Since Yoyogi Sushi moved to the other side of Kentlands’ Main Street on June 19, the crowds have been coming. The popular Japanese eatery, which first opened nearly 15 years ago, has so many loyal customers that the staff at its brand-new location have been overwhelmed. A full house is a good problem for a business to have, and they promise to have things running smoothly as soon as possible.
In fact, despite owner Nancy Liu, chef Wei Yeh and manager Eily Tsai putting in 12-hour days six days a week (the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays), they ran out of food and had to close early June 20, their second day. “Be mindful that we have only been open a week,” Tsai said. “We’re trying our best.”
Liu opened Yoyogi in Kentlands in August 2003, naming the restaurant for a “beautiful neighborhood” in northern Tokyo. “It’s easy to remember and has a nice flow to it,” Liu said. Formerly, Liu and Yeh worked at a sushi restaurant in Rockville; when the owner closed down, they decided to open their own place. “Back then, the rents in the Kentlands were a lot cheaper,” Tsai noted.
The impetus for the move across the street came from a landlord who kept raising the rent. “It was not a good relationship,” Tsai said, and not an optimal space. Liu decided to buy the whole 317 Main property. Several features—beyond the rent issue—make it a far better choice.
First, location, location, location. The new restaurant’s outdoor dining space is on a wide brick patio instead of balanced on either side of a thoroughfare sidewalk. In lieu of parked cars and street traffic, the grassy island of the Main Street Pavilion borders the tables—a far more attractive view, a lot quieter and an ample safe place for children to play while their parents dine.
Another benefit of the new place is its kitchen, which was designed for its previous tenant, the Lebanese Bistro restaurant.
While there’s not much difference in seating capacity, the set-up is different. The new place accommodates about 44 diners inside, between its street level and downstairs spaces, and 15 to 20 outside. Still, said Tsai, a Towson University student who has worked for Liu for about three-and-a-half years, 70 percent of Yoyogi Sushi’s business is carryout.
Although they have not made a final decision, Liu is considering using the house’s upstairs for catered parties.
Why is the food so well-liked? “It’s good quality, healthy and inexpensive—$6 for lunch,” said Tsai. “It’s not fast food, but it’s fast-paced.” The most popular dishes, she noted, are the spicy tuna crunch roll, the shrimp tempura roll and crispy chicken with rice.