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Sundial, Shima to hold first-ever, pop-up sushi event

By Staff | Jul 26, 2019

VINCENZO CATALANO Shima Sushi Chef Sai Chaleunsouk, left, and Sundial Beach Resort Executive Chef James Dauer.

Pop-up culinary events have been a nationwide trend for a couple of years now, and one Sanibel restaurant is jumping on board by hosting its first one with the hope of planning more in the future.

Home to the Shima Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar and the Shima Grab n Go sushi market, the Sundial Beach Resort & Spa will hold a pop-up specialty, Sushi Bar event on Aug. 2-3 from 5-10 p.m. in its Gulf-front Waterview Room. It is open to the public on a walk-in basis, with limited seating.

“Pop-up events have been trending for the past four or five years, and a lot of chefs are doing it,” Sundial Executive Chef James Dauer said. “Most of the time you see it in a lot of major foodie cities.”

“I just wanted to kind of bring that concept here,” he noted.

Dauer explained that pop-up events allow budding chefs to get their creations out there, as it is expensive to open and operate a restaurant. For established eateries, it provides an opportunity to try out new concepts in their market to see what is well received and could be added to their menu.

VINCENZO CATALANO Shima Sushi Chef Sai Chaleunsouk's ceviche sampler on tostones.

“It was a different outlet for chefs to express their creativity,” he said.

“And it’s a great way to generate buzz,” Dauer added.

For the event, Shima Sushi Chef Sai Chaleunsouk will craft a selection of specialty sushi, nigiri and sashimi, highlighting both local seafood and fish from Japanese waters in an intimate setting.

There will be classic and innovative offerings not available on the regular menus.

“We’re going to have some very nice, traditional Japanese dishes,” Dauer said.

VINCENZO CATALANO Shima Sushi Chef Sai Chaleunsouk in his environment.

He noted that the sourced fished will be high-quality high-end species.

“We’re also going to be doing some fusion dishes, a mix of Japanese and South American,” Dauer said.

One of Sai’s fusion creations is his ceviche sampler nested on tostones.

“Unique concepts and things that we’ve been playing with and testing in the kitchen,” he said.

The event will feature sushi exclusively, with about seven to 10 selections on the menu.

“We’re trying to keep the menu limited and small to ensure that we have the closest to perfection as we can get,” Dauer said.

Sushi aficionados and novices will partake in a distinctive menu in a personal attentive setting.

“It is a way for guests to interact with our sushi chefs on a very intimate level,” he said.

“We wanted to see how it would work when guests get to interact,” Dauer added.

Growing up locally, fishing daily and learning the craft from his restauranteur father at a young age, Sai’s joy is in expressing his creativity while interacting with his guests and learning their preferences.

Dauer noted that event provides a chance for Sai to flex his creativity.

“And to showcase him and let him step into the limelight for a moment,” he said.

“He’s got a really great set of skills,” Dauer added.

Following the first pop-up, the team will review how it was received.

“Hopefully, if it’s successful, we’ll continue to do them,” he said.

“We have more concepts in mind,” Dauer added of the potential future events. “Most of them will be themed and will focus on one specific type of food.”

The seating is limited, so diners are encouraged to arrive earlier rather than later.

“It’s going to be first come, first served,” he said. “The sooner you get in, the more time you have to enjoy the environment.”

Residents and visitors are invited to stop by.

“We’d love to have everybody come out,” Dauer said. “It’s going to be an amazing time, with some great atmosphere.”

Since its opening in 2016, Shima has garnered accolades on the local, regional and national levels, including awards for Best Sushi, Best Chef and TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence award.

For more information, visit sundialresort.com/restaurant/shima or call 239-989-1160.

The Sundial Beach Resort & Spa is at 1451 Middle Gulf Drive, Sanibel.