Despite being surrounded mainstream franchises at its location on Foothill Boulevard in La Verne, Steve Kim manages to not only have his independent restaurant survive but also fulfill its purpose: make sure customers remain healthy.
Kim opened Nikuni Japanese Grill in 2008. After being an employee at the franchised San Sai Japanese Grill for six years, Kim decided to run his own restaurant and give the city of La Verne a unique, healthy option to enjoy.
“Our primary goal is to provide healthy food,” Kim said. “We use no preservatives and we pride ourselves about that fact.”
Kim was given the option to remain with San Sai and its franchise but with the experience he has gathered and the potential to offer more to the community, he felt that following their contract would be too restrictive and wanted to take a chance to run independently.
“I wanted to be free from contracts,” Kim said. “I know all the recipes; I know the system; there was no reason for me to franchise.”
Kim has made most of the 58 entrees, which are also displayed on the wall as customers enter Nikuni.
Along with the quiet atmosphere and natural light inhabiting this restaurant, customers can tell Kim and his employees live up to their healthy reputation from looking at their selection of salads.
Having two salads as side dishes – an oriental salad with tangerine slices and a sumi salad with sweet dressing – enhances every entree, such as the chicken and shrimp plate.
Each bite of the chicken and shrimp, along with vegetable skewers, satisfies hunger while also providing all the healthy benefits of Japanese cuisine.
Manager George Ranquillo was with Kim at San Sai.
He enjoys that he and Kim can provide a variety of fresh entrees without stressing customers’ wallets.
Nikuni also serves rolls such as the California, Philadelphia, Rainbow, all under $9.
But what has customers thrilled is their price for sushi: a sushi special box with 10 assorted pieces for $11.99.
“The most important thing we can do is serve people,” Ranquillo said. “Better service makes everyone happy.”
“It is so nice to come here,” customer Krista Spangler, director of corporate sponsorship and events for Casa Colina, said. “They make great food and now I am recommending this place to other people.”
She said she a coworker kept talking about a great place she went to where people can get decently healthy food.
Now, she goes here whenever she is free on lunch break, enjoying the tempura and chicken plate with sumi salad. Her description of Nikuni: amazing.
Along with healthy service, Kim makes sure Nikuni contributes in the community.
For Memorial Day he held a week-long fundraiser to help with veterans projects for La Verne’s Veterans Hall.
Kim made flyers for veterans to give to others or themselves, promoting his restaurant.
Whenever someone came to order something with the flyer within that week, 30 percent of that revenue was donated to Veterans Hall.
Nikuni Japanese Grill is located at 1263 Foothill Boulevard in La Verne.
Nikuni opens everyday at 11 a.m. closing at 9 p.m.. Monday through Thursday and Saturday. At 9:30 p.m. Friday and 8:30 p.m. Sunday.
Alex Forbess can be reached at email@example.com.