"We try to be very healthy. Everything is fresh," said Carina Kwok, who owns the East End building containing the restaurants. "We don't use a lot of butter or oil. The hot grill sears the food."
Hibachi grill entrees include chicken, shrimp, steak, scallops, salmon, filet mignon, lobster or vegetables separate or in combination, all served with the requisite grilled vegetables, rice, soup and salad. Because they aren't seated at tableside grills, patrons will have two jumbo shrimp served on their plates, not tossed toward their mouths, as is the hibachi grill custom.
"We thought we'd do something different. The downtown Charleston lunch crowd is pretty fast-paced. We can get them in and out quickly, if that's what they want," said Eddie Kwok about the managers' decision to forgo time-consuming hibachi preparation performances.
Even before the grills were heated for the first time, neighborhood planners welcomed the owners to the area, pleased at the extensive renovations and facelift given the unsightly building that once housed Trading Post pawnshop, but has been vacant for five years. Carina Kwok is also renovating the space on the other side of Main Kwong, where she plans to open a frozen yogurt shop in February.
"It was an eyesore. We're next door, so we naturally wanted the neighborhood to look better," said Eddie Kwok. Nearby businesses such as the Moses Cadillac, Buick and GMC dealership across the street have also invested in noteworthy renovations. "We're giving back to the community."
Carina Kwok's father, Yuen Cheung, designed the dining room layout and Oriental decor. Cheung designed and operated Chinese restaurants in New York and New Jersey, and helped Carina open and initially run Main Kwong. He took on this design project despite his recent retirement. Cheung visited similar restaurants in big cities for design ideas to incorporate in his plan.
The fresh look is appropriate for the area's latest addition to ethnic dining options.
"Umami is bringing something new to the East End and is committed to bringing more dining options to the East End," Carina Kwok said. "We are going to be meticulous about freshness and innovative food choices alongside a pleasant dining experience."
The owners are in the process of securing a beer and wine license. Parking space is available behind the restaurant. Military personnel and college students receive a 10 percent discount with ID. Prices range from $6 to $11 for lunch and from $12 to $20 for regular dinner entrees. Maki, sashimi and sushi range from $5 to $15.
Umami Sushi and Hibachi Grill, 1401 Washington St. E., is open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 4 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Call 304-343-8989.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.