While traveling in Asia for work, Alonzo Martinez discovered a lunch joint that served oversized sushi handrolls that reminded him of the Chipotle burritos back in Denver, only with lighter ingredients and Japanese flavors. He immediately thought that this was an idea that could take off in Colorado. Eighteen months later, he's getting ready for a late-May opening of his own version of the concept in Writer Square, which will be called Komotodo, a play on "como todo" — Spanish for "I eat everything."
Although Martinez has no previous restaurant experience, his investment skills and business experience are paying off, as he's funding the project mostly himself. "Everyone thinks I'm bonkers," he says. "I've never worked in restaurants before."
He's also launched a Kickstarter campaign to cover $8,500 in remaining expenses, which will include lighting, decor, kitchen equipment and marketing. And although new to the food-service industry, he's been working with restaurant veterans to ensure that his vision is properly realized. "My brother is a chef, so he's been helping me out," he explains. "But I've also hired a consultant for the menu for portion sizes and food costs."
Martinez will be hiring a kitchen staff soon, but in the meantime has been testing the menu on friends and getting kitchen time at other restaurants to perfect recipes. The finished menu will have twelve "burritos," which are actually extra-large sushi rolls wrapped in nori and stuffed with combinations of salmon, tuna, yellowtail, steak and chicken with vegetables, fruit and housemade sauces. For example, one roll will include salmon and tuna, shredded carrot, mango, Philadelphia cream cheese and spicy teriyaki sauce, he says. Another house specialty will be a deep-fried roll with sushi rice on the outside of the nori wrapper and a coating of light batter and panko bread crumbs.
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Although the name Komotodo is a Japanese-Spanish mashup and the rolls resemble burritos, the flavors and style of the food will be solidly Japanese. "We'll also have five sides and five desserts," Martinez adds. Prices will be in the $9 to $10 range, with specialty items as high as $13. And because the rolls will average 400 to 500 calories instead of 1,200 calories for those typical fast-casual burritos, Martinez expects health-conscious Denverites to respond well to the menu.
Martinez is excited about the prime Writer Square property that Komotodo will occupy. "You pay for premium property but you get the high foot traffic," he notes. The plaza in front of his eatery is being upgraded so that plenty of outdoor seating will be available to bolster the twenty-seat dining space inside. In addition to taking advantage of the big lunchtime crowds in the area, Martinez hopes to capitalize on the bar scene, so Komotodo will be open as late as 3 a.m. on weekends.
Although the restaurant will debut with no liquor license, Martinez is thinking about adding beer and wine at some point down the road.