New sushi restaurant prepares for April grand opening

Lovers of sushi, sashimi, ramen and other Japanese foods have a new dining option as the Japanese restaurant “Jo:a” prepares for its grand opening toward the end of April.

Lovers of sushi, sashimi, ramen and other Japanese foods have a new dining option as the Japanese restaurant “Jo:a” prepares for its grand opening toward the end of April.

The restaurant is currently in a “soft open” stage, said Pil Kim, who co-owns Jo:a with business partner Cilea Yoon. The name Jo:a (rhymes with “Noah”) means “like” in Korean. The colon is meant to aid pronunciation.

Dark blue walls and a polished dark floor contrast with the light yellow-orange pine woodwork that adorns in interior. On the walls: artwork depicting pink cherry blossoms.

“It’s an open kitchen,” Kim said, motioning to the stove and cutting board located behind the long, rectangular sushi bar. The bar was custom-made in Kingston, Kim said.

“Probably the only one in Washington state where the sushi bar and the kitchen is open, so you can see all the food being prepared,” he said.

Kim has worked as a sushi chef for 19 years, which – he joked – meant he was only beginning his career as a sushi chef compared to chefs with 30-40 years of experience.

Kim said he left Seoul, South Korea and came to California in search of opportunity years ago.

“When I first came to America … my best friend owned a Japanese restaurant down in Corvallis, Oregon. That’s where I first started,” he said of the beginning of his career in sushi. Later he worked in San Jose, California, and at Bainbridge Island.

“In Korea we tend to more enjoy more sashimi than sushi. Sushi is where the fish is put on top of the rice versus sashimi is raw fish,” he said.

Jo:a differs from a traditional Japanese restaurant in that there is no glass display case for the fish.

“We noticed that the fish doesn’t get chilled because of the gaps between the display case and the doors constantly being opened and closed,” Kim said.

Instead, Jo:a keeps the fish in a metal freezer located next to the cutting board to keep the fish at an optimal, chilly temperature.

“This is always kept at 35 (degrees),” he said, briefly opening and closing the steel freezer’s hinged lid. “We keep it closed as much as possible so it just stays at a very ideal temperature.”

The fish is imported from Japan. Jo:a also features a walk-in wine cellar that is kept at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Kim said his goal was to have the largest selection of wine and sake in Washington state.

On the menu: ikura, tomago and tako nigiri, amongst other items. Also, classic rolls, veggie rolls, and special rolls with names like “Boss,” “Yummy Yummy” and “Fire Cracker.” Several entrees are featured, including traditional fare such as chicken, steak or salmon teriyaki, or Tekka donburi, or the “Sashimi Deluxe Combination,” served with miso soup, salad and rice.

The restaurant has a regular menu but will also have chef’s specials that change weekly or monthly.

The menu is designed for affordable lunches. Ramen is one of the lunch specials, made with fresh noodles and a pork, chicken or vegetable broth that is made in-house. One menu example: Shoyu Ramen, with chicken broth, chicken, corn, seaweed, egg and scallion.

Jo:a is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Tuesday-Sunday 5-9 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. A happy hour will be hosted Sunday through Thursday from 8-9 p.m. Jo:a is located at 10516 Silverdale Way NW, Suite 120 and can be reached by phone at 360-692-1380. Learn more at Jo:a’s Facebook page at