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Kawayan Asian-American fusion restaurant opens

Chip Ellis
Kawayan RestoBar owner Fritz DeVilla holds a Cherry Blossom maki he made at the sushi bar. The Kanawha City restaurant features Asian/American fusion dishes, including many from the Philippines, DeVilla's homeland.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Even as he bussed tables at Hibachi Japanese Steakhouse in South Ridge, Fritz DeVilla dreamed of owning his own restaurant. He worked his way up, waiting tables and then helping in the kitchen. He mastered the showmanship of teppanyaki, or tableside, cooking and honed his artistic side as a sushi maker.

DeVilla and his wife, Andrealyn, recently opened Kawayan RestoBar in Kanawha City in the location of the former Chesterfield House. DeVilla developed the Asian fusion menu to reflect his Filipino roots and his Asian cooking experience.

"We serve a mix of Asian cuisine. It's not just a certain culture," DeVilla said. The menu features authentic Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Chinese entrees as well as sushi and sashimi. He plans to add Thai dishes soon.

"When I started in the restaurant business, I was discouraged at first. As a lower chef, I worked and worked. Then I decided to take advantage of it and learn from the job," he said. "I learned tableside cooking and wanted more responsibility. I was head chef and then sushi chef, I was still chasing the dream to own my own restaurant."

After Hibachi, DeVilla created sushi for four years at Ichiban on Capitol Street. He left in August to lease the large restaurant space at 3106 Chesterfield Ave. Its abundant parking gave it an advantage over the downtown locations he had also considered. The building had been empty for three years and needed extensive updates. He gutted the building and Andrealyn decorated the spacious dark red bar with bamboo accents and the brighter dining room.

Kawayan, which rhymes with Hawaiian, means bamboo in Filipino.

Pork adobo, practically the national dish of the Philippines, pansit (rice noodles and diced vegetables with Asian spices) and pork afritada (pork and vegetable cutlets in a tomato-based sauce) are favorites in his native country. Escabeche-fried red snapper with its acidic marinade is also popular there.

 DeVilla, his parents and two sisters immigrated to the United States in 1992. His mother is an accountant and his father owns a beauty store in Atlanta. She took a break from her job and is staying in Charleston to help her son get his restaurant off the ground.

"Nobody else in my family is in the restaurant business. I'm the risk-taker," he said. "I woke up one day and said 'let's give it a shot.' I wanted to do my own thing."

 His own thing includes eclectic choices on the appetizer menu: Korean barbecued ribs, Japanese seared albacore, shrimp tempura and gyoza (filled dumplings) and Filipino lumpia (spring rolls).

Chicken adoba, curry, teriyaki and pineapple, grilled pork chops, beef teriyaki, filet mignon, New York strip steak, rib eye steak, swordfish, Chilean sea bass, scallops and salmon are entrees. Vegetarian dishes include chop suey, green beans adobo style and Singapore rice noodles.

Although he's training sushi chefs, DeVilla still creates the sushi, sashimi and hand rolls, or Temaki sushi. The cone-shaped hand rolls wrapped in nori resemble the Japanese version of burritos.

The sushi rolls, or maki, are offered with all the expected fillings -- California, rainbow, tempura, and spicy tuna. The Chef's Special Maki are DeVilla's own creations, with some help from his wife.

"The signature rolls set us apart," he said. The Bay maki contains shrimp, crab, mayo and red bell peppers. Crab shack is avocado and crunch topped with spicy crab salad. The colorful Cherry Blossom is a flower-shaped roll with salmon and avocado layered with tuna. Aptly named Godzilla holds shrimp tempura and cucumber topped wit spicy tuna, spicy mayo and chili pepper.

Lunchtime diners may order off the menu or partake of a buffet featuring Filipino and Chinese dishes. Beef caldereta, a Spanish influenced tomato-based stew, pork lechon, a roasted pork in gravy, pork adobo and pansit sit side-by-side with popular Chinese sweet and sour chicken, pepper steak and General Tso's chicken on the $8 buffet. The selection of dishes at the buffet varies daily.

Dinner entrée prices range from $6 for vegetarian dishes to $22 for filet mignon. Most entrees are priced between $10 and $15. Maki sushi is between $6 and $13, sashimi between $10 and $14 and hand rolls are $5. Dine in the main dining room, the sushi bar or the lounge. A meeting room for 25 people is also available.

Kawayan RestoBar, 3106 Chesterfield Ave., is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for both a buffet or off-the-menu lunch Monday through Friday and for dinner Monday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. and from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Kawayan is closed on Sunday. Call 304-205-7819 or visit www.kawayanrestobar.com.

Reach Julie Robinson at julier@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.

 


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