I had to do a training for a dealer in the south Indianapolis suburb of Greenwood one morning, so I got into the hotel the night before and decided to find someplace to eat that evening. A quick look through Urbanspoon of area restaurants showed me a number of places to eat. I found an interesting place - a sushi restaurant by the name of Yokohama Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar. I decided that sushi wouldn't be too bad for dinner that evening, so I headed over to Yokohama for dinner.
Yokohama has been in business since 2008, but has suffered from a somewhat checkered past. The original owners were an older couple who garnered a foul reputation with people who visited the place. The only saving grace was the sushi chef - Debbie - who was outgoing, friendly and personable.
Debbie is a native of Taiwan and had begun to work at Yokohama not long after it opened. She had owned a Chinese restaurant previously and ended up selling it to take care of her ailing parents. The owners of Yokohama knew Debbie and asked her to come to work for them right after they opened the doors in 2008. After working at Yokohama for awhile, she decided she wanted to be a sushi chef. Reviews of the place were overwhelmingly negative except for Debbie and her sushi.
In early 2011, the couple who owned Yokohama decided they wanted to retire. Debbie had an idea that she would like to buy the place. Her husband, Scott, was retired from Chrysler with a work place disability and she asked him one day, "What do you think if I buy the restaurant?" He said he wanted to think about it for awhile and she replied, "Well, you better hurry up because we bought it yesterday." Two days later, using their savings and getting loans from family members, the couple closed on the property and they were the new owners of Yokohama. The couple knew it was far from a sure thing and they had to repair a damaged reputation the restaurant had garnered.
The Bennett's put up a sign out front "Under New Management" and tried to gain back some of the customers who said they'd never go back. Scott Bennett used social media to get the news out that there were new owners at Yokohama and went on restaurant review web sites to reply to those who had trashed the restaurant after previous visits. Within a couple three months, Scott Bennett estimated that they had won back about 60 percent of their previous customers. A lot of it had to do with the fact that it was Debbie running the place.
Family members make up the bulk of the staff at Yokohama. Everyone on the staff can do any job in the restaurant - from making sushi, to cooking in the kitchen, to waiting tables, to maintanence work. But Debbie continues to be the main sushi chef and the friendly face of Yokohama.
Going from the Central time zone to the Eastern time zone, I always end up eating late when I get to Indianapolis. It was 7:00 p.m. body-time and 8:00 p.m. real time when I started out toward Yokohama. I was surprised to find that Yokohama was actually in a house on Madison Avenue in Greenwood, just north of Main St. (see map) I parked in the small parking lot behind the restaurant and went in.
Yokohama is not large - it seats about 40 people and it can get pretty crowded on the weekends. There's a small seating area as you walk in the front door and two small dining rooms on the main floor. Yokohama also has a private dining area for more traditional Japanese dining in an upstairs room. Two young ladies were seated in the dining area to the left as you come in the main part of the restaurant. Other than those two and me, that was it. But it was 8:30 on a weeknight and Yokohama closes at 9 p.m.
The sushi bar is in the back corner of the building and I walked in to sit there. Debbie Bennett greeted me with a big smile and a boisterous personality. She was immediately likable. I believe it was Debbie's sister who came over and gave me a menu and asked what I wanted to drink. I asked if they had Asahi beer and she enthusiastically replied, "Sure!"
I was just going to get sushi, so I filled out a sushi roll/nigiri sheet. I always love getting a spicy tuna roll, but I was having trouble finding it on the sheet. I asked Debbie if she had a spicy tuna roll and she said, "Oh, yes! It's right here!" And she pointed it out on the sheet. She said, "You want a spicy tuna roll?" I told her that I did and a few other things. She said, "I'll get started on the spicy tuna, OK?"
I also ordered up some smoked salmon, regular salmon, regular tuna and yellowtail. Debbie handed the spicy tuna roll over the refrigerated case. It was a bigger roll - 8 pieces total. And it was very good. The spicy tuna roll had a wonderful taste.
After finishing my tuna roll, Debbie handed me my nigiri plate. I got four pieces of smoked salmon - my favorite type of sushi - and two each regular of the salmon, tuna and yellowtail. The smoked salmon was very good as it had a nice smoked flavor that wasn't overwhelming. The regular salmon was also good, but the tuna and especially the yellowtail were a little fishy in taste. They were still edible, but not the best tuna or yellowtail I've had.
The only quibble I had was that Yokohama was a little pricey. It was just under $50 bucks before the tip. But with Debbie's fun and infectious personality, it was fine with me. I can't imagine what Yokohama was like before the Bennett's owned the place, but the sushi was certainly good and it was a fun time. I love finding little sushi places while I'm on the road and now that Yokohama is on my radar, I'm sure I'll be back at some point.