New Hay River eatery to offer Japanese cuisine

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Hay River is getting a new restaurant, and this one will offer something completely new to the community.

The restaurant – called Yuki – will feature Japanese cuisine.

Appropriately, ‘Yuki’ is the Japanese word for snow, and the name was chosen because of the restaurant’s location in Hay River and the North.

“This is my dream,” said Chris Ahn, the co-owner/manager of the new business. “The last 16 years I always wanted to open a restaurant.”

Ahn explained that Yuki will feature all Japanese food — no hamburgers or French fries.

“It’s an experience,” said Buddy Robinson, the chef at the new restaurant, noting there will be new aromas and tastes for people at Yuki.

“Each bite tastes different and it’s something you’re not used to.”

Robinson added that Yuki – which is located in the former Driftwood Diner – will give the people of Hay River another choice when dining out.

The owners and staff of Yuki – a new restaurant featuring Japanese cuisine – hold a banner to be displayed outside the business, located in the former Driftwood Diner. They are, left to right, Joey Jung, Nicole Wang, chef Buddy Robinson, sous-chef Hunter Kraushaar, Minee Yoon and Chris Ahn.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

And he added there has been a lot of interest in the new restaurant.

“That’s a darn good sign,” he said.

Robinson is optimistic about the success of the restaurant because of the unique quality of the food.

“It’s absolutely delicious,” he said. “It’s fantastic.”

Yuki was scheduled to begin a soft opening from June 17 to June 22 with lunchtime hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Robinson explained that will be a test run for the restaurant to identify and iron out any kinks.

Regular hours for the restaurant will begin on June 24. That will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Saturday.

Ahn noted his mother owned a Korean food restaurant in his home country since he was a child.

And he recently learned about Japanese food by spending almost a month at a cousin’s Japanese restaurant in Korea, and he has passed that knowledge on to Robinson.

Ahn and the other restaurant owners – his wife Minee Yoon, Joey Jung and Nicole Wang – are originally from South Korea.

In 2017, Ahn and Jung came to Hay River to run The Rooster convenience store.

Ahn is occasionally asked why he and the other owners are opening a Japanese food restaurant instead of a Korean food restaurant.

“It’s pretty popular nowadays in North America, the Japanese food,” he explained. “We just want to try something new up here.”

Ahn said he has been working on opening the new restaurant for three or four months.
One of the issues was that some of the ingredients for Japanese food are difficult to find in the NWT. That means some ingredients are coming from a Japanese food supplier in British Columbia.

A redecoration has also begun at the former Driftwood Diner with Japanese-style artwork starting to be installed on the walls.

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