Kaiju's reputation preceded itself. It was known as one of the only Japanese Curry style restaurants in Toronto. Located underneath the Aura Condos at Yonge and Gerrard, we visited the place and really enjoyed the amazing food. This is a great lunch time spot that's serving quality curry downtown, and Brian was nice enough to entertain our questions.
Sadi: So how’s business?
Brian: Business is so-so.
Sadi: When is it usually busy?
Brian: Normally, Thursday and Friday lunchtimes.
Sadi: Is there a difference between summer and winter?
Brian: Very different. Winter is more busy. Summer is more quiet. Because during the summer time there are no students, and office people are on holiday.
Andrew: I see. So how long have you had Kaiju here?
Brian: About five years.
Sadi: Why did you decide to open up Kaiju?
Brian: Because I tried the Japanese curry before I opened up the restaurant. In Hong Kong and Singapore, it’s very popular, but not in North America. So I thought there's a chance here.
Sadi: And how did you come up with the name Kaiju?
B: When I was young, I loved seeing cartoons. The Kaiju (monster) ones especially. Also some of our food can be hot or spicy so it would be a nice name.
A: So what were you doing before you opened up a restaurant?
B: Oh I’ve been working for restaurants for more than twenty years. More than twenty five years. Like when I came here, I went to school, I would work part time for restaurants.
S: What kind of restaurants were they?
B: Thai restaurants, Chinese restaurants and Japanese restaurants too.
A: If someone were to come here for the first time at Kaiju, what would you want them to know about?
B: When we opened up Kaiju, for the curry loving people, they all thought the curry would be spicy and hot. But Japanese curry, and our Kaiju curry, is not spicy and hot. We use a lot of vegetables in our curry.
S: What’s the most popular dish here?
B: I would say it’s the Chicken and Pork Katsu. Because for Canadians, I think they love chicken more.
S: What does that say about you? What do you love more?
B: For me I would love fish. I love the fried fish and the Karaage. These two are my favorites.
S: When you’re not at this restaurant, where’s your favorite place to eat?
B: Oh I eat anything. I like to try new places.
S: Do you have a favorite place in Toronto?
B: Many. Indian places I would say, or Thai.
S: And where do you go for your Indian food?
B: I would say Scarborough. Also a Malaysian place is my favorite. One2Snacks. Normally I’d cook it myself, like the Malaysian curry style I’d just do it at home.
A: If this was your last day on Earth, what would be your last meal?
B: I think…it would be Kaiju curry. The fish one.
A: Is there a reason why you chose to set up your restaurant here? Like in this food court?
B: When we opened we thought it would be the centre of the downtown. Around here there’s the university, offices, and also residential places. Also four or five hospitals around here.
A: Do you read reviews about your restaurant or pay attention to online reviews?
B: Not really. No time to check for it, I’m too busy when I come here every day.
S: Does it effect for your business?
B: Yes. A lot of social media. A lot of people come in for the first time and sometimes we ask them, ‘How do you know about Kaiju?’ and they say through ‘Google’ or social media.
S: You sound like you’ve done a lot of travelling in the past. What’s the best place you’ve been to for food?
B: For me? Japan and Thailand.
S: If I’m going to go to Japan, what’s one thing I should definitely try?
B: Go to the fish market. Try ramen and curry. Even though the curry in Japan is different. It’s very good.
S: And what about if I’m going to go to Malaysia?
B: You have to try the seafood. The satay, curry meat, Raksa, Nasi Lemak. There’s a lot of good food.
A: What are some of the challenges of running your businesses?
B: Well when we had low foot traffic. We had to put the fryer on the street and let people try our curry. Stand on the street and give people the sample. Because people didn’t know there was a food court down here. So that’s why we stood on the street. We went to Ryerson, on the street, gave out samples.
A: What’s your favorite part about the job?
B: It’s more fun when people love your food. I think that’s the best part I feel. Even though the traffic is so-so. When I get the feedback, that the customers love my food, I feel very happy. Even some of the Ryerson students, don’t feel like customers. More like my friends then customers. There's one, even if he goes travelling, he lets me know. He goes to Japan, takes pictures of curry and sends them to me.
A: You’ve been in the restaurant industry for twenty five years or so. Did you have anyone that taught you or a mentor that helped you?
B: Sometimes you have to go to see people cook. You have to try to cook. Sometimes people teach you but you have to put your heart into learning. Not so many people will share their experiences with you. Even if people talk, you have to make sure to listen, you have to work hard. Not just for restaurant jobs, most jobs is the same thing. Doesn’t matter what kind of a job you’re working, you have to put your heart into it, otherwise you’ll end up with nothing.
A: Did anyone give you any good piece of advice when you were opening up the restaurant?
B: My family. They said I can try for it, even though cooking is very hard. My sister helped me a lot. When we had no traffic, we had to save on labor costs, so they came to work for me. All of them, they had full time jobs, but after they were off work, Monday to Friday, and Saturday, they came to help their little brother.
S: If someone was going to open up a restaurant today, what piece of advice would you give them?
B: Location. Concept. And the capital.
S: What do you mean by concept?
B: You have to know your idea. You have to be focused on one thing. Not only Kaiju. Even McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s, Pizza, they focused on one thing. You have to do your one thing as very good food. You can’t do a lot of things and try this one, try that one. You go to a restaurant sometimes, they have two or three hundred items, you only eat like one or two dishes. Some of the items are just extra there. That’s my personal thing. Be very focused. Make it very good.
S: If I’m going to make a curry, what’s the most important thing, or ingredient I should keep in mind?
B: I would say the onions. Doesn’t matter what kind. Indian or whatever. Not even a secret, just most important. Curry is different, even if it’s North Indian or South Indian, it can be very different, but you still need onions.
A: So I think that’s everything, thank you very much for your time!
384 Yonge St #51