Star City Six – Brian Choi
Koen Japanese BBQ & Sushi is the only restaurant in town where you can enjoy authentic Japanese BBQ flavors pre-marinated and brought to you plated and ready to grill to your liking. Brian Choi is the owner of Koen Japanese BBQ & Sushi (koenlincoln.com), along with its sister restaurant, Kinja Japanese Cuisine.
Tell us a little about your business.
Koen Japanese BBQ & Sushi and Kinja Japanese Cuisine are both local restaurants that focus on providing traditional Japanese cuisine and culture. Whereas Kinja provides more traditional Japanese cuisine, Koen is a restaurant with a new concept, which brings different nuances. Koen has personal grills built into each table to accommodate all customers’ cooking preferences and allow for an unique dining experience. It also has an exceptional variety of sushi with specialty rolls that mesmerize guests with their presentation.
How did you get started in the business?
I started my business venture with Kinja in 2010, after working under my aunt at Shogun. Personally, as a foreigner, it was a big process to open a restaurant in the United States, but my family’s support brought me to where I am now.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?
Keeping up with the market and hiring permanent/seasonal staff. As a business owner, I know the importance of having the right employees and a good team in place to make it in the hospitality industry.
What has been your most important achievement professionally?
Introducing authentic Japanese cuisine and culture in the Lincoln community.
Tell us a little about your family.
I was born and raised in Korea. I came to the United States in 2007 with my sister who is a nurse practitioner.
What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?
I love to hunt ethnic foods in different places.
What is the most unique or interesting thing about you that most people probably don’t know?
I like to release my inner child by collecting millions of Legos. Though, I never have time to build them. I guess I will save them for my son in the future.
What is your favorite quote or the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“If the opportunity doesn’t knock, build the door.” – Milton Berle.
If you had a theme song, what would it be?
“I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly. This song has been with me throughout every stage in my entrepreneurial career and reminds me that nothing is impossible.
If you could have a super power, what would it be?
Teleportation. Imagine being able to dematerialize from your living room and show up the next moment in Venice or the rainforest or the rings of Saturn (wearing an appropriate space suit, of course).
If you could choose any other profession to be successful in, what would it be?
Professional baseball athlete. I’ve dreamt of being a pro baseball player since I was 10 years old.
What local non-profit organization(s) are you passionate about or involved with, and are there any special reasons why?
Junior Achievement. Being part of the community and sharing love with others makes me feel alive.
What is your favorite book or the last good book you read?
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
What is your favorite TV show?
Breaking Bad and Ozark.
If our readers would like to contact you, how should they do so?