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At 4 a.m., Koichi Kizaki strolls the aisles of the Nagahama Fish market in southern Japan, carefully scrutinizing the aji (mackerel), hamachi (yellowtail), and kohada (Japanese shad) filling the cases. He’s been doing this for years. He knows every fisherman, their boats, and precisely where each fish has been caught in the Sea of Japan, 1,000 miles southwest of the epicenter of the March 11 earthquake.
Koichi picks only the best fish to ship to his brothers in Denver: Yasu and Toshi Kizaki, chef-owners of Sushi Den, Izakaya Den, and Ototo Food and Wine. Though the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare clears the products—which arrive in Denver within 24 hours—for sale, the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture also inspect the catch.
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It’s this intimate concern for product integrity that has kept the tables filled at the Kizaki brothers’ award-winning restaurants—even as concern over radiation levels has swept the country. “We have the origins of every fish from Japan, as well as from all over the world, written on our menus, and we’ve instructed our servers to address all of our customers’ concerns,” explains Yasu. “We have rice from California, miso and soy sauce from the United States, and, if a product comes from Japan, we know exactly who made it for us and where it was made.”
Loyal customers have also been strong supporters of the Kizakis fund-raising projects to assist relief efforts in Japan. By donating the restaurants’ profits for five days the Kizakis have given more than $25,000 to the cause. One customer was even inspired to contribute a staggering $25,000 directly to the American Red Cross.
Tip: Want to help with the fund-raising efforts? Reserve a spot for Monday’s beer pairing dinner, and keep an eye out for the Kizakis’ BBQ Party in the Field this summer—to benefit Japanese farmers—which will be held on their 6.5-acre organic farm in Brighton.
Sushi Den, 1487 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0826
Izakaya Den, 1518 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0691
Ototo Den, 1501 S. Pearl St., 303-733-2503