Like many married couples who move into Vienna, Mia and Richard Ko were attracted to the coziness and small-town liveliness of Maple Avenue. Unlike most married couples, they moved into a Vienna commercial space to start their own Japanese and sushi restaurant, called Kabuki.
Sushi consists of small cakes of cold cooked rice flavored with vinegar, typically garnished with strips of raw or cooked fish, cooked egg, vegetables, etc.
"We saw this spot open up," said Mia Ko, explaining that an advertisement led them to the spot where they could start their sit-down restaurant. "This was what we wanted to do."
The Kos are not alone in their attraction to the Vienna, Oakton and Tysons area. Within a five-mile radius are several other restaurants and food establishments offering sit-down and take-out sushi and sashimi for families and daytime workers alike. (Sashimi is a Japanese dish consisting of thin slices of fresh, raw fish, served with soy sauce.)
Despite the numerous offerings of sushi in the area, the restaurants surveyed didn't feel threatened by the other businesses; on the contrary, they valued both their health-conscious clientele and their prime location. By having several restaurants in one area, would-be eaters know they have multiple options to choose from.
"Sushi lovers will know to go to the Town of Vienna," Ko said.
Since Kabuki opened over two months ago, they have seen their business increase despite not yet advertising. Customers have told Ko they heard about the restaurant through word of mouth.
"Lately, there's been a lot of dating couples. That's a good sign," Ko said.
BUT KABUKI isn't the only recently opened sushi restaurant in the area. Another restaurant, Sweet Ginger, opened four months ago, and it offers Pan-Asian cuisine in addition to sushi. The decision to offer cuisine from other Asian countries was to give customers a greater selection in tastes, explained Pete Pradawong, Sweet Ginger's owner.
"Someone who doesn't like sushi can order an Asian dish," Pradawong said.
Pradawong, who has been a partner at Konami Restaurant in Tysons Corner, was attracted to the Vienna strip mall where Sweet Ginger currently sits because of the strip's proximity to Maple Avenue and to the Giant supermarket nearby.
"Everybody can come in to eat, and we treat everyone the same. The customer is always key," Pradawong said.
Another reason for choosing Sweet Ginger's location is because of the clientele that can be served, Pradawong explained. The volume of households and those who dine out often is fairly high.
Gary Powers, president of the Vienna-Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce, agreed with that assessment.
"I would think that sushi restaurants in the area are catering to the health-conscious people," Powers said.
With more sushi options in the area, the evolution of residents to a sushi-eating people has also taken place. When Yoko Japanese Restaurant opened in Oakton eight years ago, it was just one of a few restaurants offering sushi in the area. Now more new customers are coming in willing to give sushi a try.
"It's more of an evidence that people are interested in having sushi," said Madeleine Um of Yoko, on the plenitude of sushi in the area. "Now it's much more accepted to have raw fish. There's just so much more awareness, and that's a positive thing."