By Laura Hayes
Jay Yu may have 13 years of experience behind the sushi bar at Kaz Sushi Bistro in downtown D.C., but his sushi beginnings are much more humble. After moving to the area from China in his 20s, Yu took a job making sushi at Safeway. “Of course, the first roll I made was a California roll,” he says.
Yu also did sushi stints at Raku in Bethesda and Café Asia in the District before landing his long-tenured gig under Kaz Okochi. Now, the chef is gearing up to open his own place—Takumi in Falls Church. The forthcoming restaurant, set to open at 310 S. Washington St. in November, will focus on nigiri-style sushi and sashimi as opposed to overcomplicated rolls one would never find in Japan.
He would know. While at Kaz Sushi Bistro, Yu traveled to Tokyo and Osaka, Japan, on two occasions during which he worked behind sushi bars and honed skills such as making proper sushi rice, cleaning fish and preparing sushi in front of customers. He’s looking forward to applying these lessons, as well as wisdom gained from Okochi, to his new concept.
In addition to sushi, the Takumi menu that’s currently being finalized will also include some warm dishes from the kitchen, like fried tofu. “I use soft tofu so the outside tastes crispy and fried but the inside tastes smooth and creamy like butter,” Yu says. Drink-wise, diners at the 30-seat restaurant can expect a selection of beer, wine and sake.
Falls Church was an obvious choice for the chef because that’s where he calls home. He also hints at filling a void. “They need more good sushi restaurants over there; that’s why I picked this place,” he says. “I don’t want people to sit in long traffic jams to get to D.C. for good sushi.” Other area sushi restaurants include Maneki Neko and Koi Koi Sushi and Roll.