Bellevue’s first sushi restaurant celebrates 30 years

After 30 years in business, it can be easy for a restaurant to stick to the same old dishes, the same things that customers have seen for three decades.

Not so for I Love Sushi, Bellevue’s first sushi restaurant, which celebrated its 30th year in business with a bash at its Lake Bellevue location on Nov. 3.

Yoshi Yokoyama, the founder of I Love Sushi, said the restaurant group would be adding something new to its menus.

“Now for the next 30 years — no I’m not crazy, OK? — I want to do something great for the next 30 years,” Yokoyama said, cheery from at least one serving of special-occasion sake. “I call it “I Love Souzai.”“

Souzai is a little like side dishes, a little like tapas and a little like dishes you can order from a deli. These could range from seaweed salads, small katsu cutlets, or onigiri — basic rice balls. The most important thing regarding souzai is that they are side dishes, while steamed rice is the main dish.

Yokoyama has been working with chef Jiro Oki to prepare the inventive plates for his restaurants. He called Oki “a pioneer in the souzai field.”

The restaurateur has an interesting history with Bellevue, first arriving in the area in 1981. According to Yokoyama, he instantly fell in love with Bellevue, and went to then-Mayor Cary Bozeman to ask him what he could do for his new city.

“He said Bellevue had no Japanese restaurant, and asked if that was something I could do,” Yokoyama said. “I had no money, no experience in running a restaurant, but I opened the very first one in Bellevue.”

On Nov. 3, 1981, he opened Shogun House on Main Street. Pleased by the success of that venture, he opened I Love Sushi on Northeast 8th Street on Dec. 1, 1986. That location has since closed, but he opened a second location in South Lake Union and the third on Lake Bellevue, where he hosted the celebration.

I Love Sushi Group bought Belltown spot Shiro’s Sushi in 2007 and opened Kusakabe in San Francisco in 2014, earning a Michelin Star that same year.

But last Thursday, Nov. 3, an important cultural holiday in Japan, it was all about I Love Sushi.

Taiko drummers, sake kegs, and a mouth-watering spread of nigiri, sashimi, wagyu shabu-shabu, oysters on the half-shell and — of course — more than a dozen souzai dishes were all featured at the bash. Bellevue Mayor John Stokes spoke, thanking Yokoyama for years of delicious food and helping to diversify Bellevue’s food scene with his “centerpiece” restaurant.

Bozeman couldn’t make the event, but sent a letter of congratulations to Yokoyama for all his success, and — looking around at all the friends, family and public officials cheering 30 more years — it was hard to disagree.

The appreciation was mutual.

“Mr. Bozeman ignited the fire in me,” Yokoyama said. “That same torch will be carried by your chef and the management team here at I Love Sushi.”

I Love Sushi Bellevue is open for lunch at 23 Lake Bellevue Drive seven days a week, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 5 to 9 p.m. on Sundays.

After 30 years in business, it can be easy for a restaurant to stick to the same old dishes, the same things that customers have seen for three decades. Not so for I Love Sushi, Bellevue’s first sushi restaurant, which celebrated its 30th year in business with a bash at its Lake Bellevue location on […]

After 30 years in business, it can be easy for a restaurant to stick to the same old dishes, the same things that customers have seen for three decades. Not so for I Love Sushi, Bellevue’s first sushi restaurant, which celebrated its 30th year in business with a bash at its Lake Bellevue location on […]

After 30 years in business, it can be easy for a restaurant to stick to the same old dishes, the same things that customers have seen for three decades. Not so for I Love Sushi, Bellevue’s first sushi restaurant, which celebrated its 30th year in business with a bash at its Lake Bellevue location on […]

After 30 years in business, it can be easy for a restaurant to stick to the same old dishes, the same things that customers have seen for three decades. Not so for I Love Sushi, Bellevue’s first sushi restaurant, which celebrated its 30th year in business with a bash at its Lake Bellevue location on […]

After 30 years in business, it can be easy for a restaurant to stick to the same old dishes, the same things that customers have seen for three decades. Not so for I Love Sushi, Bellevue’s first sushi restaurant, which celebrated its 30th year in business with a bash at its Lake Bellevue location on […]

After 30 years in business, it can be easy for a restaurant to stick to the same old dishes, the same things that customers have seen for three decades. Not so for I Love Sushi, Bellevue’s first sushi restaurant, which celebrated its 30th year in business with a bash at its Lake Bellevue location on […]

After 30 years in business, it can be easy for a restaurant to stick to the same old dishes, the same things that customers have seen for three decades. Not so for I Love Sushi, Bellevue’s first sushi restaurant, which celebrated its 30th year in business with a bash at its Lake Bellevue location on […]

After 30 years in business, it can be easy for a restaurant to stick to the same old dishes, the same things that customers have seen for three decades. Not so for I Love Sushi, Bellevue’s first sushi restaurant, which celebrated its 30th year in business with a bash at its Lake Bellevue location on […]

More in Business

Bellevue Chamber welcomes new board members

REI, T-Mobile and Overlake Hospital are just a few of the businesses represented.

Public Health shuts down Bellevue’s Lunchbox Laboratory for no hot water

The restaurant is currently rated as “Needs to Improve.”

Millennial entrepreneurs gearing up to launch crowdfunding campaign for Ombraz Sunglasses

For each pair of sunglasses sold, 20 trees will be planted.

Aegis Living opens senior assisted living community celebrating Chinese culture

Newcastle’s Aegis Gardens features cultural center and preschool open to community.

Baron’s Xi’an Kitchen and Bar to celebrate Chinese New Year

Baron’s Xi’an Kitchen and Bar, in the new Lincoln Square South, will… Continue reading

Bellevue jeweler announces top Valentine’s Day trends for 2018

Engagement ring store finds couples prefer to plan Valentine’s Day together.

Seattle Home Show to feature 18 Bellevue companies

The Seattle Home Show runs Feb. 17-25.

Cascade Water Alliance announces new officers for 2018-19

Bellevue Councilmember John Stokes was elected to serve as board chair.

W Bellevue named to AAA’s Four Diamond Award list

Only 6 percent of hotels in the world earn this honor.

Broker-Client Spotlight: Peng and Nathan

What’s it’s like to be a seller in the current, multiple-offer- everything market

Low inventory does not reduce demand in Bellevue housing market

By Annie Gustafson John L. Scott Real Estate The number of homes… Continue reading

Bellevue Downtown Association to host 44th annual celebration Feb. 1

The BDA will recognize two honorees with Place Making Awards.