Yuki Sushi restaurant in Santa Clara is a cozy, neighborhood sushi bar that has built up a faithful following since its opening 27 years ago on September 15. On Fridays, customers sometimes line up outside waiting for a seat.
George Romanowsky from San Jose has been satisfying his yen for fresh fish at Yuki Sushi for 20 years.
This place reminds me of going to ‘Cheers’, Romanowsky says, referring to the old TV sitcom.
Everyone here is friendly and knows who you are. They treat you like family. I have fun and the food is great. I bring my family, too. It’s a wonderful place, says Romanowsky, sitting at the sushi bar and nibbling at his sashimi.
Family-owned and operated, Yuki Sushi is an American immigrant dream come true. Nobuko Hamano-Der, a Japanese immigrant to the U.S., dreamed of opening her own restaurant to cook and serve Japanese cuisine. In 1987, she and Robert Der, her Chinese-American husband, bought Old Teriyaki House and transformed it into perhaps the first sushi restaurant in the area.
Yuki Sushi is now managed by Hamano-Der’s son, Douglas Der, who started out at the restaurant as a server before graduating from San Jose State University.
I enjoy interacting with the customers. I like making people happy, says Der. What makes me feel good is somebody saying, ‘It was a great dinner.’
The people in this neighborhood are just awesome, he says. It’s because of our loyal customers that we have maintained our business. Even if they’re pinching their pennies, people will still go to their favorite restaurants if the food is high quality and reasonable.
Elisabeth Michel from Santa Clara, originally from France, has been dining at Yuki Sushi for 25 years.
It’s the closest sushi place, and it’s a good one, she says. My daughters grew up coming here. When we come back from France, the first thing we do is come here.
It was Katie Dunlap’s first visit. She sat at a tatami table with friends and ordered a bento box lunch.
As someone who eats on my own, this would be a good place, she says. It’s a convenient location for the area. After lunch, Dunlap, from Mountain View, headed to Santana Row Shopping Center a couple blocks away.
The sushi is reasonably priced, says Dunlap’s friend, Santa Claran Gloria Heistein. I’d like to come back midweek when it might be a quieter day.
I love the sushi. It’s fresh, good quality. Service is friendly, and the food is ready quickly if you’re on your lunch break, says regular customer Lisa Dahl from San Jose.
The most important thing in a sushi restaurant is the fish and how the sushi chefs cut, prepare, and present it, says Der. On Fridays, the 60-seat restaurant employs three hot cooks and four sushi chefs. Toshi Maeda, Kiyo Fujiwara, and Naoto Katayama have been preparing sushi at Yuki Sushi for more than 20 years.
We have low staff turnover, says Der. Everybody treats each other well, and our staff like our great clientele. I like to make the staff as well as the customers feel like family. True to his word, Der hired his wife, Marie Takata-Der, as a part-time server then married her.
Yuki Sushi (www.yukisushi.com)-included in Metro Magazine’s Best of Silicon Valley 2013 listing-is at 1827 Pruneridge Ave. Der’s sister, Jennefer Koopman, opened a second restaurant in the Willow Glen area of San Jose in 2009.
If your timing is right when you dine at Yuki Sushi, you just might run into Der’s dad eating lunch or his mom, now retired, sipping a cup of sake and savoring her dream come true-a dream living on through her children.