From the Sea to Umi San

By Julius Kensan
7th September 2021
Spurred by the dine-in limitations caused by the pandemic, Umi San brings the sashimi and chirashi experience home with a DIY approach that offers diners an unexpected creative outlet.

When the country was hit by the pandemic and dining out was (and still is) a perilous option, the food that Kevin Kantono craved the most was fresh, high-quality sashimi. But the idea of ordering sashimi for take-outs raised questions about the way it’s packaged and, most importantly, its freshness. Kevin, who runs his own fishery business in the import-export of seafood, decided to take matters into his own hands.

Created by Kevin in July of this year, Umi San has been delivering quality, vacuum-sealed fresh seafood with cold food packaging to customers’ doorsteps. What Umi San (umi means ocean in Japanese) offers is immaculately straightforward: restaurant-grade sashimi platters that don’t compromise on taste and quality. From their tight selection of fresh catches from Toyosu Fish Market and Indonesian seas, patrons can have a pick of premium selections for bluefin tuna, salmon, scallops, fish roe and even uni (sea urchin) to make a spiffing DIY platter in their home kitchens. “We want to bring the idea of serving premium quality Japanese seafood at an affordable price. Through the concept, we want to introduce a variety of seafood products that can be served fresh and raw,” said Kevin.

While the thought of preparing and plating your own takeout seems silly, the idea is loved by fans of Umi San as something to have fun with, making meals a little more special and altogether diverting from the day to day monotony we’re experiencing at home these days. Therefore, it’s no surprise that their Chirashi Kit (consisting of bluefin tuna, salmon, nori, soy sauce, premium wasabi and sushi rice) has proven to be extremely popular. “We have seen awesome pictures from our customers where they plate their chirashi creatively,” enthused Kevin.

Chirashi, which comes from the word ‘chirasu’ (meaning to scatter), is a classic fixture in Japanese cooking that was created to serve unattractive pieces of fish as a carefully plated and garnished meal, and still absolutely delectable for its freshness. Over in Japan, every family has their own version of chirashi made with the garnishes they fancy the most, making it almost impossible to flunk and a true hallmark of the chirashi.

With Umi San’s kit, the chance to explore is creative freedom: add toppings such as fish roes, omelette, pickles and even boiled shrimp, all to one’s personal liking. Kevin himself loves to take it up a notch by mixing the humble ingredients with premium ones, such as scallop, mekajiki (swordfish) and the enthusiastically admired uni. 

At the moment, Umi San only delivers to Jakarta and other selected cities in West Java due to logistical constraints, especially with air-flown shipments during the pandemic. But Kevin is looking forward to “expanding Umi San’s coverage outside of Jakarta and West Java.” If all goes well, Umi San might even welcome its offline experience by 2022.

The pandemic has no doubt restrained the F&B industry in many ways, but the limitations have also opened up exciting possibilities and ventures previously shelved as wishful thinking, as evident through Umi San. To think that savouring fresh sashimi, which used to be an inimitable dine-in experience, let alone crafting our own perfect chirashi bowl at home, both can now be done on our dining tables and we have the pandemic to thank for it. When it comes to the things we miss, life has a funny way of bringing them back to us.