Mr. Teriyaki has come to town and opened a couple of restaurants in Gainesville.
Yong Chon, who operates the restaurants and owns them with other partners, has purchased Kiku Japanese Steak House on Dawsonville Highway and at the same time opened a new restaurant in New Holland. Both share the name Mr. Teriyaki, but there are some differences in the two restaurants.
Chon goes by the initials ET in his work at the restaurant — hence the menu items and specials carrying ET in the name — and has spent the past 35 years working in Japanese restaurants. He got his start in restaurants as a high school student in Colorado Springs, Colorado, working his way up from a part-timer in the kitchen to chef, manager and chef-owner of restaurants restaurants in the Southeast.
“I have a confidence about food — Japanese food, I know,” Chon said in the lobby of the new Mr. Teriyaki in New Holland. “Nobody knows 100 percent, but I have confidence, and I do what I do.”
The restaurant had a soft — or more accurately, a quiet — opening on Monday, Dec. 16. The general manager at the location is Jae Rhie.
A grand opening is planned in the next couple of weeks, but the restaurants are open for business in New Holland and at the former Kiku spot on Dawsonville Highway.
Mr. Teriyaki’s fare includes sushi, bento boxes, myriad hibachi dishes, soups, a kids’ menu and other items.
The Dawsonville Highway location’s setup will be familiar to regulars, with seating around hibachi that Chon said holds onto the performance side of the old restaurant.
Mr. Teriyaki’s New Holland location includes one hibachi near the bar that won’t include general seating — though Chon said he’ll cook for private events at the restaurant in New Holland.
For the owner, the two restaurants are separated by distance, but also by purpose. When Chon describes cooking at private events in New Holland, he says “perform.”
“It’s the same hibachi style,” he said of the two Gainesville locations, “so exactly the same style, but over there we perform.”
The New Holland Mr. Teriyaki location runs a cheap lunch options below the $10 mark and includes a few fusion options covering both American and Japanese styles.
Both restaurants include lunch and dinner hours.
Chon has been a chef around Georgia for years with the Nagoya chain of steakhouses. Mr. Teriyaki marks the first time he’s struck out on his own with a new venture.
“I really have a passion for my dishes. I don’t just cook like everybody — it’s not just to make money. This is my passion; this is what I love,” Chon said. “That’s why I’m doing this. If I wanted to make some money, I would do something else. This is my life.”