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The latest on Le Jardin and Sushi Jimmi

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John Matthews thought he was retired.

When his wife's secretary was going through treatment for cancer, he found himself with a new business idea.

"My wife called and said, 'Let's pick up something to eat for her,'" John says.

The grab-and-go dinners offered around town got him to thinking.

"The most valuable commodity we have these days is time," he says. "When you come home and you're too tired to cook, or you don't like to cook, the only other option is eating out. Eating out five days a week takes the shine off of it."

Why not make restaurant-quality meals that you just heat and eat? he thought.

On December 1st, John and his wife, Karen, debuted Le Jardin Gourmet to Go, a pre-prepped, grab-and-go meal concept with a gourmet twist.

"We thought we would do something a little more upscale," John says.

By upscale he means beef bourguignon, shrimp etoufee, Italian sausage manicotti, spanakopita, pastitsio, moussaka — and that's just the entrees.

He also offers dips, appetizers, and spreads such as Buffalo Chicken Dip, Pimento and Cheese with Roasted Garlic, and Smoked Gouda and Sun Dried Tomato Dip, as well as sides, including Roasted Brussels and Sweet Potatoes in Maple Butter, Three Cheese Mac and Cheese with Chorizo Sausage, and Basil Marinated Mushrooms.

He can't keep the Irish Car Bomb Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise in stock.

"We put it on Facebook that we have a fresh batch, and we have people in here in 15 minutes," John says.

He and his wife set up shop in the Chickasaw Crossing shopping center at 2877 Poplar. They hired a pro to come up with the menu and prepare the food — Karen Roth of Erling Jensen and Alchemy acclaim, who cooks everything in a commercial kitchen in West Memphis and adapts according to customers' suggestions.

"We try to ask every customer what they would like," John says. "We try to make things you can't get anywhere but a restaurant that are ready to heat and eat for half of what you would pay at a restaurant."

Le Jardin Gourmet to Go is open Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sat. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They offer call-in orders, delivery, as well as drop-in. For more information, call 672-7000 or visit lejardinmemphis.com.

From day one, Jimmy Sinh took the Memphis food truck world by storm. When he made his debut as Sushi Jimmi at the 2015 food truck festival, he sold out of sushi in an hour and a half. Also on the menu were fusion tacos, crawfish nachos (what?!), and traditional fare such as egg rolls, spring rolls, and gyoza.

All the time he had in mind that these innovative offerings would go in a restaurant one day; he just thought it would be several years down the road.

Then he ran into his former boss, Shon Lin (Izakaya, Red Fish Sushi Asian Bistro, and Kublai Khan) and was told about a spot Lin had just bought on Poplar, the old Wendy's at 2895 Poplar, that Sinh could lease from him.

That Wendy's is now red and black and frequently has Sinh's signature red food truck parked out front, as he readies the space to open any day now.

"I got lucky," Sinh says. "Any time Shon needs me, I will never turn him down."

Plans include a "real sake bar," with flavored sakes and even $200-per-bottle sakes; a drive-through; bento boxes with pork chops, char siu, or roasted pork belly; as well as omakase — multiple-course meals specifically selected and prepared by Sinh for $60 to $100.

Of course, he will also offer everyone's food-truck favorites, including his signature sushi burritos.

"I'm known for my fusion dishes," Sinh says. "I do real Asian fusion that you don't find anywhere else in Memphis."

Also keep your eyes peeled for a second food truck, name yet to be determined, offering his take on banh mis.

Sushi Jimmi the restaurant is located at 2895 Poplar. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SushiJimmi.

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