Recently I walked into Smithfield Shopping Centre and there at ISP Fish Market was a familiar face –Sammy; in his element behind the counter filleting and slicing seafood, his dexterous hands working his razor sharp knife through the freshest of fish. He looks up, smiles broadly and says ‘hai’ just as he did for years from behind his sushi bar at his Yama Restaurant in Spence Street.
Masami (Sammy) Kawano paved the way for Japanese restaurants in Cairns when he opened Yama restaurant in 1987. Arriving from Melbourne he was aware of the quality of this regions yellow fin tuna, however at that time; procuring sashimi was a challenge. Sammy had to bring tuna from Sydney until he could convince local fishers to supply very fresh, unfrozen sashimi grade tuna.
His other dilemma was that local people were unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine and this also took some time before acceptance set in. With the Japanese tourist boom in the ‘90’s things changed and with that more Japanese restaurants appeared in town.
Interestingly, when you walked into Yama’s you would find not the Japanese tourists but the Japanese tourist operators. It seemed that this was their special (home away from home) eating spot, and away from work. ‘Don’t tell the tourists about Yama’?
Now at ISP Fish Market, what a great partnership this is with the McAtamney family and Sammy Kawano? Here is a reputable local fishing family business with the expertise of a seafood master chef offering a quality product to the Smithfield and beaches area. You can find Sammy there in person at ISP on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and he makes up enough sushi & sashimi for Sunday.