Our mission is to create the original chef-inspired fine-casual national restaurant brand for Japanese street food using the finest fish and ethnic ingredients for a cultural, entertaining, and educational experience.

– Xiaoteng Huang & John Sugimura
Xiaoteng Huang
Xiaoteng (X) Huang is operations director and partner at PinKU Japanese Street Food. He worked at Fortune 100 companies such as Target, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and IBM. But at the end of the day, he always dreamed about carving out a path of his own. In 2014, he quit his corporate career to pursue his entrepreneurial dream and started working at Chipotle and Noodles & Company to truly learn the grunt work of the restaurant life, while conceptualizing a brand that can revolutionize the food industry.
John Sugimura is executive chef, concept-brand director, and partner at PinKU Japanese Street Food. He is a second-generation Japanese-American professionally trained sushi chef, whose life-long love of sushi blossomed during time spent in Osaka and Kyoto, Japan. Eating John’s cuisine is like eating in his grandmother’s restaurant in the 1930s. It is the ultimate expression of flavors, colors, and cooking methods, coming together in an authentic experience that is one of a kind.

Our Origins

X and John met in the summer of 2014 in a sushi class. Their shared passion for authentic Japanese got them talking: “Why do people have to go to fancy sit-down restaurants to enjoy high quality sushi? Why do people have to sacrifice speed and money for authentic Japanese food? Why are there no options in the middle?” With these questions in mind, they created a brand new restaurant concept, and PinKU Japanese Street Food was born.

Authenticity, quality, and affordability can go hand in hand. Although we position ourselves as a fine-casual restaurant, we always use culturally genuine recipes and the freshest ingredients so that the taste of our food exceeds that of most full service Japanese restaurants. In our unique business model, we offer a carefully curated small menu, but we make everything extremely well and better than anyone we know. All of our food is made right in front of you in our open kitchen. We don’t have a backroom or freezer for storage because we don’t need it. All of our fish and produce are purchased fresh every morning from local fishmongers and grocery stores. We operate a lean business model for a simple reason: so we can focus our resources on making the best Japanese street food possible while passing on the savings to you.

PinKU Japanese Street Food is a compelling local story performing an art form rooted in culture, entertainment, and education. Chef John Sugimura tells our story in this excerpt:

“In 1917, my grandparents immigrated in their 20s to northern California from the Japan islands of Kyushu and the Chubu region. Their dream was to set up permanent residence in the United States to start a family and business. For context, women in this country were granted the right to vote under the 19th amendment in 1920. Overcoming the loss of a husband and a child, my grandmother’s single-parent spirit persisted and that spirit has been passed on to me.

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, like all Japanese Americans, my family faced increased hostility and discrimination. My Japanese-immigrant grandmother and her American-born children endured racial prejudice as my grandmother operated a restaurant that thrived and contributed to the community of Sacramento, California.

This landscape dramatically changed on February 19, 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. The order cleared the way for the forced removal of all Japanese Americans from the west coast. By the spring of 1942, 120,000 Japanese-Americans were forced into hastily-built “assembly centers.” My family was forced into Tule Lake. They experienced incarceration behind barbed wire and living in barracks. In 1946, my family left the war camp with five pieces of luggage. My family eventually moved to Minnesota where I was born and raised. Our strong spirit persisted. This is our story!

Revisiting the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California in August 2017 brought back many memories about my grandparents, father, aunts, and uncles and their story. It was not that long ago my father and I strolled the museum and talked about what times were like in the camp as we walked through an exhibit on the incarceration. We talked about persistence, spirit, and opportunity. Now, extending our story to PinKU presents an opportunity many of my relatives will never see but will always be the invaluable part of.”

PinKU Japanese Street Food is the ultimate expression of flavors, colors, and cooking methods in an authentic experience that is one of a kind. Japan is a sensory wonderland; its food scene is no exception and a great way to bring people together.

Our principles of Japanese cuisine and sushi: In the spirit of Chef John Sugimura’s obaasan (Grandmother Tsui, 1896-1960): harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility; promote the true spirit of Japanese cuisine and traditional sushi; educate proper techniques; and share the integrity of Japanese cuisine and sushi.

Continue Reading Our Story

Awards & Accolades

Rated Number One on the List of Best Sushi Spots in Minneapolis, WCCO TV/CBS Minnesota, 2018

Best Authentic Japanese Cuisine, USA, LUX Magazine – London, 2018

Explore Japan with Chef John Sugimura, Artful Living Magazine, 2018

10 Under-the-radar Restaurants to Try Right Now in the Twin Cities, Star Tribune, 2018

The Immigrant Cookbook, Recipes that make America great, Contributing chef, Interlink Publishing, December 2017 publication

Minnesota Start-Up Most Likely To Succeed, Food and Beverage Retail Winner, Minnesota Business Magazine, November 2017 publication

Unique Eat and Eateries by Terri Peterson Smith, Reedy Press, August 2017

Minnesota Start-Up Most Likely To Succeed, Food and Beverage Retail Finalist, Minnesota Business Magazine, 2017

Globe-Trotter Travel Guidebook – Japan to United States, featured Minnesota restaurant, by Arukikata Publishing, August 2017

The Young Entrepreneurs (Cover feature), Minnesota Business Magazine, 2017

The Global Food of the Twin Cities (JAPANESE), Travel & Leisure Magazine, 2017

Best Sushi, Best of the Twin Cities, City Pages, 2017

Best Restaurant Nominee, Best of the Twin Cities, Reader’s Choice Poll, City Pages, 2017

Best New Restaurants, MPLS-St. Paul Magazine, 2016

Best Global Restaurant, Minnesota Monthly Magazine, 2016

Best New Restaurants, Minnesota Monthly Magazine, 2016

Top 10 Twin Cities Restaurant Dishes (Crispy Shrimp) of 2016, Star Tribune