In a Gratiot strip mall sandwiched between a business named “Ca$h Exchange Pawnbrokers” and an office of an ambiguous nature is the Goblin, an unassuming, but unique sushi bar.
If you aren’t familiar with the brand yet, it’s likely you’ll be hearing more from business owners Jo Cho and Jin Cha as they ready to open a second Goblin restaurant in Southwest Detroit’s Hubbard Richards neighborhood this month, followed by a third location in Macomb Township this summer.
The Goblin, which opened July 2019, is different in a few fun ways. To see the chefs in action, the restaurant hosts live streams from their busy sushi bar on their website. They also take the pits from the 30-or-so avocados they use each day, grow them into cute, potted avocado plants, called “baby avo,” and sell them in the restaurant.
For sushi fans, the concise, photo-driven menu is familiar and approachable.
In addition to nigiri and classic maki rolls like California and Philadelphia, Goblin’s sushi chefs also make simple, four-ingredient bowls with freshly made rice, cucumber, avocado and choice of fish (salmon, tuna, shrimp or crab salad). There’s also edamame, and for dessert, a creamy, earthy matcha cheesecake. Goblin’s colorful party trays, with 5-6 rolls for $45-$55, can be ready in about 20 minutes.
Cho and Cha, both from Seoul, Korea and friends for a decade, say what sets Goblin apart is their choice of rice, which is the Koshihikari brand. They said it can be twice as expensive than the rice used in most American sushi bars, but it gives them the quality they want.
“In the sushi industry rice is a key ingredient … there’s a certain standard,” said Cha. “If I go to a sushi bar in Japan or Korea, 90% of restaurants use Koshihikari.”
The Goblin’s Detroit location, a collaboration between Cha and restaurateur Jacques Driscoll (co-owner of Green Dot Stables and Johnny Noodle King) is going to have a test opening this weekend.
“We thought this is a great opportunity because Jacques has a lot of experience and also he’s a Detroiter,” said Cha.
The new Goblin will be at 2547 Bagley where Mexican restaurant Peso Bar was up until a few months ago. The space is known as being a bit of a revolving door. It started as a seafood restaurant Huron Room in 2015, changed overnight to a curry restaurant in 2018 and a year later became Peso Bar.
Goblin’s Detroit location — which has a sushi bar, a few tables for indoor seating and beer and sake — will also have what Cho refers to at the Goblin “aesthetic,” stark white walls, clean and bright surroundings, a family-friendly atmosphere, friendly staff and their signature decoration: giant, pastel pink and blue lego-like blocks for decoration.
The third location is set to open at 21876 23 Mile in Macomb on July 3, which will be the two-year anniversary of the original Goblin.
Growing from one location to three in two years is something Cho and Cha are proud of, but in a very modest way. They say they’re focused on quality control as they grow, and haven’t sought out much media attention.
“We have achieved some small goals but we know we have a long way to go,” says Cha.
Goblin’s Clinton Township location, 35925 S. Gratiot, is closed until next week while the team oversees the test run at the Detroit location. Order at the restaurant or online at goblinorder.com. For more updates on the new locations follow Goblin on Instagram @the_goblin_shop.
Our special thanks to:detroitnews.com