Now is the right time for a restaurant like Sushi Cup. Andrew Castillo, who just opened the newest addition to the Governors Park food collective on East Seventh Avenue, was looking for a new opportunity to follow his passion just as the poke trend started heating up in Denver.
Castillo was getting out of a franchise deal gone wrong when the lease for the tiny 400-square-foot restaurant space at 208 East Seventh Avenue came on the market. “I had to beat out ten other business proposals to get it, but they liked our idea,” he notes. This ambitious 24-year-old, while young, already has a handful of restaurant experience to help him succeed.
Castillo is already seeing a potential customer base growing after just a few days in business. Lunch has been the sweet spot for Sushi Cup, with dinner on the weekends also being popular. He and another co-owner are both Korean and are looking forward to adding more regional Asian specialties once they install a stove and a fryer (they currently only have cold storage). They are also set on expanding throughout Colorado, with a goal of adding one or two franchises in Denver by next year.
Castillo is adamant about offering more than just poke, and categorizes Sushi Cup's fare as Hawaiian/Korean/Japanese fusion bowls. Traditional Hawaiian poke is nothing more than raw cubed ahi tuna tossed in soy sauce, sesame oil and sweet Maui onions and topped with sesame seeds or scallions. More traditional variations would also include the addition of limu, a native sea algae similar to seaweed, and crushed candlenuts. These days, though, there are more variations than there are Hawaiian islands, and Castillo likes the freedom and creativity to experiment.
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Sushi Cup offers twelve ready-made combinations you can get in bowl or burrito form, and a DIY option to make your own creation. As with a sushi order form, you simply mark your desired ingredients on the menu and hand it to the cashier. Choices include white, brown or Korean purple rice, two proteins, a variety of vegetables and a sauce. “We made it so almost any fish can pair with any flavor. We only serve things we would eat ourselves.”
Castillo says about half of the guests have been opting to make their own bowls. For house combos, standout menu items so far have been the Sweet Soul (tuna, crispy onion, Asian pear, pickled radish and ponzu sauce) and the Red and Orange (salmon, tuna, white and yellow radish, nori and poke sauce). The Sushi Doughnut (his mom’s contribution to the menu; Castillo also owns a Mr. Donuts in Aurora, although this one's made with sushi rice) has also been a popular item to order and photograph.
Stay tuned, because Sushi Cup has plenty of ideas in the works. You'll soon be able to order delivery via Uber Eats, and Castillo will also be adding outdoor seating. Other fun menu additions like Japanese blue rice are coming later this summer.
Sushi cup opens daily at 11 a.m.; closing times are 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 6 p.m. on Sunday.