“Chinese Gourmet Hibachi Steak House” reads the sign in front of this Mountain Road restaurant. Say what?
It’s a sushi bar co-owned by a Vermont business major and a Chinese chef trained by a Japanese sushi master. It features hibachi stations, complete with chefs who juggle knives amid small bursts of flame. It has several semiprivate alcoves featuring low tables surrounded by traditional tatami mats. The menu will take you from traditional takeout (think: General Tso’s chicken) to the more exotic (flying fish roe).
By rights, Sushi Yoshi — a one-size-fits-all, all-things-to-all-people Asian fusion eatery — should be a mess. Instead, it is a consistently popular restaurant offering consistently tasty, well-executed, imaginative and well-priced delights, with a side of theater (those knife-juggling chefs) thrown in.
Diners can park themselves at the sushi bar, sip sake and watch skilled chefs turning out bites of quail egg with wasabi roe and sea urchin sushi, or fold themselves onto tatami mats and enjoy “chirashi,” a traditional beggars dish of scraps of fish on rice, which has been transformed into an elegant bowl with 18 pieces of skillfully crafted sashimi.
Or they can plop at the bar and order wings and a brew.
The menu invites omnivores, vegans and vegetarians, those avoiding gluten, families (kids love those knives!), twenty-something guys (love those knives!), couples young and old, co-workers celebrating, and just about anyone with a hankering for old-school takeout or a decidedly inventive “house roll” of, say, salmon and avocado wrapped in soy paper with kiwi and mango sauce.
Sushi Yoshi is the brainchild of Nate Freund of Middlesex and Kevin Zheng of the Fujian province of China, two unlikely partners who met while working at a sushi bar in Ocean City, Md., and decided to run their own business.
Sushi Yoshi started (and still thrives) as a ski-season restaurant in Killington, branched out into a seasonal eatery in Lake George, N.Y. (also going strong), and launched as a year-round restaurant in Stowe in 2013, in a building once occupied by McDonald’s and, subsequently, two Asian restaurants that closed.
“People said the site was doomed,” says Freund. “But I had a plan.” He grins. “Good food and good energy.” It seems to have worked.