DK Lee has kept busy since moving 40 years ago from South Korea to Austin, having met his wife, raised three children and opened two locations of his local restaurant, DK Sushi.

The first location in South Austin opened 24 years ago and has played host to three generations of customers, Lee said. The second DK Sushi location opened on North Lamar Boulevard six years ago and is where Lee now spends his time.

“Our thing is plate it right and [use] decorations,” Lee said. “A lot of sushi restaurants, they don’t have time for decorations [on the plate]. We have a great rice, I think we have a better rice than anybody in Austin. So we have a good flavor, keep it clean and plate it pretty.”

The north location originally served as an Asian market offering a variety of fish, alcohol, plates and other cooking needs. Lee said the market did not do well, so he spent three years slowly transforming it into the 75-seat restaurant customers visit today. Many of the tables in the restaurant were even made by Lee’s own hands, he said.

Lee opened the restaurant with no previous experience in the dining or food industry, he said. He credits Austin residents for his success professionally and personally.

“Austin made me what I am. Austin is where I raised three kids, and I live a decent life. Austin gave me everything I got, so I want to pay back Austin,” Lee said. “What I can do for Austin is create the right kind of atmosphere, the right kind of food for the right kind of price. I’m willing to do it as badass as I can. I’m raising a bunch of chefs that are great people to serve Austin the best way we can.”

Instead of thanking customers and asking them to come again, Lee said he thanks his customers by providing a karaoke show in which patrons are entertained and able to get to know the restaurant owner. When Lee takes the stage he is much tamer with his jokes than in years past, he said.

“I’ve been hosting the karaoke show for the last 15 years. The south location was a completely different attitude [than the current show]. I was young and crazy, and we did crazy stuff and it worked,” Lee said. “I’m not going to be able to satisfy everybody, but whoever I can satisfy, I’m going to give my whole heart.”

As Lee grew older, he ultimately “killed the character” patrons knew from the original location’s karaoke night. Patrons who perform during karaoke night and do poorly get gonged off the stage by Lee, so bad singers do not last too long on his stage, he said.

New specialty sushi menu

The King and I Roll ($12 for eight pieces) includes an arrangement made using vegetables from owner DK Lee’s own garden so he can give each customer a “pretty plate.” The inside of the roll contains spicy yellowtail fish, green onions and cucumber with the outside of the roll topped with torched escolar, eel sauce and almonds.

Chef favorites

The Ahi Crunch Roll ($12 for eight pieces) is Lee’s favorite roll from the new specialty roll section. The roll has shredded kanikama, which imitates expensive crab in its taste and texture, as well as avocados, seared ahi tuna, eel sauce, honey mayo and tempura flakes. The dish includes a sizable amount of specialty sauce on the side.

Other menu items

In addition to sushi rolls the menu also offers patrons a variety of nigri—a slice of raw fish on top of a small bed of rice. The nigri pictured are two pieces of salmon and two pieces of yellowtail ($4.50 for two rolls). Mackerel and mish mash are the most expensive nigri orders on the DK Sushi menu at $5.50.