By Arthur Bovino | TheDailyMeal.com
After working at multiple sushi bars and Japanese restaurants, “Billy” Enkhbileg Tserenbat decided to put his expert knowledge to the ultimate test and see if he could create a successful food truck. Billy hit the streets of Minneapolis with Sushi Fix May 24, 2012, and as he recalls, “It was a pretty rainy day.” It’s been just a few months, but Sushi Fix is in a pretty sunny situation. After a productive summer, Tserenbat says he’ll be opening a sushi bar next year.
Still, it hasn’t all been easy. Tserenbat’s daily routine involves dodging parking enforcement officials, juggling fish deliveries, upholding a commitment to the freshest local ingredients, and “washing sushi rice until finger tips don’t feel.” But Minneapolis street food aficionados have grown very fond of their hard work, dedication to craft, and excellent sushi, landing them a spot on The Daily Meal’s 2012 list of 101 Best Food Trucks in America.
In this interview with Tserenbat, find out the truck’s previous nickname, the person behind the truck’s design, and that time Tserenbat needed to hide a fire hydrant.
What model truck do you have?
Oh, I have very old Chevy P-30. It used to belong to a customer of mine. He used to call it “MOBY.”
What was the inspiration for going into this business?
To bring sushi back to the roots of its traditions as street food, which is where it was born. To prove to people that you can eat good sushi curbside, and to teach people that it makes a big difference using fresh fish versus frozen fish.
What’s the story behind the origin of your truck’s name?
I just wanted a very easy American name that would show people what we do and how we do it. Thus, Sushi Fix
How did you come up with your truck’s design? Is there a designer you’d like to give a shout-out to?
Actually, I did it all by myself. This way it shows my personality as well.
What’s your signature dish? Is it also the most popular one on the menu?
I think it would be the “2-14 Roll” (10 pieces of tuna and salmon spiced up with shrimp tempura avocado, wrapped with soy paper), and the Crunchy Spicy Tuna (8 pieces of spicy tuna mixed with avocado and cucumber wrapped with tempura flakes and unagi sauce). Those two are just the bomb.
What’s the inspiration for your cuisine and recipes?
Sushi is truly one of the best street foods I have ever known. People forget that it’s a street food. I want to bring back that tradition of the street. I receive my fish from Hawaii or Tokyo overnight. Freshness is my key recipe.
What’s the most challenging thing about running your food truck?
I think the most challenging thing about running a food truck in Minneapolis is the parking spots. We don’t have designated parking areas, so trying to get same parking spot downtown can be difficult.
Would you ever go brick-and-mortar?
Actually as a matter of fact, we are opening a sushi bar in in January. I guess we were very first sushi truck between New York City and Portland, and we had a very good summer.
What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to get into the food truck business?
Have a good concept and enjoy what you’re doing while you’re doing it. I mean, I’ve seen so many taco trucks and burger trucks.
Any new upcoming dishes planned that you can tell us about?
Next year, we are trying to launch a few more items: bento boxes and live baby octopus.
Any new plans on the horizon you can share?
Right now I’m just cooking them all up in my head. When the right time comes, I will shout them out loud.
Lots of things happen when running a restaurant — that probably goes double on the road. What’s one particularly outstanding moment you can share?
One day, I couldn’t find parking spot. The only spot open was in front of a fire hydrant. So I parked in it (I knew I was breaking the rules, but I had a bunch of fresh fish from Tokyo and if something had really happened, I would have moved immediately) and in the middle of our service, I saw the parking enforcement lady approaching, So I went out there, put a garbage bag over the fire hydrant, and I told a bunch of my customers to stand around it. Anyway, the parking enforcement woman didn’t notice. I didn’t get ticket, but I find out a few weeks later that the people I asked to hide the fire hydrant were food bloggers and journalists from a local newspaper and magazine!