Sushi chef Kyaw Say trained others to make sushi for a decade.
Now he and his wife, May Moe, are making it for others in their new downtown restaurant, Sushi Hikari
, which opened in September in the food court of COhatch - The Market
, 101 S. Fountain Ave.
“It’s very different,” he says.
Say now can offer customers classic sushi options or come up with new offerings based on a customer’s specifications, made from scratch right in front of them.
“I create for them,” he says.
Both Say and his wife – who have a six-year-old son, Aaron - were chefs in Myanmar and are sushi chefs at the Springfield restaurant.
Say moved to the United States in 2006 as an asylum-seeker. He had learned to cook Japanese food in Myanmar, but he began learning the differences between American sushi and Japanese sushi while he worked for Advanced Fresh Concepts out of California.
While there, he trained others and became a sushi specialist. About three years ago, he moved to Springfield, making sushi at the Kroger
on Derr Road.
Sushi Hikari was temporarily at COhatch for several months before opening there permanently in September. It is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 5:30 to 8 p.m. for dinner Monday through Saturday. It is closed on Sundays.
COhatch is a good home for the restaurant because of its variety of other foods, Say says. Its location means that there is an opportunity to introduce sushi to new people who may have originally visited for something else.
“One day they want to try sushi,” he says.
Some people share a common misconception that sushi is mostly raw. In fact, he says, at least 90 percent of a piece of sushi is fully cooked. The part that is raw – the fish – is only 10 percent of the sushi. Sushi without fish is fully cooked.
In addition, sushi is low in calories, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and is a very healthy food, he says.
The restaurant offers a wide variety of rolls, from California and eels rolls to Texas teriyaki beef rolls. The menu also includes nigiri, sashimi and more.
Pat Williams, COhatch’s operating partner, is especially a fan of the poke bowls, which Sushi Hikari was able to recreate from a meal he had elsewhere.
The restaurant also has a variety of options for vegetarians, he says, and The Market Bar
inside COhatch has adjusted its menu to offer sake for customers to enjoy with their meal as well.
The restaurant started out in COhatch by offering sushi on 12 Monday nights in a row in February, March and April to gauge Springfield’s response to sushi, he says. The restaurant was busy, the feedback was terrific and the response was definitive: On most of those dates, the restaurant sold out.
“It went really, really well,” Williams says.
Not only had sushi never been offered Downtown before, but the couple exemplifies what COhatch is about, Williams says. They are hard-working owner/operators who are delivering a great experience for the people of Springfield and Clark County.
“We were going to use our best efforts to find a space for them,” he says.
The restaurant has “rave reviews,” he says, pointing to a recent private event that Sushi Hikari held for about 20 people. Most had never before tried the restaurant’s food and were “blown away.”
COhatch is continually endeavoring to reach a certain standard of food, in the options that are offered, their quality and the overall experience, Williams says. COhatch is now attracting customers from outside the county.
“I think we’re resonating with the local community and surrounding communities,” Williams says.
“Hikari” refers to “light,” and Say says that Sushi Hikari also wants to be like the light, making people happy with its sushi.
“Who doesn’t like the light?” Say asks.