Tucked away in a Berclair strip mall next door to Charlie's Meat Market, Edo, reportedly the first Japanese restaurant in Memphis, had the quaint, outdated decor to prove it. A small and quiet spot, Edo has enjoyed generations of loyal followers more interested in the authentic Japanese cuisine than the less-than-glamorous surroundings.
The new stewards of this Japanese mainstay in Memphis are not interested in changing the reputation of Edo, but they are looking to spruce the space and the menu up a bit. Leng Khoun, 26, and Leon Nguyen, 27, both graduates of Central High School, decided to buy the restaurant in May, when the former owners opted to sell. Khoun had been hired to work in the kitchen six months earlier, and when the opportunity to take the helm arose, he asked his longtime friend Nguyen to partner in the project.
"Leon is actually the one who told me about Edo back when we were in high school. It became my favorite restaurant," Khoun says. "I started working here part-time, and then the opportunity came along [to buy it]. I thought I'd be older when it happened, but opportunities like these don't just come along all the time."
Khoun and Nguyen have so far preserved the traditional Japanese menu items that fans have come to expect, but they've also started adding some more modern touches, like hibachi-style fried rice, panko-fried Japanese chicken nuggets, spring rolls, and sweet and spicy shrimp. They've also added 10 sushi rolls to the menu, appealing to a newer, less traditional taste in sushi. To wit: deep-fried fusion-style rolls like the Cheesy Roll with cream cheese, crab, salmon, basil, fried and topped with a special sauce.
They also touched up the interior, painting every inch of bare-wood trim in the space a sleek black and adding a few new decorative touches. They've scaled back operations to just dinner service, but, for the most part, diners will find the same Edo they've known and loved for decades.
"I want this restaurant to live up to its name," Khoun says. "For people to know it's still Edo and with the traditional foods still there."
Edo is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday starting at 5 p.m.
Edo Japanese Restaurant, 4792 Summer (767-7096)
Since Sekisui's Humphreys Boulevard location closed in January, the owners have been eager to find a new spot to land in East Memphis. Now, in the former location of Theo's Bistro at Poplar and Kirby, the new Sekisui East is slated to open this September.
With six locations throughout the Mid-South, Jimmy Ishii's hibachi-and-sushi empire hasn't exactly suffered during this lengthy real estate search, but finding a way to get back into the valuable East Memphis market was top priority.
"We loved it [at Humphreys], and we wanted to stay, but Baptist Hospital owns the building and is converting all of that area into doctors' offices. So we had to find a new home," David Lindsey of Sekisui says. "It was a big objective of ours to relocate as closely as possible to that area. That restaurant had been open for 23 years and had a very loyal following."
The new space is already primed for a restaurant, so not much was left to transform the building into a Sekisui. They're adding a sushi bar, which is the bulk of the construction project, but since Sekisui is partnering with some of the former owners of Theo's Bistro, the process is moving along quickly.
Longtime fans of Sekisui's signature dishes will appreciate the familiar menu and find a friendly face in Chef Hiro Nakajima, formerly of the restaurant's Humphreys location.
"Sushi fanatics like their chefs, and they go to certain sushi bars for a specific chef," Lindsey says. "We felt it was important to keep Hiro, so his customers would be able to find him."
Find Chef Nakajima and your Sekisui favorites at this new East Memphis location starting sometime around September 1st.
Sekisui East, 6696 Poplar, sekisuiusa.com