ONTARIO — After a beloved sushi Japanese restaurant moved to Fruitland last year, a new one took its place at the exact location, opening its doors on Friday, Jan. 20.
Sayama Grill is in the hands of an experienced restaurateur.
David Sullivan, the longtime owner of the building where Ogawa’s Sushi, Burgers and Bowls used to be located at 375 E. Idaho St and owner of Kanpai, the adjoining bar at Ogawa’s, said opening another Japanese restaurant at the location seemed fitting.
Especially given the name of his bar, Kanpai, the Japanese equivalent of “cheers,” or an expression used to make a toast, according to Sullivan.
Another motivating factor, Sullivan said, is that Japanese fare has always been popular with the community.
Sullivan said he kept the bar open while he mulled what to do with the vacant space.
Sullivan, a restaurant business veteran, said Sayama serves more traditional Japanese dishes than Ogawa did and that instead of using recipes from their predecessor, Sayama will use original recipes. In addition, Sullivan said the recipes are creations formulated by local people like Marcia Yasuda and former Ogawa employee Rachael Wilson, who helped with the new menu.
For instance, Sullivan said the mafa chicken is a recipe handed down from the local Japanese population in Malheur County over the years.
Sullivan said the chefs prepare the chicken with funyu, a Japanese bean curd, that has become a signature dish.
While the menu features traditional Japanese fare, such as sushi, udon noodles and teriyaki bowls, Sullivan said the restaurant also serves steaks and burgers.
Sushi, a Japanese dish made with vinegared rice and is typically prepared with salt, sugar, and raw seafood, has over the last half-century, become a staple in America. However, Sullivan said some people are still hesitant about eating raw seafood.
However, Sullivan said Samaya has plenty of fusion dishes on the menu, including the mafa chicken, teriyaki bowls and udon noodles.
He said the traditional menu is unique and has something for everybody.
In addition, to bring another food option to the area, the opening of Sayama Grill has created more jobs in the community. Sullivan said the restaurant hired 20 people and still needs more servers. He said those interested could apply in person.
Sayama Grill is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and can be reached by phone at 541-889-6200. Sullivan said a website will soon be available.
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