If you had to find two business owners to run a new Asian-themed restaurant in Lacey, what would you look for? Business experience, for sure, and possibly someone with an international background or experience living abroad.
Well, that’s what Ryan and Leena Rommann bring to the table at MiSo Asian Bistro, which they opened this month.
Both previously lived in Singapore. Ryan was working for a consultancy called The Asia Group, which helps Fortune 100 companies do business in Asia, while Leena was working for GE Capital. Before that, she worked for Goldman Sachs in Seoul, South Korea. She’s also a CPA.
Living in Singapore, they discovered the culinary world of the food stall, serving quick and delicious food that they could bring back to work to eat at their desks.
Inspired by the experience — and thinking of running their own restaurant — the two returned to the United States. Ryan is from New Mexico, so they started there, loaded up a car and headed west, trying to find the right place to call home.
The day they stopped in Denver, it snowed. After living in Singapore where it’s consistently 90 degrees, that wasn’t going to work for them. So they moved on, the late 20-somethings eventually settling on Olympia’s west side and opening the business in Lacey.
MiSo Asian Bistro serves fast and healthful Korean food that has been slightly Americanized, Ryan said.
Leena, who is Korean, learned cooking from her mother.
“I’ve tried to mimic her recipes,” she said.
The menu breaks down like this: Customers can start with a roll, bowl or salad, which comes with rice, and then they select the other ingredients: the protein — teriyaki chicken, Korean bulgogi steak or barbecue pulled pork, for example — and then it’s on to selecting vegetables, sauces and then you’re done. You pick the ingredients and they make it in front of you, similar to the experience at Chipotle or Subway, Ryan said.
Think of the roll as a kind of “Asian burrito.” Nori (seaweed) and rice on the outside and meat, veggies and sauces on the inside. Most items on the menu range from $6 to $8. They also sell beverages and side dishes, such as miso soup or Korean corn slaw, which also can be served with tortilla chips for dipping.
MiSo Asian occupies about 1,000 square feet on Lacey Boulevard. Ryan said they didn’t want to bite off more space than they could handle, and, for the moment, it’s just the two of them.
“We want to understand the business to the fullest degree before we hire,” he said.
MiSo Asian Bistro
Owners: Ryan and Leena Rommann.
Location: 4514 Lacey Blvd. SE, Suite B, Lacey.
Type of business: Restaurant, serving fast and healthy Korean food.
Years in business: New. Opened in November.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.
Employees: The owners.
Advice to busiess owners: Budget well, be prepared and be patient. Have at least six months of capital. There will be hiccups when you start a business, so celebrate your successes. “If you get married and go into business together, the wife is always right,” Ryan Rommann said.
Did you know? The word “miso” means smile in Korean, but it’s also the name of a soup commonly served in Japan. Ryan Rommann served in the Peace Corps in Mongolia for two years, teaching and helping with community development. He lived in the Gobi desert. He also speaks Mongolian.