There are few individuals who work year-round to actively improve themselves and the world around them. The co-owners of Sushi-Zen in Arlington VA, Rosie Gordon and Shoji Mochizuki, lives by this mantra of betterment in their daily lives.
The restaurant has served the Arlington community for over twenty-one years. Sushi-Zen prides itself on giving back in a variety of ways. Constantly showing a deep sense of appreciation and humanitarian work is a big part of who they are as a family. Rosie and her husband Shoji, together with their children, Brian and Malinda, practice Nichiren Buddhism–which allows them to journey through life using a process called human revolution and challenging obstacles with the attitude to “change poison into medicine.”
After supporting a small family restaurant in Japan, Shoji found himself America-bound. With his love of cooking, he was able to receive training from top-notch Japanese sushi chefs. Grateful for the opportunities given to him in the States, he and his wife wanted to give back to this country that has given them so much. And so, Sushi-Zen was born–where Rosie and Shoji aim to treat everyone like extended family. Upon hiring new employees, the prospective hopefuls are always asked the deciding question: “Do you like kids?” Sushi-Zen strives to be Arlington’s favorite family gathering place–because, after all what’s more important than family?
We sat down with Rosie and asked her a few questions about Sushi-Zen’s success.
Why the name Sushi-Zen?
Shoji had to explain to me that the Japanese “zen” character in “Sushi-Zen” did not mean “meditation” but “dining table”. The meaning of our “zen” is a time when family and friends come together to share the day’s happenings, to enjoy each other’s company, and to eat delicious food. This is the “zen” that Sushi-Zen has strived to create from the day we opened our doors in June of 1997.
How does practicing Nichiren Buddhism affect how you run your restaurant?
Sushi-Zen would not exist without our chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and our family’s practice of Nichiren Buddhism. The principles of the practice are to bring about world peace based on individual, personal happiness and respect for all living beings. When you chant you build up tremendous fortune—”right place at the right time”. If we need something or are looking for ways to make Sushi-Zen better, we start by chanting and then the answers and solutions emerge. When there is a “disaster”, we chant to “turn poison into medicine”. Through our Buddhist practice, we are creating more deep-seated good fortune for our lives and those around us.
Owning and running a restaurant can be a risky business. The success rates are often not good for long term success. In 2019, we are celebrating our 22nd year in business!
Why do you think customers keep coming back?
Shoji and I want to create a family-friendly atmosphere. We want families—especially those with small children—to feel welcome at Sushi-Zen. So what if the table is somewhat messy and food got spilled on the floor? Our staff knows to clean things up and make the parents feel comfortable. Our highest compliment is when toddlers want to have their birthday party here. They love our miso soup!
What makes your menu different from other sushi restaurants?
We serve premium Japanese white rice, organic short-grain brown rice, organic tofu, premium nori, non-GMO miso, antibiotic and hormone free chicken, certified Angus Beef. We use heart healthy rice bran oil to make our tempura and pan-fried dishes.
Our son, Brian, who is also our general manager, created a gluten-free teriyaki sauce. As our food and beverage suppliers catch up with the demands of consumers for healthy eating, we will continue to add more healthy options to our menu. A number of our customer requests have added to our desire to create the healthiest menu possible. Many are gluten-intolerant and/or have various food allergies. Brown rice was a repeated request. We decided to go with the best—organic brown rice.
Sounds like you care about your ingredients, how do you stay on top of food trends?
I have always had a passion for eating healthy food. I have a lot of food allergies—no wheat or gluten products, no dairy, very little sugar. Every year, I go to a Natural Products Expo to learn the latest on gluten free, non-GMO, organic foods and upcoming healthy food trends. I also keep up with food industry publications for the latest healthy trends.
What’s the one thing that you want your customers to remember about your restaurant?
We want our customers to know how glad we are that they chose Sushi-Zen over the many very fine sushi restaurants in our Washington D.C. metropolitan area. We truly appreciate adding to our expanding Sushi-Zen family. One of my favorite things we do at Sushi-Zen is give back to our local community in various ways.
Repaying debts of gratitude and showing deep appreciation is another important Buddhist principle we strive to follow.
How do you give back to your local community?
We often make sushi donations for various non-profit fundraisers, gala events, local school events and other worthy causes. We have made extra donations to support those impacted by natural disasters.
In 2017–our 20th Anniversary–we supported twenty local non-profit fundraisers. It was an amazing experience! We celebrated non-profits like OAR (Offender Aid and Restoration), Homeward Trails, Bridges to Independence, Aspire, Melwood, Arlington Village, and many more. I am so impressed with the depth of support by residents in Arlington and the neighboring communities towards those who need a helping hand.
Our family is committed to continuing our tradition of “giving back” to our community. We have become known as one of “Arlington’s favorite neighborhood gathering places” because of that community support.
Address: 2457 N Harrison St, Arlington, VA 22207
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