Its time to wrap it up -- Ezo Seafoods' 7th season in Niseko. SEVEN!! And what a season it was...
This season obsession, adrenalin and hard work mixed with joie de vie, oysters and sauvignon blanc to produce a great show night after night. On most nights I could feel a special atmosphere in the restaurant of excitment and pure joy. Thanks everyone who played a part, from our fantastic staff who quickly gelled and delivered a high level of hospitality, to our customers who place their faith in us and support us year after year. And finally to our suppliers, whose honesty and shared commitment to quality over the past 7 years has helped Ezo Seafoods keep true to its mission to deliver a world-class seafood experience based on freshness, flair and fun.
We opened on December 1 with a new-look uniform, an eager new team of front house staff and a full book of reservations. In the kitchen, chef-owner Keiko Takaoka headed up the staff taking more of an executive role. We were lucky that most of the kitchen staff from last season returned and were encouraged with the progress each of them made during the season. I remained committed to the early morning 5-hour round trip drive to Sapporo Wholesale Markets and playing captain at night time, heading up front of house team. This year's team were wonderful and new friendships formed quickly. I hope they will always remember Ezo Seafoods as we will always remember them.
We quickly got back into the rhythm and by mid-December we were hosting full houses every night with ease. With Ezo Seafoods getting harder to get into, we were also busy most nights with takeout orders.
On the back of demand from our Asian customers, this season we successfully introduced several new items to the menu including cod sperm tempura and geoduck sashimi. Popular dishes from last season such as sauteed abalone and cod aquapazza were also in high demand. But if there was a standout this year, it was UNI. We regularly had three grades on display positioning Ezo Seafoods as THE place to enjoy the delicacy. We are lucky that in Hokkaido we have access to the best UNI in Japan, which happens to be in season during winter months.
In terms of customers, every year we notice new trends. This year we were pleased to welcome many more Americans, both new and returning customers; Thai's arrived in force in late February and with their smiles and big appetites bought a new level of excitment to Ezo Seafoods; and we hosted many big families of Phillipino's in March. Singapore and Hong Kong remain our largest markets in Asia, while Australians continue to be an important presence in Ezo and Niseko.
Many people praise us for the quality and freshness of our seafood. While I was accepting the compliments one night this year, one of the guests pointed out "Thank Mother Nature". It was a good call and reality check. All we do is thanks to the resources of the planet and depends on a pristine environment. Who are we to take credit? It has me thinking more about the wastefulness of the seafood industry and the increasingly dire state of our oceans.
We finished the season on top of TRIPADVISOR and YELP social media sites which was a huge achievement. I make no secret of the fact that I believe these sites are a crucial barometer of our performance and I check the reviews of all restaurants regularly in the hope of gaining insights.
Now we turn our sights to our summer seafood restaurant on Japan's Izu Peninsula. We reopen EZO SEAFOODS SUMMER on June 1. We are looking forward to reconnecting with our friends and customers there.
Ezo Seafoods is a life journey for us. We are blessed, lucky and totally exhausted :)