When Alexandre Bouché worked in Brazil, he had a hard time finding something to eat. The national cuisine was famous for its grilled meats and foods heavy and rich. Unable to eat those meals, Bouché stumbled across Japanese cuisine and sushi while looking for a place to dine. That discovery and interest in the cuisine led him to open a restaurant here after returning to Northern Virginia.
"I love this food. I think it's the most natural and healthiest," the Oakton resident said.
Bouché's restaurant, Jendai, recently opened at the Tysons Corner Center mall in McLean. While a mainstay in the restaurant is the sushi, the restaurant also features grilled dishes, appetizers, a children’s menu, and wine and sake lists.
Jendai, a made-up Japanese term, was created by the familiar practice of combining Japanese symbols. Its meaning is nourishment.
"I really want to make this a destination restaurant," Bouché said.
Although only open for several weeks, the restaurant has already seen some repeat customers.
"We like sushi. We think he does a good job," said Karen Tyson of the daily sushi lunch buffet. Tyson works nearby at the National Association of Mortgage Brokers. "The atmosphere is really nice, and the people are really pleasant."
Bouché, who is originally from France, came to the United States 12 years ago and lived in Vermont prior to moving to the Washington, D.C. area. In Europe he had started up his own company, but in the United States he worked in international development for a technology firm. The work caused him to travel frequently, and included an extended assignment in Brazil.
But eight months ago, the entrepreneurial bug bit him again. He left his job and decided to open a restaurant. He had met a number of serious sushi chefs in Brazil and hired a sushi maestro who could present sushi well and come up with creative recipes. He found space in the former America Restaurant at Tysons Corner, and his wife designed the restaurant's interior.
"I've always known that he is an entrepreneur at heart. He's very thoughtful, and I've always known that he would follow through," said his friend Ken Nankin of Bethesda.
Nankin treks to Tysons to eat at Jendai two to three times a week not only because of his friend, but because he liked the sushi, as well as the service, that he had encountered at the restaurant.
"I'm a sushi lover. I'm very picky about my sushi," Nankin said.
Since opening, Bouché has faced the challenges many small business owners face of financing, labor and bureaucracy. Yet Bouché is determined to spread his love of sushi through the restaurant.
"It's very authentic. It's very beautiful and tasteful," said Bouché of the cuisine.