It has been said preparing food is art. It can also be said art is food for the soul.
Mike Han plans to give you both when his new, casual sushi restaurant, ITADAKU, opens in Corktown at 1701 Trumbull Ave. later this year.
ITADAKU is the intersection of Han’s two greatest passions, art and sushi. Besides preparing the sushi, he will design and paint tableware, bowls and murals for the restaurant.
The eatery will serve high quality sustainable sushi, fast. It will feature Daku Maki (large format hand rolls), salads, and rice bowls along with traditionally made nigiri and sashimi.
Before we go any farther, let’s define sustainable sushi. It addresses concerns about overfishing as sushi has become more and more popular. Sustainable sushi is made from fished or farmed sources that can be maintained and that do not jeopardize the oceans’ ecosystems.
All ITADAKU seafood will be sourced off the coasts of North America. Han uses the Seafood Watch Guide from Monterey Bay Aquarium and is working with Shedd Aquarium in its restaurant sustainability pilot program to be sure he is getting the proper fish for his sushi.
All the food served at ITADAKU will be organic, pesticide free and sourced as close to home as possible. Han is working with local farmers and grocers like The Farmer’s Hand to serve season specials.
“Opening this restaurant means everything to me,” he says. “It is my philosophy on a plate and on the walls. I’ve had a desire to create something special in Detroit, and worked hard to do that with varying degrees of success. My hope is to develop a concept in Detroit that will address the demand for sushi in the city, and then grow to address the lack of sustainable sushi options across the nation.”
Itadaku is a Japanese word that means “to enjoy (food and life) with gratitude.” According to Han, it shows deep appreciation for the plants, animals and natural resources needed to nourish our bodies, and for the people who work the land and sea tirelessly to bring us nature’s bounty.
“ITADAKU’s mission is to make delicious sustainable sushi accessible to all,” he says. “Our broader goal is to positively impact people and our planet by cultivating grateful hearts.”
Han is the owner, chef and artist behind ITADAKU. He was formerly the head sushi chef of Roka Akor in River North Chicago, a Michelin recommended restaurant and ranked as one of the “Top 10 Sushi Spots in the US” by Bon Appetit Magazine. He has also worked under Master Sushi Chef Katsu Uechi, one of four master sushi chefs in LA at his restaurants Katsuya by Starck and Katsu-ya, a perennial Top 10 Restaurant in SoCal rated by Zagat.
As an artist, Han works under the name “icon” (say “Mike Han” really fast a few times and you’ll get it). He has painted murals for several Metro Detroit businesses and even has painted a mural in Japan.
His work has been exhibited throughout Metro Detroit and in Seoul, South Korea, and purchased for use in a feature film, Five Year Engagement, by Paramount Pictures.
“None of my artwork is planned,” he says. “They are all done on site free hand. I’m never sure how a piece will turn out. I just have the task of connecting lines.”
The tableware, bowls and murals he’s creating for ITADAKU promise to be unique. Those, and the sushi, promise to be worth the trip.
– Lead photo by Andres Ortiz