A taste of Japan in Waterloo

Earlier this month, a new restaurant came to Waterloo, offering local residents the opportunity to experience a range of Japanese foods.

Hiko Japanese Steak, Sushi & Ramen hosted its grand opening Aug. 7, though talk about the restaurant coming to the community began earlier this year.

Rizky Christanto, one of the owners of Hiko, explained that this was actually the second establishment he and his two co-owners had started, the first being Kasabi Hibachi, Sushi & Ramen in Festus, Mo., which opened about a year ago.

According to Christanto, all three of Hiko’s owners have extensive experience working in Japanese restaurants.

“We’ve worked at restaurants our whole life, from when we were 18,” Christanto told the Republic-Times. “We’ve been working at Japanese restaurants since we were teenagers.”

Christanto personally recalled how he has had opportunities to do just about everything when it comes to running a restaurant.

“I started from the back, dishwasher, waiting tables,” Christanto  said. “Pretty much, I did everything.”

All this restaurant experience left him and his partners with a distinct affinity for Japanese cuisine.

The addition of a new restaurant in Waterloo came about as the owners felt they could fill a particular niche in the community.

“We just love Japanese food, and we saw there’s no Japanese food in Waterloo, so we decided to open one over here,” Christanto said.

As the name indicates, Hiko serves a variety of Japanese dishes, from seafood ramen to California rolls as well as appetizers like crab rangoon and fried calamari.

Feedback online has generally been quite positive, with some noting there was a bit of a wait due to curiosity about the restaurant but many offering high praise for the quality of its food.

Christanto said that the response he’s heard from the community has been tremendously positive.

“Good feedback, and we’ve been getting a lot of support from Monroe County people,” Christanto said. “We’ve been doing really good, actually.”

Hiko, like many other restaurants in the industry, have encountered their fair share of trouble when it comes to filling out staff.

Currently, Hiko is still looking to fill full- and part-time positions for hosts, food runners and  other positions.

“We’re always shorthanded,” Christanto said. “That’s our main issue, is staffing. It’s really hard to find people to work for us.”

Despite the understandable staffing struggles, Christanto was hopeful about the outlook for Hiko, particularly given the exceptional support from the community.

While he didn’t offer any specifics, he said the owners are currently considering opening another restaurant in a different location somewhere down the line.

Hiko is currently open at 951 Illinois Route 3 in Waterloo from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

For more information and a menu, visit the Hiko Japanese Steak, Sushi & Ramen page on Facebook or call 217-722-4759.

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Andrew Unverferth

HTC web