Customers entering Matsu Sushi restaurant in Centreville are immediately greeted by the entire staff saying, "Irasaimase."
"It means 'welcome' in Japanese," said manager Josh Huh. "Even though the customers don't understand what we're saying, they like it and know that we're welcoming them."
"And as they're leaving, we say thank you for coming, so they don't leave without anyone noticing, and they know we appreciate their business," he continued. "We want people to feel good about the food, the service and the restaurant. And if they do, they'll come back again."
And that's proven true, said Huh, since more than 75 percent are repeat customers. Located in the Village Center Shopping Center, at 5635 Stone Road, it's a family owned and run business and is not part of any chain.
Huh's father, Woon Huh, is the owner. Josh Huh and his wife Julie, who works there as a waitress, live in Centreville with their two, young daughters. The restaurant serves both lunch and dinner and is open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10:30 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-9:30 p.m. Phone 703-266-7040.
Again, reflecting the restaurant's consideration for its customers, as soon as diners are seated, they receive a Matsu Ball — a complimentary appetizer from the chef. "It's a beef and vegetable dumpling in a flour shell with gyoza sauce," said Josh Huh. "We realize people are hungry when they come in, and they can eat something right away."
A third of the customers order from the a-la-carte sushi menu, a third from the sushi selections available on the regular menu, and a third order hot items cooked in the kitchen. Sushi is the specialty, and Huh says the most popular a-la-carte sushi are tuna, salmon and yellowtail (hamachi).
The California Roll made of avocado, crab, masago (orange, fish roe) and cucumber is also a hit with customers, as are the house special Spider, Rainbow and Dragon rolls. Spider Rolls are made of fried, soft-shell crab, avocado and cucumber; Rainbow Rolls contain crab, fish roe, tuna, salmon and whitefish.
Dragon Rolls are composed of crab, avocado, fish roe and broiled, whole freshwater eel. Also popular is Japanese Lasagna — California Roll topped with special sauce. "It's baked 5-10 minutes and is a little spicy, but lots of people like it," said Huh. "It has a red sauce, a creamy sauce and unagi sauce — which is sweet. Once people have it, they keep ordering it."
A popular sushi from the regular menu is Nigiri sushi, featuring rice on the bottom and fish on top. It's made with a variety of fish, such as tuna, salmon, whitefish, shrimp, crab and surf clams. At lunch, customers also enjoy the combo of California Roll plus tuna and cucumber rolls. The dinnertime combo has a California Roll and tuna and salmon rolls.
The sushi and sashimi combo is a hit, too. Sushi is fish served with rice, and sashimi is fish without rice. The combo contains tuna, whitefish and salmon sushi, plus white tuna and top-of-the-line bluefin tuna, wasabi, California Roll and cucumber. It also comes with two items to cleanse the palate between different types of sushi — shredded radish and sushi ginger — as well as seaweed salad and a whitefish flower adorned with red, flying-fish roe.
"Taste and presentation are important," said Huh. "The chef has a good sense of the art and makes good decorations."
As for hot food, teriyaki, tempura and noodle dishes are the stars. Teriyaki Yakiniku is thin-sliced beef marinated in several sauces and served with vegetables. Said Huh: "It's a chef's specialty — very tasty and flavorful."
Shrimp Tempura (shrimp coated with batter and fried) is also popular, as is Chicken Yakisoba (similar to Chinese lo mein, but less greasy and with thinner noodles).
Because Matsu Sushi offers both hot and cold dishes, it has three sushi chefs and three kitchen chefs. The main sushi chef — who studied his craft for two years — is Sung Kwon "Scott" Kim, and the head kitchen chef is Kyu.
Both are from Korea, but make Japanese-style sushi. "Japanese sushi are a little thicker and larger than Korean sushi," explained Huh. "And the decorations and style are different." Except for a-la-carte items, entrees come with soup and salad; teriyaki dishes also come with rice and vegetables.
The restaurant also features katsu and donburi dishes. Don Katsu is lightly fried, battered pork served with rice and vegetables on the side with Katsu Sauce — a sweet sauce. Katsu are separate bowls of deep-fried food served with dipping sauce, and don is the abbreviation for donburi.
Katsu Don, however, is a donburi, meaning that all the ingredients are mixed together and served in one bowl with rice. For example, Yakiniku Don is comprised of marinated beef stir-fried with vegetables and served on top of rice, with egg sauce.
The most popular appetizers are the Matsu Ball beef and vegetable dumplings, Naruto Maki (cucumber roll with crab, smoked salmon, avocado, egg and masago), Ebi Tempura (lightly fried shrimp and vegetables) and Ika Tempura (lightly fried calamari).
Appetizer prices range from $2.95 for Matsu Ball to $9.50 for Yellowtail Sashimi. Most a-la-carte sushi are $3-$5, with the larger portions of special rolls costing anywhere from $3.95 to $12.95. Teriyaki and tempura dishes are around $14, with katsu and donburi items averaging $12. Curried and Korean dishes are also on the menu, and noodle entrees are around $10.
The restaurant seats about 80 people, and there's a private room for parties of 14. Matsu Sushi also offers takeout. The atmosphere is quiet and restful, and paintings of local artists adorn the walls. They're for sale, and Huh changes them frequently. Currently displayed is artwork by Centreville artist Sandi Croan.
Huh is proud of his chefs and wait staff and believes his restaurant has something special to offer the community. "All the fish is fresh, we use the highest-quality food and we're extremely clean," he said. "The staff is friendly, and we make people feel good to be here."
Gloria and Patrick Rutledge of Manassas recently enjoyed Chicken Teriyaki and sushi there. "The food is excellent, and the way they prepare the sushi is good," said Patrick. "I like the freshness and flavor, and the service is fast."
Gloria liked the teriyaki sauce and having her entree come with soup, rice and salad. Patrick recommends the restaurant because "there's good value — you get lots of food and never go away hungry. Half my office in Westfields comes here for lunch."
Derek Lee Boire of Centreville's London Towne West eats there so often, he's on a first-name basis with half the staff. "Their sushi is always very fresh — which is key when you're dealing with sushi," he said.
His friend Kathleen Kwong from San Francisco liked the service and cleanliness, plus the variety of other menu items. Saturday, they both had Chicken Curry and sushi. Kwong said the prices are "pretty decent" and, added Boire, "I bring all my friends here."