May 22, 2014 - By Kelli Ameling, Staff WriterZanmai Sushi is looking at ways to expand its services in Lander after opening a little more than a month ago.
Owner Sophal Ek said the traditional Japanese sushi restaurant plans to expand its hours to include lunch in June. The business is open from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 140 N. Seventh St. in Lander.
Ek, who was born and raised in Cambodia, said she had been working as a full-time mother while running a day care center.
She said she and her fiance, Doug Thompson, were always traveling to find good sushi in Wyoming, and the commute could take hours.
They had talked about starting their own restaurant and specializing in either sushi or Southern cuisine.
"It was never the right time or place," Ek said.
After getting frustrated with the distance it took to get to such restaurants, Ek decided it was time to bring the Japanese tradition to Lander.
"I tried it," she said with a smile. "And (Thompson) was very supportive."
Thompson said he grew up loving sushi and had taught himself how to make the Japanese delicacy by traveling to watch professional sushi chefs and then practicing on his own.
He taught Ek what he had learned, and they practiced making sushi before opening the restaurant.
To compete with similar eateries in Casper and Rock Springs, Ek and Thompson said they work hard to make sure what they are serving is fresh and of a high quality.
They work with a Seattle distributor that specially orders the fish and meat from Hawaii. The order is then shipped to Denver and transported overnight to Lander so the items are fresh daily.
Zanmai Sushi also has options for non-sushi eaters. Ek said she has been working to make sure those dishes also are high quality.
Thompson, who helps out in the kitchen, and Ek said they are always trying to improve their restaurant.
"I am always wanting to hear from customers," Ek said. "If something was great, I want to know. If something was bad, or something was wrong, like miscommunication, I want to know."
The menu is always being worked on, Ek said, and the restaurateurs remove dishes that are not working and add ones the customers want and enjoy.
Daily specials have been added, and that allows customers to try new items.
Thompson said the restaurant also has drink specials and carries a full stock of Japanese beverages, including beer.
In the future, Ek said she hopes to expand and enhance the restaurant's environment. She would like to find a bigger space so she could add a sushi bar with an environment large enough to accommodate TVs.
"We want the customers happy," Ek said.
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