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Experience Japango

The newest Old Town restaurant that’s bringing Fort Collins a taste of modern Japan

Japango Fort Collins is the newest restaurant in Old Town that’s serving up Japanese cuisine with a modern and sophisticated touch. Their twist on Japanese classics gives diners an exciting fusion of flavors while prioritizing the ancient craft of sushi and Japanese dishes.   

Owners Jon and Erin Banis took over Japango’s Boulder location in 2008, continuing the mission of bringing people together while serving high quality Japanese cuisine. The couple, and their two daughters, fell in love with the family-centric values of Fort Collins and knew their second location belonged in Old Town. 

“We’ve always loved Fort Collins. We’re in awe of downtown and how it feels so family oriented. It felt like the perfect time in our life to set sights on this,” Erin said. 

When the restaurant's design plans began, the Banis’ had heavy input on what they imagined the space would look like. Using wood accents to bring warmth into the space, strategic lighting to create a welcoming atmosphere, and multiple dining areas throughout that allows diners to get the most out of their dining experience was all curated to create a restaurant that people wanted to keep coming back to. 

The traditional Japanese aesthetic of precision and detail in their build and decor was used to match the current design in their Boulder location while also creating a space that stands on its own as a unique restaurant. This intentionally designed space takes from traditional Japanese interior design while maintaining an element of warmth that gives diners an experience rather than just a delicious meal. 

“We wanted elements [of Japango Boulder] to carry over, but also feel like growth and refinement of our style,” Erin said. “We wanted it to be a place that matched the cuisine and spoke familiarity while being a little different.”

The authenticity of Japango doesn’t start and end with the ambiance of their restaurant. It is woven into the core of its history and evident in their menu and craft expertise. Master sushi chef, Yukiji Iwasa, started his sushi training at 15 years old in Japan and is classically trained in the art of traditional Japanese sushi. Iwasa has been with Japango for over 20 years, formally training chefs to bring the highest quality of Japanese cuisine to Japango’s diners.

While Iwasa has mastered tradition and technique, it’s his playful spirit that breaks the mold and makes Japango’s menu so incredible.

“While he brings formal and traditional training to our other chefs, he understands that many creations have become more contemporary. His fun side has really come out in the last couple of years,” Jon said. 

Iwasa has had a heavy influence on the menu over his long-spanning career, but the magic behind the menu is the collective flavors and creations that have come from past and current chefs. 

“Our menu is a history yearbook of all the chefs that have come through Japango. You can look back and some of the dishes have been on the menu for 10 or 15 years from chefs I’ve never even met, and I’ve been with Japango for 14 years,” Erin said. “It’s really fun that each chef that comes into the restaurant leaves a mark in one way or another. So many creative minds working together, all while having Iwasa’s traditional element to everything.”

With such a vibrant menu, Japango prioritizes the quality of ingredients to achieve their culinary excellence. They serve traditional Makis and bring in high quality and authentic fish prepared in ways unlike anywhere else in Northern Colorado. With most of their fish sourced from Japan and an effort to source as many ingredients as possible locally, Japango strives to bring its customers the best of Japan and Fort Collins on every plate. 

While a high-quality menu and the traditional aesthetic play a massive role in making Japango what it is. The main goal Jon and Erin set out to achieve is creating a place where people want to come back to. They would describe their restaurant as “a reprieve from the bad times and a celebration of the good times,” in an effort to create a space that feels like a nice restaurant while remaining approachable. 

“We want to offer an experience. A break from your everyday life, whether you’re having a great day or a bad day. We’re here to welcome you and give you a break,” Jon said. “To create an experience with great service and great food that really takes you away from your everyday life.” 

The efforts to combine genuine Japanese culture with new-world ideas is not only evident when you walk through the doors of Japango, but are the very essence of what this restaurant is. The care they place in cultivating an experience for their customers starts when you’re greeted by the host and continues when their serving staff helps find the perfect menu item to try, all while their chefs and bartenders work their magic with the freshest ingredients. From start to finish, Japango offers experiences that will keep you coming back for more. 


Signature Cocktail Recipe:

Japango is releasing Obachan’s Garden this month in celebration of our July Issue!

Obachan’s Garden: 

1.5oz Gin

1.5oz Pressed Cucumber Juice 

.75oz Fresh Lemon Juice

.5oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

.25oz Simple Syrup (equal parts water and your favorite sugar, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until all the sugar is dissolved, then cool.)

“We’ve always loved Fort Collins. We’re in awe of downtown and how it feels so family oriented.” Erin Banis

  • Owners Jon and Erin Banis, with their daughter Charley
  • Obachan’s Garden
  • Master Sushi Chef Yukiji Iwasa (Photo by Josh Plunkett)
  • Master Sushi Chef Yukiji Iwasa (Photo by Josh Plunkett)