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Once-exotic treat becoming a staple
Area diners are getting hooked on sushi

 The chef's taste selection is a menu favorite at Umi.
FILE/PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 4/9/2010

By Cathy Jett

SUSHI USED TO be a dish that appeared on only few Fredericksburg-area menus.

No more.

Restaurants serving the Japanese specialty are popping up with increasing frequency in places as disparate as a stand-alone location on U.S. 1, Central Park and Spotsylvania Towne Centre's food court.

And with good reason.

According to a recent National Restaurant Association survey of more than 1,800 professional chefs, 26 percent say sushi is currently a hot trend, while 31 percent think it's yesterday's news.

"However, 43 percent say that sushi is a perennial favorite on restaurant menus, which demonstrates that sushi is on its way to become more of a staple food item than an exotic treat," said spokeswoman Annika Stensson.

Locally, the latest sushi restaurant to open is Miso Asian Grill and Sushi Bar, which serves elegantly presented Asian fusion cuisine in the building that most recently housed Great Wall Beijing near Eagle Village.

The interior of what was originally a Burger King has been totally renovated into a sleek, modern space and has a bar where diners can watch a chef prepare typical sushi dishes as well as versions unique to to Miso.

"We see right now as a good time to open," said manager Tiffany Cheng. "Before, many people were afraid to try sushi. Now, they know the fish is fresh, and they like to try something different.

She said her family picked the location on U.S. 1 largely because it is close to the University of Mary Washington and Eagle Village where a dormitory with 156 two-bedroom apartments is under construction.

"College students love sushi and this is a growing area," Cheng said.

Central Park, which already has several restaurants that serve sushi, will be getting another by the end of the month. The owners of King's House Buffet in Gateway Village shopping center are renovating the former Texas Steakhouse in the big-box retail center as Hibachi Grill & Sushi.

Customers will be able to watch chefs prepare food on the grill and make sushi, and can help themselves to those dishes from the buffet, said Jin Yang, manager for both restaurants. There'll also be a Chinese food bar, a seafood bar and a kids' bar.

She said demand for sushi has come a long way from when King's House Buffet began serving it six or seven years ago. Few customers had ever tried it back then. But once they tried it, they liked it and came back for more.

"Sushi is very popular now," Yang said. "Most everyone who likes Japanese food likes sushi, too. It's more healthy."

She said the owners, who are keeping King's House Buffet, like their new Central Park location because it's near Walmart and the proposed Kalahari Water Park.

"We are looking for more area locations, maybe in Stafford," Yang said.

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407
Email: cjett@freelancestar.com


Following is a list of some of the area's many existing sushi restaurants: NEW TO THE AREA:

Famous Teriyaki Sushi, Spotsylvania Towne Centre

Far East, Celebrate Virginia North

Fujiya House, Central Park

Kappa Garden Sushi Bistro, 10153 Jefferson Davis Highway

Miso Asian Grill and Sushi Bar, 1305 Jefferson Davis Highway.

Umi Japanese Fine Dining, 1500 Jefferson Davis Highway

Worst Sushi Bar, 1120 International Parkway in southern Stafford

ESTABLISHED RESTAURANTS:

Asia Bistro, 3126 Cowan Blvd.

Asia Cafe, 840 Warrenton Road

China Wok, Breezewood Shopping Center

Kenzo Japanese Restaurant, Westwood Shopping Center

Kobe Japanese Steak & Seafood, Doc Stone Shopping Center

Otani, 12131 Amos Lane

Ozecki Japanese Steak & Seafood, Southpoint II

Sakura Japanese Steakhouse, 4540 Plank Road