Sushi Cafe has come out on top of our best sushi category three years running, and by a solid margin. No small feat when you consider the number of decent sushi restaurants that now populate the Little Rock food scene and that Sushi Cafe is only three years old.
Being number one isn't all it's cracked up to be though, especially when you're in such a small space. Sushi Cafe's owner, Robert Tju, says their position at the top of our best of list in years past turned a lot of heads.
"That really caused a lot of problems for us," says Tju. "We got lots of business last time. Sometime it's hard for people to get in."
For all the things patrons have to like about Sushi Cafe, ample space isn't on the list. The restaurant currently seats 55 people and if you want to have dinner there on a Friday or Saturday night, you can pretty much forget about it unless you show up early or come late.
That will all change in September when Tju and company expand into the space next door. The expansion will add about 85 seats. Renovations also include a new patio.
"The idea is that we don't want fifteen people hanging around waiting on a table," Tju says. "We want them to move to the bar area or the lounge area so they can have a drink and relax before we can get them seated. It will be an experience versus just having a dinner."
One thing that keeps people coming back is the diversity of the menu. Yeah, it's considered the best sushi place in town, but even if you hated sushi, you could find something to like among the 188 items on the menu.
"Our slogan is 'beyond Japan' or 'beyond sushi,' " Tju says. "We've got hamburgers, hot dogs, hot wings, noodles, rice, everything."
The burgers at Sushi Cafe, while a little pricy at $16, are made from Kobe beef, which comes from a hybrid breed of Japanese cattle. It's served with very little seasoning yet has a taste you won't find anywhere else.
"There's a lot of fat in the meat," Tju says. "The cows do nothing but drink sake, get massages and sleep. It's very high quality and I don't think people mind the price."
Tju says he's a little concerned about the added pressure and expectations that will come with the new space, but he's also confident his team of chefs, servers and bartenders can handle it.
"There will be a lot more people," Tju says. "Hopefully we don't get into trouble. But if we're going to do it, we might as well do it right and improve."