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."