Fond farewell to a sushi staple

SOPHIE SPEER
Last updated 05:00 02/02/2013

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Their authentic Japanese sushi filled the bellies of many central Wellington workers - and their closure has left stomachs rumbling.

Midori Sushi on Willis St has closed after five years because of family commitments in Japan, owner Midori Yokohari says.

She started the business with her chef husband, Tetsuya, and quickly built up a following of customers, who returned for their authentic Japanese cuisine.

"We just had the nicest, nicest customers. It was a real family atmosphere and they were not like customers, more like friends."

Competition for the lunch market was stiff, with St Pierres on the corner of Willis and Manners and the more recent addition of Sushi Bi directly across from Midori Sushi.

When Sushi Bi opened last year, Mrs Yokohari says they found it "annoying to see them there", but most of her customers were loyal and appreciative of their traditional offerings.

"We know Western tastes like fried stuff on their food and like to have lots of sauces . . . [but with us] it was also a Japanese experience, which was what we always sold on.

"We almost ran language classes. People would come in and learn basic greetings, ask how we were and talk about the weather [in Japanese]. It was more than just sushi."

Along with serving food from their cabinets, the eatery also provided school lunches for schools in Newlands, Karori, Khandallah and Tawa, as well as catering corporate events.

Their catering work had become so busy that they were planning to move into it fulltime before the decision to close permanently was made, Mrs Yokohari says.

Mr Yokohari, who moved to Wellington in 1998, is returning to the Ibaraki Prefecture, where his family own and run a factory which makes curtain rods. Business has grown since the Japan earthquake in 2011 and his mother was increasingly frail and needed his support,Mrs Yokohari says.

She will remain in Wellington with their three daughters until at least the end of the year.

She plans to get a part-time job, and the family will travel to Japan in the school holidays. "It's going to be different working for someone else. But as long as it's got people contact [I will enjoy it]."

The Willis St premises is for lease and would most likely be replaced with another "traditional" cuisine, she says.

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- The Dominion Post

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