A Man On A Roll
It’s Saturday night at Ginza Sushi and chef Russell Won is busy placing the final touches on one of his signature sushi rolls. Inside the charming sushi bar, the bustle of the crowd is creating its own soundtrack, while background music hangs lightly over the weekend air. The vibe is electric. However, amid the maelstrom, Chef Russell remains calm, poised, and intently focused on the work before him. With an expert’s eye, he neatly rolls out his famous Avenger Roll. With machine-like precision, he slices through the delicacy and gingerly plates up the dish. Order up.
For the past eight years, it’s safe to say that Russell Won has been a busy man. As a chef-owner of Ginza Sushi, located on Auahi Street across just down the road from the IBM Building, Russell will be the first to tell you that he doesn’t have a lot of spare time on his hands. “As a small business owner, chef, husband, and father, it’s true I’m keeping myself pretty busy,” he says with a gentle laugh, “but when I do have some time off, I like to spend it with my family here in the community. We really love being a part of this neighborhood, and that’s part of why were so excited to move into our new home in Ke Kilohana.”
As Won alluded, in addition to being a longtime Ward Village merchant, he and his wife, Chong, recently purchased a new home in Ke Kilohana, a stunning reserved housing residence on Ward Avenue. When he officially received the keys and moved in this spring, Won felt as if the moment marked the realization of a life-long dream. “I’m the son of an immigrant and I’ve been working towards this phase in my life for so long, to finally get here feels amazing. I really can’t put it into words.”
For Russell, a large part of the appeal of Ke Kilohana is the convenience of the location and its easy access to work and the surrounding community. Among his fellow merchants and patrons, Russell feels deeply connected to the people he serves. “When I show up to work, I often ask myself: what can I do to serve my community? I’m proud to be here and call this place home. My family and I support all the local stores. We love to shop at Whole Foods and we feel as if we’ve really gotten to know the entire neighborhood really well. I’m looking forward to the convenience of living so close to work, and it’ll be a whole lot of fun to start riding my bike to work.”
When Russell found out that he’d become a homeowner at Ke Kilohana—due to demand and regulations, allotment for reserved housing is awarded through a lottery system—it was as if the stars had aligned. “That was a surreal moment. To see it all happen and to be a part of this community that we’ve been working with for so long, it’s amazing. And to actually move in with my family this spring and be able to call this place home, that’ll be a special day.”
As you meander through Ward Village, keep an eye out for Russell commuting on his bike between his new home at Ke Kilohana and his restaurant, a smile neatly painted on his face. Or better yet, head down to Ginza and get to know this staple member of the community yourself. Legend has it that some of the rolls on the menu are inspired by and named after longtime patrons. You never know, you just might inspire a new culinary creation.