For our latest video we’re putting a face to one of the businesses found within Ghost Kitchens Winnipeg, a new centre that allows food entrepreneurs to test their concept in a delivery and takeaway format.
If you’re not familiar with Ghost Kitchens, the gist is they don’t welcome customers for dine-in service, as there’s no restaurant. Instead, you simply order online and it comes to you, or you come pick it up. It’s a very pandemic-era creation that show no signs of spooking, as it allows chefs and cooks to enter the market while not having to worry so much about the overhead.
A notable Winnipeg example would be our beloved Hoagie Boyz, who first started slinging burgers and such from The German Society of Winnipeg, before opening up their celebrated sub shop on South Osborne.
“During the pandemic there was a time where seemingly every restaurant turned into a ghost kitchen overnight,” said Chase Crew, the owner and operator of Winnipeg Ghost Kitchens, where you’ll find him regularly working the front desk.
“I saw in other major cities like Toronto and Vancouver they were doing these big facilities with like, 20 to 50 kitchens in them. And so I started looking into it and I realized Winnipeg didn't have any kind of facility like this. One thing led to another and two years later, we're now here.”
Crew, an accountant by trade, opened up the facility in The Seasons of Tuxedo area in December right behind Fort Garry Brewery. All the upfront costs are his, including buying all the kitchen equipment for the seven kitchens, five of which are currently occupied.
The current tenants are Kiin Thai Kitchen, which just opened in January; Indian concept Riwayat Kitchen; Good Buds Catering–which is co-owned and co-run by Masterchef Canada alum Jonathan Rahim; Lipps Cake Couture–a custom cake business; and Yumi Katsu–who guide us through their concept below. All of these businesses can be found on all the city’s popular delivery apps (aside from the catering business), while you can find them directly on the website too.
Yumi Katsu is a Korean family-run business, which is overseen by Dr. Dave Kim and operated by his sister Chloe Kim, brother-in-law Nate Kim, and cousin, chef Paul Kim, whose tried and true katsu recipe (all the versions are so crispy and delicious) comes after much experimentation and working in Osaka, Japan.
Dave and Nate moved to Canada 13 years ago from Seoul, while cousin Paul, whose mother is Japanese, came here four years ago from Osaka after spending his youth in Busan, Korea.
As you’ll see in the video, there’s no cutting corners here to produce this traditional Japanese dish. Yumi Katsu uses local, never-frozen, thicker cuts of pork (cut from tenderloin that is dry-brined beforehand) tightly packed in the Kims’ very own panko crumbs. They make this panko using local white bread dried overnight then processed through a panko-making machine imported from Japan, and each piece is fried twice for extra crunch.
On top of several types of katsu–prawn, tofu, pork loin, basa fish and our personal favourite, the cheese katsu featuring gooey Canadian mozzarella bound in thinly pounded pork loin–they also serve sandos (delectable white bread sandwiches covering a thick, crispy pork cutlet and sweet tonkatsu sauce, or fried ebi prawns with Japanese tartar sauce) and a couple of sides.
All the kastu options come in fun bento-style boxes that include a fluffy sticky rice ball; Japanese coleslaw with a zippy mirin-based dressing that complements the fried component (which we should add is never greasy, due to the resting technique); and either house-made tonkatsu sauce that’s deep with an umami, veg-forward flavour; Japanese curry sauce; or tartar sauce studded with hard boiled eggs, a version you don’t see too often.
If you’re a katsu fan, you owe it to yourself to go Yumi, while newbies to this dish will be spoiled to find a better version this side of Osaka.