The Yo! Sushi opening in Penn Quarter should debut by the end of March, according to Chef Noriyuki Kudo, who oversees the U.K. chain's culinary operations in Washington, where the company is opening its first U.S. stores.
"The menu will be the same, the set-up will be the same," explained Kudo, who joined the company about 10 months ago. Yo! Sushi started selling its conveyor belt sushi at Union Station over the summer. The native of Japan has worked in high-end Japanese restaurants in Los Angeles for the past 19 years before being convinced by Yo! Sushi's CEO to join the company. "He was my mentor while I was in L.A.," he said.
Despite the very different styles of restaurant, Kudo's job at Yo! Sushi has a lot of similarities to his old life. He slices fish, he keeps quality control in check, but he learns to adjust the ingredients for the restaurant's price point.
"It's a very simple concept; we're trying to be quick, casual and affordable," he said, which means premium yellowtail gets swapped in for super high-end bluefin tuna. "That's what we're good at."
Kudo changed about 40 percent of the restaurant's menu from its U.K. restaurants, adjusting everything from portion size to roll options, adding new offerings such as yellowtail sashimi with diced jalapeno and citrus ponzu, shrimp glazed with creamy miso sauce, or a spicy tuna tartare with a rice cake. Yuzu, the citrus popular in Asian cooking, is his favorite ingredient to work with. He uses the grated skin to mix it with salt and pepper, mixing it with ingredients such as mayo or soy sauce.
Yo! Sushi's Union Station location has drawn a steady lunch business, but could do more weekend business, he said. The restaurant has been offering promotions to introduce diners to the restaurant, including all-night happy hours.
Noriyuki Kudo [Photo: Yo! Sushi]