi sauce. and macadamia. The special includes a beer.
A Family Tradition
Rasavog’s parents — Khamminh and Bounma Rasavong — moved to Fresno, convinced by relatives that the city was a place where their restaurants could thrive. They owned Thai Palm House and Mama’s Asian Noodle House. David, born in raised in San Francisco, followed his family to Fresno.
“I never even heard of Fresno when that happened. My mother and my older brother came and they opened up the restaurant. In the summer of my 21st birthday, I said, Hey, why don’t I just, for the summer, move to Fresno to help them out? And when older brother sees younger brother come do everything, he told me you’re staying,” Rasavong recalls.
For David, his motivation for running a sushi restaurant in the Tower District was to carry on the legacy of the now-relocated Tower Sushi.
“Because of that, there was a need for Japanese in the Tower District. I was a little bit apprehensive because I come from a Lao-Thai background when it comes to cuisine. But my chefs are so amazing,” Rasavong said.
Rasavong met his head chef, Nestor Ha, when he hired Ha to cater his wedding rehearsal dinner. Along with sushi chef James Sitthi, they worked together to develop the menu.[Correction: an earlier version of this story listed Sitthi as head chef. He is the sushi chef.]