Banzai Japanese Bar and Kitchen is set to open soon in Fresno's Tower District. Photo via Banzai Facebook page
Written by Breanna Hardy
Opening a restaurant is no small feat – especially when restaurants are operating at limited capacity. But David Rasavong is up for the challenge to bring the Tower District a taste of Japanese cuisine at Banzai Japanese Bar and Kitchen.
The new restaurant is located at 609 E. Olive Ave. in the former Casa de Tamales location.
The restaurant was slated to open in November 2020, but that was postponed due to Covid-19. Rasavong also expressed the challenge of getting the correct business permits because the City of Fresno’s planning department works remotely.
On its Facebook page, it announced it’s opening soon and looking to hire chefs, servers and bartenders. During a December interview, Rasavong talked about the difficulties of creating a new menu during lockdown.
“We’ve definitely done some test kitchen things from home,” Rasavong said. “It’s a whole different ball game when you’re doing it from home.”
There’s a rhythm that is unique to testing menu items in a commercial kitchen. Rasavong says he can test items with a vast variety of products that’s not quite the same as in the commercial kitchen.
Rasavong recognizes that there are a lot of Japanese restaurants in town, but Tower Sushi’s closure in May 2020 was impactful, and Banzai will be a great addition to the community, he said.
“It will bring back Japanese cuisine to the Tower District,” he said.
His family has been part of the process through it all.
He says Banzai is coming at the perfect time, when people can hopefully socialize over drinks in the Tower District once again.
“Tower is a very social neighborhood,” he said. “Banzai is going to fit right into that; we want to make sure it’s casual.”
He says the design and decor of Banzai will be “unlike any other restaurant.”
He’s the co-owner of Lincoln Pub nearby, and he’s excited to offer a full bar at Banzai for the Tower District.
They’ll offer a full traditional Japanese menu, complete with a full bar to pair the best drinks with the best meals.
Restaurant owners in the Central Valley have struggled to keep consistent service when Covid-19 restrictions change restaurant capacities. For now, restaurants are able to open for outdoor seating. Rasavong plans to offer curbside pickup to meet customers’ needs if needed.
“Ideally we’d like to have it all open at some capacity,” Rasavong said.
As the world returns to a hopeful view of the future, assuming the vaccines meet the goal of slowing the Covid-19 curve, he’s hopeful that people will return to the well-loved Tower District to enjoy drinks over dinner together.
“I think everyone’s ready for it,” Rasavong said.