By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Mar 23, 2023 at 11:03 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

Earlier this month, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino reopened the sushi bar inside Ruyi, the pan-Asian restaurant located on the ground floor just inside the south entrance of the casino.

The reopening is among the first steps for improving the experience at the restaurant, which will be expanding its menu by about a third within the next six months, adding numerous new items including shumai, five spice duck, duck spring rolls and more.

But the sushi bar is also part of an overall plan that advances the reputation of the hotel and casino overall.

“Our goal is to be a world class establishment, and that’s one of the things we use to envision the operations for our day to day,” notes Executive Chef Ben Jones. “That applies to the way we source, the way we respect our ingredients and preventing waste in every way possible.”

Those goals mean a smart, deliberate evolution for the restaurant, which currently focuses primarily on maki, with a moderate selection of sashimi and nigiri and a variety of complimentary starters and salads.

Jones says that, despite the labor shortage which has impacted restaurants across the city and beyond, Potawatomi has also made efforts to employ the most highly skilled staff possible. That includes the appointment of Head Chef Sang-ki Kim, a sushi expert who brings over three decades of experience in Japanese cuisine and restaurant management to the table. 

Sang-ki Kim
Ruyi Head Chef Sang-ki Kim

Kim has already directly influenced the sushi menu, bringing new offerings like the Wagyu roll which features the same A5 Miyazaki wagyu beef that’s served at Dream Dance steak. 

The cooked wagyu is combined with sesame soy sauce, scallions, kaware (young sprouts from the daikon plant) and topped with torched wagyu and truffle ponzu.

Wagyu rollX

“It’s one of the highlights of the menu,” notes Jones.

Smart sourcing

Sourcing the freshest, highest quality fish possible for the sushi bar is a major part of that picture. Jones says that, in order to ensure the freshest product possible they make use of three distributors: True World Foods, Fortune Fish and Honolulu Fish Company. 

They also ensure the freshness of their fish by closely monitoring the temperature of their coolers, ensuring that the temperature is kept within the range of 35 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the premature breakdown of the seafood’s proteins. Meanwhile, all fish is cleaned and sliced in a temperature controlled cooler room, another measure that prevents the fish from degrading before it hits the plate.

Sashimi at RuYi
Sashimi selection at RuYi

“The beauty of being part of something like Ruyi,” Jones says, “Is that we can afford to maintain very high standards when it comes to the freshness of our fish. During the summer months, we’re also planning to make full use of the farmers markets to source a good percentage of the produce that will be used at RuYi.”

He also hopes to upgrade the sushi bar in terms of how it handles the sustainability of its offerings, namely by making use of the Smart Catch program provided through the James Beard Foundation.

“I’m deeply passionate about the Smart Catch program,” he says. “So one of my goals for my first year is to get the program launched here so that we can operate with integrity in terms of the sustainability of our seafood.”

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.