Shreveport: Vegan Sushi Capital of Northwest Louisiana

by Chris Jay

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My friend Randy, who runs a modernist bookstore on the internet with his incredible business partner and spouse, Molly, calls Shreveport “the Design Capital of the Ark-La-Tex.” I believe that he means it as a compliment, but it’s a funny phrase. It’s a measured compliment that doesn’t get carried away.

Randy and Molly are sort of incredible to me. They’re like Forty-Niners, sifting through piles of workout tapes and diabetic foot care supplies at rummage sales, estate sales and junk markets, ferreting out mid-century design objects left behind when Shreveport’s baby boomers started heading for the exits. Zooming in on over South Highlands in Google Maps, searching for any telltale display of modernism before heading out to the sales on Friday. Some days – some months, even – they don’t spot anything more interesting than a cabinet filled with nudist magazines, Nazi knives, or both.

The way that Randy and Molly would probably feel carrying a matching set of vintage Herman Miller chairs out of a garage sale in Greenwood, that’s how I felt as I stuffed myself with delicious vegan nigiri and sashimi from Tokyo Neon Sushi. So glad to live in Shreveport, so grateful to be here to witness it coming off of the ropes again. 

If people like Nick Kamono, the 35-year-old proprietor of Tokyo Neon Sushi, play a part in the future of Shreveport’s food scene, we’re in for a lot of great meals. 

Kamono will be recognizable to lots of locals as one of several ridiculously good-looking guys who worked as Sione Maumalanga’s captains at Ono’s Hawaiian Grill. Tokyo Neon Sushi is a pop-up specializing in vegan sushi, sashimi and nigiri, along with vegan versions of sushi joint staples like “krab salad” made with hearts of palm and vegan sriracha aioli. For the time being, Kamono is popping-up at Drug Emporium and booking catering gigs. 

Here’s the thing: vegan sushi is as Shreveport as Strawn’s pie. Just the phrase “vegan sushi” immediately calls to mind Libby Patterson Smith’s outstanding vegan rolls from her catering company Go Greenly. Those addictive carrot-and-avocado rolls have fueled me through countless ambient music shows and art openings at minicine? over the past decade or so. It sounds like a joke, but I mean it: we kick ass at vegan sushi around here. 

Nick Kamono’s approach is entirely different from the Go Greenly version – though both are really good. Kamono’s sushi pieces included a grilled watermelon nigiri with basil served on sushi rice, a dish that coaxed an unbelievable amount of flavor from a few noble ingredients and a tiny dab of fresh-ground wasabi. Another fantastic piece of nigiri subbed grilled eggplant in place of eel, brushed with homemade, vegan and gluten-free unagi sauce. A miso-marinated oyster mushroom replicated the mouthfeel of buttery, high-quality scallops.

You can call this fake sushi, if you want. Mock it; I don’t think Nick Kamono would mind. He’s got to be able to handle some ribbing if he’s launching a business that specializes in vegan sushi in Shreveport, Louisiana. Maybe he’s crazy.

Crazy like John and Katie Koellen must have been when they opened a vegan bakery called Earthereal in Shreveport around the same time that America first celebrated Earth Day.

Crazy like Lindsi and Dany Martin and their family must be to operate a vegan cafe and cold-pressed juicery in a neighborhood that some had given up on. Amazingly, Well + Fed Louisiana wound up housed in a building that was previously a long-running vegetarian restaurant, Healthy Planet.  

What the hell could the odds of that ever happening be?

Nick Kamono displays a plate of his vegan sushi.

That was what I was thinking about as I interviewed Nick Kamono, who had lots to say about his love for vegan cooking. I must have seemed distracted. I was thinking how I may be witnessing, in the first shaky steps of Tokyo Neon Sushi, the next vegan entrepreneur in what’s becoming a lineage of intrepid vegans making Shreveport a better place.

So, by all means: Book Tokyo Neon Sushi for your next catered affair. Follow them on Instagram. Devour a slice of grilled watermelon with a little bit of wasabi at their next pop-up appearance. Because, honestly, it’s starting to seem like wonderful things happen when you give a vegan entrepreneur a good running start in this town. Imagine what could happen this time.

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