After years of working in or running Chinese restaurants, Kenny Wong made the switch to Japanese.
He and wife Jian, who formerly owned Hong Kong Express on 18th and H streets, opened Osaka Sushi a month ago on McHenry Avenue.
"There's not many Japanese restaurants around," he said. "Chinese food, you can find anywhere -- even in a small town."
The spacious eatery offers a full sushi bar as well as dishes like teriyaki and tempura. It's privately owned by the Wongs and is unconnected with the Osaka Sushi chain in Sacramento, Davis and Woodland.
Born in China, Kenny Wong grew up in Merced County working at his family's Chinese restaurants. From the time he was in grade school, he was helping out and washing dishes after school. For Osaka Sushi, Wong hired Kevin Lu, who lived in Japan for six years, to serve as chef.
His cooks prepare sushi in view of customers. Varieties offered include the familiar dragon, California and rainbow sushi rolls, as well as a fusion roll (tender teriyaki roast beef, Japanese mushroom and avocado deep fried in crispy tempura batter) and the McHenry roll (avocado, asparagus, cilantro and pepper with tuna, chili pepper and spicy lemon sauce).
The most popular dish of the restaurant is the chicken teriyaki, shrimp and vegetable tempura combination plate, served on a sizzling hot plate. Wong added the dish after seeing how popular hot plates were in Mexican and other restaurants.
He has noticed that the teriyaki and tempura plates are more popular with older people while sushi is more of an attraction for the young.
"Even though it's been around so long, Japanese food is still new to older people," Wong said.