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Momo Sushi entrepreneur opens fourth store in Melbourne

Diane Leow

Thu Aug 22 2013

Robin Yong – Momo Sushi

ENTREPRENEUR, ex-international student and Momo Sushi founder Robin Yong shares his ever-growing success story. Diane Leow catches up with him… over sushi, of course.

Robin Yong juggles many hats - entrepreneur, boss, and now... fatherhood! Photo: Casian Kang

Robin Yong juggles many hats – entrepreneur, boss, and now… fatherhood! Photo: Casian Kang

The humble sushi roll has ingrained itself as one of Melbourne’s fast food options. Locals know the usual suspects well – salmon and avocado, teriyaki chicken and the more adventurous chains might offer peking duck and soft shell crab.

But at Momo Sushi, the flavours are a whole lot more exciting.

Meld last caught up with Momo Sushi boss Robin Yong two years ago, after he opened his third store on Pelham Street in Carlton. Since then, he’s ventured outside Carlton, become a father and expanded Momo Sushi to four stores.

But when he considered whether he should expand the Momo Sushi empire even further, he gave it a second thought.

“I thought I could keep going, but you reach a point where you can’t have too many stores and run them well,” he says. “The way to go was to work with others.”

After deciding to go with the franchising option, he needed to find a business partner.

Enter Mel Wong. A woman of many talents, she holds a science degree from Monash University, has worked in the finance sector and is now at the helm of Momo Sushi’s fourth store in Hawthorn.

This venture is Mel’s first. Born into a family where food is central to relationships and celebrations, she found herself gravitating towards a career in the food and beverage industry natural.

“I love my food, and I’ve been wanting to do something in the food industry for a long time. I actually worked at Jones the Grocer for about nine months last year, just to get a feel of what it’s like from a retail point of view,” she says.

Robin's hands-on approach has won over his staff - no mean feat. Photo: Casian Kang

Robin’s hands-on approach has won over his staff – no mean feat. Photo: Casian Kang

Robin believes that a hands-on approach is vital. In fact, he’s so involved in Momo Sushi that he is often spotted washing the dishes.

“I like washing dishes!” he says.

On a more serious note: “I think it’s important to be quite hands-on. I just enjoy what I do. My leadership style is to lead by example. Doing the washing, sweeping the floor, making the coffees. My staff see that everyone’s equal.”

Wood furniture and funky lights – clearly Momo Sushi Hawthorn is not your run-of-the-mill sushi store. Photo: Hui Jun Ng

After chatting with Mel and Robin, I was eager to check out the new Momo Sushi in Hawthorn. To my surprise, it didn’t look like your typical sushi roll takeaway. Decked out with wood furniture, a unique light box as well as pretty light bulbs, it resembles a cafe rather than a sushi shop.

“People have been saying it’s quite cool for a sushi shop to have this kind of funky lights and to have a coffee machine sitting there as well,” Mel says.

“This is very local, very Melbourne and this is what we’re aiming for,” Robin chimes in.

The coffee here is pretty good, too. Robin and Mel are serious about the quality of their coffee and are determined to be known for both sushi and coffee – not one or the other.

Armed with a robust roast from 5 Senses and a Synesso machine, Mel’s the barista in Hawthorn, churning out lattes and cappuccinos for students in need of caffeine as well as locals who just want to relax over a coffee.

Unique to the Hawthorn branch is the introduction of the green tea latte – a milky green tea drink for fans of matcha or those who want an alternative to coffee. It complements the sushi rolls rather well too.

The Hawthorn branch prides itself on innovation. While there are still the standard sushi roll favourites on offer (don’t worry, teriyaki chicken fans), other unique rolls include the smoked tea prawn roll, and the pulled pork roll.

Some of Momo Sushi Hawthorn's specialties: the Smoked Tea Prawn roll (left), and the Pulled Pork Roll (right), which comes with its own special sauce. Photo: Hui Jun Ng

Some of Momo Sushi Hawthorn’s specialties: the Smoked Tea Prawn roll (left), and the Pulled Pork Roll (right), which comes with its own special sauce. Photo: Hui Jun Ng

The smoked tea prawn roll is a delightful sushi roll with a smoked tea-flavoured mayonnaise, inspired by celebrity chef Peter Kuruvita. The result is a wonderfully light mayonnaise which complements the sweetness of the prawn perfectly.

The pulled pork roll is reminiscent of chashu or Japanese barbecued pork. It is delightfully tender and comes with its own soy sauce that has a hint of roast garlic.

Other than sushi rolls, the Hawthorn store has also introduced hot meals, perfect for those looking for a hot bowl of soup to warm your bones on a winter day. Some items on the menu include ramen. Noodles in a flavourful broth – the ultimate comfort food!

Swinburne University students and Hawthorn residents now have another lunch option when in the area. Don’t miss out on Momo Sushi’s unique offerings. With such passionate people at the helm, you just might be inspired and become a foodie, too.

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