This is The Feast 14, in which we highlight the most anticipated projects of the new season. Here now, Michael Cardenas explains his plan for Fat Spoon.
Michael Cardenas co-founded IDG (Innovative Dining Group) which put high-end sushi on the map via Sushi Roku. While still involved in the original eight eateries, Cardenas has moved on to open mega hits such as The Lazy Ox and Japanese restaurant Aburiya Toranoko. His latest foray into Little Tokyo includes a fast casual Asian curry and pasta concept, Fat Spoon. Details, below.
What is Fat Spoon?
Fat Spoon is a quick service dining concept. We are going to put them in little pockets of the community: Little Tokyo, Arcadia, Pasadena, Torrance and Santa Monica. It’s what the economy is looking for right now. For $12-15 you bring in your family and pick from five curries or five salads. It’s similar to a concept like California Pizza Kitchen—but Asian. We'll use market fresh ingredients, not stuff that comes out of a can. We don’t even have a freezer.
How has fast casual dining evolved in the last decade?
Ten or 20 years ago we could use imitation crab meat for California rolls, but you just can’t do that anymore. At [Fat Spoon] we are using De Cecco pastas, all the curries are handmade and we pressure cook our short ribs. We are doing a lot of things that fine dining restaurants do.
Why stray from high-end dining?
Since the economic crisis of 2008, we started to become more conscious about where and how people want to spend their money—and me too, I have kids as well. I wanted to do something a little more mainstream.
Will you still be involved with other IDG projects?
The type of restaurants that I’m looking to do right now, in this economy, are different. IDG's talking about doing some more Sushi Rokus. The thing about sushi in general is with the earthquake and nuclear disaster in Japan Japanese food is a little bit on the downswing. That [cuisine's headed] in a different direction—noodles, ramen and curries. [The Feast]