The last samurai 

You could say that Yoshi has done well in Savannah. Beginning with developing a loyal following as sushi chef at Hirano’s some years back, he later broadened his fan base when he moved to Kyoto’s.

He further defined himself as owner and chef of what Connect Savannah readers consistently vote the Best Sushi place in town in our annual “Best of Savannah” poll -- Sushi Zen downtown on Whitaker Street.

But Yoshi and his wife Amy are not ones to rest on their laurels. On Dec. 26 they open the doors to their new southside location, also called Sushi Zen.

But the new Sushi Zen is not just a repeat of the bustling downtown location. Here the pace is a bit slower, and the menu and restaurant a bit more upscale.

“My husband is old-fashioned. He’s very traditional. He wants everything perfect,” Amy Yoshimoto explains,

gesturing to the elegant and intimate dining room. “Here we wanted to focus on bringing Savannah a more authentic Japanese experience.”

Yoshi himself explains through the help of a friend who translates for us.

“I started cooking in earnest when I was thirteen. I worked under someone for many years. When I was eighteen I decided I wanted to go into the culinary world,” Yoshi says.

“My mother told me, ‘Even if you go to America, do your best and show America what good food’s about.’ Since I’ve been in America I’ve returned to Japan two times to improve and study,” he says. “I didn’t come here just to work -- I came here to teach people about

Japanese food.”

Josephine Patrick Takato is the restaurant manager and a longtime family friend. She explains that one of the key’s to Yoshi’s success is fresh ingredients.

“Yoshi examines all the fish very

closely to make sure it was handled properly. If it is not he sends it away,” she says, explaining that if the fish is not handled gently it could be bruised.

She points to an additional dining area upstairs.

“Upstairs Yoshi will offer a set menu for the evening. It will be very authentic Japanese,” Takato says. “Yoshi makes sure the food is prepared in the authentic Japanese manner by bringing his own sushi chefs certified from Japan. They will prepare the sushi in the ‘hand cupped’ manner traditional to


At a recent private dinner offered by Yoshi to introduce the new restaurant to close friends and loyal clientele, everything appeared just the way he wanted it -- perfect.

The menu is expanded from the downtown location, with more authentic Japanese items as well as some of the American style favorites, such as a wide variety of sushi rolls.

Upstairs, southside’s Sushi Zen will offer Shabu Shabu, a traditional dish prepared by quickly boiling very thinly sliced meat in lightly seasoned water. This dish is prepared at the table and served with a dipping sauce, rice, and a variety of veggies that may include cabbage, watercress or mushrooms.

The atmosphere of the new Sushi Zen is warm and inviting, and the decor is simple, comfortable and beautiful -- a virtual oasis in the chaos of southside Savannah.

“Much of the decor comes directly from Japan,” Takato explains.

Authentic Samurai armor stands sternly in the corner near a miniature Japanese temple. A silk kimono hangs behind glass. These select objects

echo the Japanese spirit of craftmanship, hard work and tradition that Yoshi himself embodies so well.


Sushi Zen Southside opens Dec. 26 at their new location in Eisenhower Square on Waters Avenue. Call 303-0441.




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Dixie Rae

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