Spill it! Introductions, please!
My name is Maiko – I’m the owner of Bessou, a Japanese restaurant in Noho that I opened 3 years ago. We focus on Japanese home cooking with creative twists! In May, we opened our second location in Dumbo, Brooklyn inside Time Out Market. I was born and raised on the Upper West Side in NYC and currently live in the East Village. I love cold noodles, jazz, and have recently taken up fishing!
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far at Bessou?
I think it’s that the problems never stop! ha. It’s true what they say: owning a restaurant is probably one of the most stressful jobs out there, especially in New York where there is no mercy. Anything that can go wrong usually does. Some days, the oven breaks down, the dishwasher calls out, and the produce delivery arrives only after dinner service begins – and, sometimes, this happens all in one day! In this business, you come to expect something will go wrong (a day without problems usually raises questions!) and you have to somehow manage it all without breaking a sweat when the customers walk in.
Has cooking always been a form of expression for you and your family?
Yes, I think so. Cooking is what brings my family together and how we show that we love one another. My dad also owned a restaurant for many years so the family all sitting together for a meal was rare, but special when it did happen.
What is the most popular dish at Bessou?
Our Fried Chicken Karaage is hands down the most popular dish. People from out of town come in search of it and regulars can’t’ get enough! The pro tip is to order it as an appetizer so you can get the chicken without the sides and still have room for other large dishes.
What is your favorite item on the menu? Is there any reason why it is your favorite?
I love our sushi crispy rice. It’s a perfect snack. The vinegary sushi rice patty is fried until it’s crunchy to the bite, then topped with a dollop of wasabi aioli, slivers of sashimi and a drop of soy sauce. We have a scallop ceviche crispy rice right now that I keep munching on (for quality control, I swear!). It’s addicting and I can’t get enough of it.
Is there a story or significance behind the name of your restaurant?
The name Bessou means “vacation home” or “home away from home.” It’s what I want customers to feel when they dine at the restaurant and is also a nod to the unconventional and freewheeling spirit of our menu.
What is your advice to anyone looking to open their own restaurant?
would say to think long and hard and ask yourself if you truly want to do this! I don’t mean to sound all doom and gloom, but a restaurant will absolutely take over your life! But, if you love hospitality – and especially if you have a concept that is unique and strong or that you’re dying to share your idea with the world, GO FOR IT. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your vision come to life every night.
Can we look inside your bag right now?
I have Burt’s Bees pomegranate lip balm, a swimsuit, and goggles (I’m lap swimming this summer to cool down/reset) – oh, and cookies from Burrow Bakery (a delicious bakery in Dumbo!).