By Erika F. Washington
In a quiet corner above the hustle and bustle of the Planet Hollywood casino floor you can find an elegant restaurant overlooking the south end of the strip. Serving Japanese cuisine with an authentic California flair, the atmosphere makes patrons feel extremely Zen while dining around soft drapes and velvet mid-century seating. Influenced both personally and professionally by his extensive world travels, Nick Haque, Chairman & CEO of Koi Restaurants, has been deeply touched by the devastating drought and recent declaration of famine in East Africa. In support of worldwide relief efforts, Koi has launched from now until August 14, a fundraiser donating 50% of the proceeds of two featured menu items. Donations will go to the U.N. World Food Program’s relief efforts through the ‘Just A Little’ foundation. We had the opportunity to speak exclusively with Nick on his humanitarian efforts and what he loves about Las Vegas.
What’s your favorite Koi menu item?
NH: Koi Crispy Rice topped with Spicy Tuna is one of my all-time favorites, but right now I love the Edamame Dumplings. Not only are they delicate and rich, but each bite sends support to East Africa.
How did you first hear about the famine outbreak, what was your initial reaction?
NH: I have been following the East African drought since it struck early last year, so it was, unfortunately, only a matter of time before the United Nations declared an official state of famine. Having tracked the crisis so closely, I had the chance to truly reflect on the circumstances and what East Africa is going through. After the UN announcement, I didn’t hesitate in taking the first step to activate this fundraiser.
Not long ago Koi did a similar fundraiser for Japan and its victims of the earthquake and tsunami. How much did Koi raise in those efforts?
NH: Between New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, we raised over $22,000 in a matter of just a few short weeks.
How much money are you hoping to bring in with this campaign?
NH: Any amount of money makes a difference, so I’m happy to be raising funds and send support from Koi to East Africa.
Why, in your opinion, is it important for Americans to help other struggling countries in their time of need?
NH: In my opinion, anyone who is in a position to help during a time of need should do so. Americans may not be able to directly relate to drought and famine, but we have the ability to directly help and that’s what I’m encouraging customers to do at Koi.
Why did you pick the edamame dumplings and the ‘Just A Little’ shot as your charity items?
NH: The “Just A Little Shot” was part of our Japan fundraiser as well. Both the shot and the Edamame Dumplings represent a true fusion of flavors to encourage support across the globe. Given the timing and the circumstances, both items were a perfect fit.
Have you received any feedback from customers, are they excited to help out?
NH: We received tremendous feedback after our Japan fundraiser and I’m looking forward to the same this time.
If customers want to donate more is there an option when they’re paying their bill?
NH: Of course! We encourage our customers to enjoy the Edamame Dumplings and Just A Little Shot, but welcome additional donations.
How often do you get to the Las Vegas location?
NH: I try to visit each of my locations at least once a month to maintain the authenticity of Koi Restaurants.
What do you love about Vegas?
NH: Vegas has such a unique vibe that lends itself perfectly to the essence of Koi. Both the city and the restaurant have a balance of seduction and class that treat each visitor to an evening worth remembering and one they’ll want to experience again and again.
What’s next for Koi Las Vegas any upcoming exciting events or menu items?
NH: Over the summer, we launched two new promotions at Koi Las Vegas that I’m still very excited about! Sunset Flights is a tasting menu of three of our signature menu items and specialty cocktail pairings available in the Lounge from 5pm-7pm seven days a week. Buzzed Mochi is a pairing of cocktail-inspired dipping sauces with four of my favorite mochi flavors. Both features are brand new to Koi Las Vegas and available through the end of the year!
Thanks Nick for answering our questions!
Koi is located at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, 3667 Las Vegas Boulevard South. For reservations or to make a donation call 702.454.4555. Visit their website here