You know a restaurant is popular when even Oscar-winning Hollywood celebrities dont mind waiting for a table not just once but twice in the same week.
That was the case recently for actress Hillary Swank, who not only whiled away patiently with the masses on her inaugural Sushi Village voyage but came back for seconds the night after.
Owner-operator Miki Homma said this type of story is reflective of why the first Japanese restaurant in Whistler circa 1985 still remains a popular choice, despite the demolition derby decorating the front entrance at present.
Even though he and his staff are knee-deep in the din of the Westbrook Hotels renovations, Miki cant help but be positive.
"We treat everybody the same here. Everybody is special and I think thats why people like to come here," he said, before adding: "I did feel bad for the actress because we didnt know who she was at first and she was so unassuming with a big hat covering her face. When somebody recognized her we apologized but she said she didnt want to be fussed over and preferred to be treated the same as everybody else anyway. So it worked out for everyone," he smiled.
Swank and her husband Chad Lowe didnt seem to mind signing one of Mikis posters for his Wall of Fame either. Their kind words of appreciation join other well-known names singing the Whistler landmarks praises. Pop princess Kylie Minogue, several members of U.K. hardcore electro rock band Prodigy, I Dream of Jeannies Barbara Eden, Southpark creator Matt Stone and local snow legends Ross Rebagliati, Rob Boyd and Craig Kelly are just some of the names you can work out on your way to the washrooms.
Keeping a restaurant popular for nearly 20 years is not an easy feat but Miki sure makes it sound that way. He said his secret is "always maintaining good standards and keeping good staff." Now if it was that easy, wed all be doing it, so I press him for more of their age-defying magic.
"Lots of people say we are the busiest but I dont know if we are. Either way though, whats important to us is not how many people come through the door but that people come back. Weve always had lots of locals and I think thats what keeps us going. They bring all their friends and family and we get a lot of recommendations from the ones who work in concierge and the travel industry."
The staff part of the successful equation is definitely true. Most of them seem to never leave. Seven years at Sushi Village is the norm and it seems like pro skiers, snowboarders mountain bikers and other adventure athletes are clamouring to pick up a few shifts there in their spare time. People like filmmaker Feet Banks and skier Travis Tetrault seem as permanent as the restaurants famous sake margaritas. Our server this visit, Leah, is a triathlete. People with those sorts of extra-curricular commitments dont just work anywhere.