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Area restaurant owner plays the name game.
The Teppanyaki Sushi & Seafood Buffet serves authentic Chinese dishes as well as more Americanized fare.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By Cathy Jett
What do you do when a competitor uses a name similar to the one you'd picked for your restaurant?
For Qin Ni, who opened the Hibachi Grill & Sushi in Central Park last spring and then purchased the old King's Buffet in Gateway Village, the choice was simple.
After renovating the Gateway Village restaurant, he reopened it recently as Teppanyaki Sushi & Seafood Buffet. A teppanyaki is a grill similar to a hibachi, but sounds totally different from the name of the eatery that opened just a few miles away on State Route 3 last fall.
That restaurant, which is in what had been Old Country Buffet, was first called Hibachi Grill & Seafood Buffet. The name was later changed to Supreme Buffet & Hibachi Grill.
Customers at the Hibachi Grill & Sushi in Central Park were getting confused because they thought the two Hibachi Grills had the same owner, but found that the food tasted different, said Jin Yang, who is Ni's sister and manages Teppanyaki.
Ni does, however, plan to use the name Hibachi Grill & Sushi for the restaurant he'll open in May in Doc Stone Commons in Garrisonville.
Teppanyaki Sushi & Seafood Buffet is no carbon copy of his Hibachi Grill & Sushi, however. Hibachi Grill focuses more on Japanese fare. Teppanyaki hired an award-winning chef from China and serves authentic Chinese dishes such as a fruit soup and dim sum as well as the more familiar Americanized Chinese fare.
The new restaurant's buffet bars also feature a vast selection of American, Italian, Japanese and Thai food. And there's one station where a chef prepares such sushi specialties as rainbow rolls of tilapia, tuna, salmon and avocado as customers watch, and another where they can see a chef grill the meats and vegetables they've selected.
Ni kept the impressive carved Chinese pillars that had marked the entrance to the 9-year-old King's Buffet but added stone to the exterior and transformed the interior. There's now a waterfall in the foyer, and a crystal chandelier hanging from a hand-painted sky over the buffet bars.
The booths are upholstered in red fabric embroidered with Chinese calligraphy in silver, and dark wood dividers topped with etched glass help to muffle sound.
"It was the right time to change," said manager Jin Yang. "Most restaurants, if you stay there for a long time, you must do something new to have customers come back to you again."
Prices at Teppanyaki are slightly lower than at Hibachi Grill & Seafood. Lunch is $6.99 compared with $7.99 at the Central Park restaurant, and dinner is $9.99 and on weekends. At Hibachi Grill, it's $12.99, which includes all-you-can-eat Alaskan crab legs.
Teppanyaki doesn't make much profit per customer, Yang said. Instead, the restaurant relies on volume to stay in business. It seats about 300, including up to 50 in a private room. Weekends are the busiest, when about 1,000 customers walk through the front doors.
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407