The Mastermind of Koi Restaurant: Nick Haque

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 My father’s innovative spirit encouraged me to follow my own path.

Nick Haque, born into a family of entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, is the mastermind behind the incredibly successful Koi Restaurant. A staple in Los Angeles’ haute dining scene, Koi was founded with the idea of elevating food and hospitality to an art form. Eight years later, that art form has spread across the country and around the globe, garnering a following of A-listers and spawning a slew of imitators who try to recreate the magic of the incredibly successful restaurant brand. Here, he explains why Koi will always be ahead of the trends.

Haute Living Koi entered the Los Angeles culinary scene with a bang eight years ago and has remained at the very top of the industry ever since. What is the secret behind your lasting success?

Nick Haque Koi entered the Los Angeles culinary scene unlike any restaurant preceding it. Koi is about an experience. It is the combination of design, comfort, and quality of food. Eight years ago, my vision was to design a restaurant that appealed to all the senses. I was able to capture that with Koi. The secret from there is maintaining consistency and paying close attention to detail.

HL How did your heritage shape the creation of the restaurant?
NH My family has been an incredible inspiration to me. My father’s innovative spirit encouraged me to follow my own path. I watched him build an empire, which compelled me to create my own.

HL Sum up Koi in three words:
NH Iconic, vibrant, and intimate

HL Koi is known not only for its fine cuisine but also for its décor. Who is responsible for the design of the Los Angeles restaurant?
NH Koi Group is responsible for the design of Koi Los Angeles. Our creative team was able to expand on my original vision for Koi and outsource concept designers to complete the restaurant I had envisioned. Many creative geniuses contributed to the design of Koi Restaurant. We continue to garner ideas to constantly improve and refresh the Koi experience.

HL The restaurant appeals to the Hollywood power crowd, superstars and mega-moguls alike. What is it about Koi that brings in the A-list clientele?
NH At Koi we try to develop a relationship with each of our patrons. No matter who they are and where they come from, we invite them into our restaurant, which is an oasis from the outside world. We have developed an atmosphere of comfort and equality where each person, regardless of their stature, is able to relax and feel at home.

HL If someone wants to get reservations at Koi on a busy Friday night, what do you recommend?
NH The best tip that I can give is persistence. Often we have a fully booked restaurant but will have a few last minute cancellations. It is common that we have walk-ins who snag a table by being in the right place at the right time. We try to be very accommodating to everyone who comes through our doors.

HL What’s your favorite dish at Koi?
At this time, my favorites are the Spicy Crunchy Yellowtail Tartare and the Peppercorn Kobe Filet with truffle-mashed potatoes.

HL Other than Koi, what is your favorite restaurant in the Los Angeles area? Favorite chef?
That is dependent on the mood I am in. For Italian, Il Sole. For steak, STK. Luckily I live in one of the most culinary advanced cities, so I am never short on options.

HL Where will we find you on a Friday night?
NH Almost any given Friday night you will find me at Koi. It is important to me to remain hands-on in each of my restaurants.

HL Koi now operates in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, and Bangkok. Any additional locations in the works? What is one consistent trait clients will find in all of your restaurants?
NH We are currently looking at Washington D.C., Miami, and Dubai. Further down the road I would like to take Koi to London, Moscow, Mexico City, Shanghai, Brazil, and Tokyo. Each Koi is unique and has different qualities but they are all based on the same principle.

HL How have your businesses adapted to the changing economic climate?
NH Although the enconomy has significantly slowed everywhere, my restaurants have remained consistent throughout the change. As we have been affected like everyone else, we continue to maintain our identity and believe that when diners’ restaurant choices are narrowed, we will be considered if not chosen.

HL Now that you’ve created the brand strength in the Koi name, how do you plan on using it?
NH Besides the expansion of Koi across the world I plan to use the Koi name for a better cause. It is my belief that if we all contribute just a small amount to a greater cause, we will make a monumental change in the world. With this inspiration, I have developed a charity called “Just a Little.”
“Just a Little” is a non-profit organization that focuses on improving healthcare and education for those who cannot afford it. We would ultimately like to sponsor men and women who would like to work in medicine yet do not have the means to do so themselves. Although we are in the beginning stages, I am very excited and look forward to the improvements we will be able to make in the lives of others.

HL What else are you working on right now? What does the future of Nick Haque hold?
NH I am working on Koi D.C. and Miami. While remaining hands-on in each of my restaurants, I am really lending a great deal of focus to “Just a Little.” Hopefully, very soon we will be able to make a big difference.

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