Missoula Restaurant Owners & Chefs:
Abe Risho – The Silk Road


“Owners and Chefs” is a restaurant section with a twist. To fill either position, chefs and owners must be able to wear many hats: Cook, server, human resource manager, repair person, negotiator, mediator, psychologist, bookkeeper, and more.  Armed with his top 10 questions, Bob Zimorino takes a peek behind the kitchen doors to find out how these local restaurateurs view the restaurant business in their own words.

I met Abe Risho on a Thursday morning in his restaurant kitchen where he was dismantling a stove to replace a thermal coupler. Like so many restaurant owners, Abe understands that calling the repairman is often times very costly. As I said in the introduction to this section, restaurant owners become experts in a lot of areas that don’t concern food. We sat down to chat in the upstairs dining room of the Silk Road.

There are a lot of restaurants in Missoula. Why should a prospective diner choose yours?

We have a large menu selection to accommodate a lot of different tastes. We do food from all over the world so no matter what ethnic country you want to visit that evening, we’ve got you covered. You can get as much as you want or as little as you want. No one ever leaves hungry here and no one ever leaves too full because you can eat as much as you need and then stop ordering.

What dish is your signature dish and why that particular dish?

I tried to invent a signature dish a couple of years ago. It’s not on this menu yet. Currently at The Silk Road it is Steak Togorashi, is made with a Japanese 9 spice, marinated in a wheat free tamari rice vinegar, lemon juice and toasted sesame seed oil and then it is just grilled. It is a simple production but the flavor combination is just incredible. My father used to do a variation of this dish at his old restaurant Perugia. I just kind of updated it and made it smaller to fit on a 6 inch plate.

What would you want it to say to the person that orders it?

Wow this is spicy but I just can’t stop eating it.

What is your favorite dish prepared in another Missoula restaurant?

The Bucatini alla Amatriciana at the Café Dolce is top notch.

As a place to do business, why Missoula?

I was born in Missoula. Oddly enough Café Dolce is the reason I came back to Missoula. Peter Lambros hired me when I was working in Boston to come back and open his place. I was ready to leave town in 09’ to get a new start somewhere else. I decided to do a little catering on the side and it turned into a restaurant. So now I’m here for a while.

What is your least favorite cooking trend?

ABE:  The people that try to do things like molecular cooking but don’t do enough research for it. It ends up all flabby and tasteless. None of the flavors are married together.

BZ:  Explain molecular cooking for those that aren’t familiar? (I pretended I knew but didn’t have a clue)

ABE:  It’s using Hydro-colloids to emulsify different ingredients…

BZ:  (Still clueless)

ABE: …like making foams…like making elaborate mayonnaises, with odd ingredients…    like making apple caviar with little pieces of apples suspended in a casing.

BZ:  (Still clueless but determined to do some research…)

ABE:  Some of the stuff can be really, really good. The high end stuff is absolutely wonderful, but a lot of people try it out and it comes up short. It doesn’t really go together and you end up with all these contrasting flavors in a dish that don’t really compliment each other. It’s just kind of all over the place and that kind of drives me nuts.

BZ:  Now that is a concept I do understand.

It’s the Iron Chef competition and you are up. Who would you rather be up against Bobby Flay or Cat Cora?

(Laughing) I’d probably go with Cat Cora.. I’d go up against Cat Cora. Bobby Flay is the nickname I use for people when I can’t remember their names in the kitchen…Bobby Fillet.

How do you like being in the restaurant business with your brother Sam?  Good, bad, or indifferent?

ABE:  All three…some days it’s good but you know him and me together are a good team.  When we’re on a catering event, we’re just dialed in getting it done. It’s a joy to work with someone that wants to keep up with the kind of pace I like to do. Things like that. At the same time I sometimes want to strangle him but at the end of the day we go and have a beer and talk about it. It can be a love/hate relationship. Like anything you know.

BZ:  Sounds like a sibling relationship.

ABE:  I think though that I am glad I went into business with him rather than anybody else because at the end of the day I can always forgive him.

What do you think when you hear someone say: “I think owning a restaurant looks like fun.”

(Chuckling) It depends on how much I like them. My first reply is don’t do it. Hang out with some chefs at the end of their day and listen to what they talk about and then really decide if you want to be part of that genre of business. It’s not romantic. It’s a lot of hard work. I’ve seen way too many places where they had this vision in mind, and they spend way too much money trying to get there. They’ll never get that money back and they end up going bankrupt or selling out to somebody else. Even people that have cooked in restaurants…it’s a lot of work and so many details that you might not have thought of going into it.

The flip side of that is that I have some cousins that were never in the restaurant business but were good at business and they have some of the most successful restaurants in Boston and that’s because they hired someone who knew about restaurants to come in and run the place for them, while they made sure the money was going where it needed to go.

Give me 5 words to describe your restaurant.

ABE: Diverse, tapas, original, seasonal and local.
Shout out to Casey Stekly.

The Silk Road
515 S. Higgins Ave.
(406) 541-0752

Like this blog?  Chances are you’ll like reading Bob’s interview with Adam Belarde of the Montana Club Restaurants. Checkout Missoula Restaurants and our comprehensive list of Missoula Dining options.  You may also want to watch Bob Z’s  Taste It blog or even watch one of his many video blogs–including this one on arroz tomatera con carne.

See the entire “Taste It” archive.  Back to “Taste It” homepage.  Check out Bob Zimorino’s Recipes.


Bio:  Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a Musician with the popular local band Hellgate Rodeo, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. His weekly “Taste It” blog is his take on the evolution of food in his lifetime.