Early on in life, Dan Krohmer loved sushi. The cuisine has influenced much of the life of the owner-chef of Other Mama, but the restaurant is much more than that. Krohmer’s life has taken him all over the world, including time in Japan, farm-to-table work in his home region of Northern California, Philadelphia, the Caribbean and across North America cooking for touring bands. Eventually he settled down in Las Vegas, but cringed at the idea of working on the Strip. He signed a lease without a restaurant concept and began constructing it, all while developing the menu in his mind.
What was it about sushi that caught your eye early on?
When I was a kid, I just thought sushi chefs were the coolest thing ever. I don’t know why, I just liked the presence of it, the artistry of it. I liked that it wasn’t just food, but an experience. That was the biggest thing for me, I think. That’s what turns me on. I like cooking, but the whole package of dining, everything being balanced and hitting that sweet spot. I really enjoy the communication with the customer in an open kitchen.
What was it like cooking for and touring with bands?
I got super bored and demotivated from doing the same crap. I did Coachella and Van’s Warped Tour. Spring to fall, I’d travel around in a tour bus, different city every day and boring generic food. It is a challenge. The kitchen was built into a 50-foot semi, no air conditioning, getting deliveries at 5 a.m., setting up and having breakfast ready by 7 a.m. for 300 to 1800 people. It was a lot, but I liked it, and it gave a different perspective and logistics. Sometimes you get burned out in the short order and routine of the kitchen, but as long as the food hit the table, they didn’t care what we did.
How’d you end up in Las Vegas?
I was working in the Caribbean in the winters, consulting and teaching local people how to make sushi and just got super burned out being on the road. It was one of those grass is greener situations. There was a girl I worked with in Philadelphia, we wound up dating and decided to end up here. I interviewed on the Strip a few times and just hated the idea of it. That was about it. I got a job at a local place and I was a grumpy asshole and I realized I was over working for other people.
So you signed a lease without a concept, how’d it develop?
I had a bunch of ideas, but at the end of the day I had to cook what sounds good to me. That’s why I named it Other Mama, something totally neutral without a cultural connotation. The restaurant is a combination of my life and career. Things I picked up in the Caribbean, like my favorite way to eat a whole fish: super simple, salt and pepper grilled perfectly. I don’t need stuffed with wild sausage or a crazy sauce. I want to taste the fish. We have hush puppies; my dad is a super redneck Oklahoman, so I grew up with that, a very nostalgic inclusion. I traveled a lot to Panama, Belize and Mexico, so ceviche. Then sashimi from Japan.
How is sushi different in Japan?
Lots of different ways. Rolls and stuff are an American thing. They have rolls, but just like one item, not 10 different things. It’s slower paced. It’s not sushi bars with loud music that distracts from the focus of the sushi chef. That’s what you’re going there for, to watch and feel the ambiance of creating. It’s about slowing down and enjoying the moment, being present. So many of us consume while doing three other things at the same time and don’t realize what we’re eating. I like being present and aware, appreciating what you have. A lot of things I’ve learned radiate into your personal life, the little things that go along with life than just food.
Other Mama is a chill atmosphere and a wide price range, it’s easy to come in and have any sort of experience…The idea is to have everyone feel welcome, especially in this town and that side of town. There’s something for Uncle Terry who hates everything. My dad gets mad if a place doesn’t have Bud Light. It’s all about hitting that spectrum for everyone, but not dumbing it down too much. I’m happy it is that way. You can come in and get a $3 Pabst and some hush puppies and get out for $10, or have a $100-plus meal for a special occasion, but I don’t want it to be a one time a year place.
What are you eating at Other Mama?
I’m always eating the sashimi. I love our product. I love crazy seasonal fish, nothing to it, just soy sauce and a little wasabi, call it a day. I’m proud of what we get in and the money and time we put into sourcing. It makes me feel proud that this is what we’re serving.