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Sweet Potato Roll is Yoshi's newest patented treat

Date Posted: 2007-12-06

Yoshi Maekawa knows his sushi.

The popular owner of Yoshihachi sushi restaurant is a hands-on chef who has never been content with serving the same old entrees’ day after day, creating new sushi items on a regular basis. He’s gone the extra mile, in fact, on three of those sushi favorites—the California Roll, Yoshihachi Rainbow Roll and Yoshihachi Chatan Roll—to register them as trademark items.

Maekawa, whose Yoshihachi sushi restaurant is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, is at it again, introducing a healthy sweet potato roll to his patrons. He says the sweet potato creation, which centers on mashing the vegetable after they’re boiled, then topped with avocado, came to him as he watched the American penchant for eating more healthy foods. Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin C, polyphenols and vegetable fiber, and as with his three earlier rolls, Maekawa is taking out trademark protection on this recipe.

For those accustomed to ‘traditional sushi’ –rice topped with maguro, octopus, roe and egg, Yoshihachi’s 200+ selection menu is more than a treat. Maekawa keys on quality and freshness in everything. “We always use only the freshest ingredients that we buy from the market daily,” he explains. What’s more, he’s created a number of new sushi varieties, mixing or replacing fish with beef or chicken, and by adding spices.

An Okinawa native, Maekawa took a round-about route to Chatan Town, by way of Los Angles, where he had a sushi restaurant for more than a dozen years. Sushi, a trendy cuisine in the 1980’s, attracted a clientele of the rich and famous, including the likes of Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Daryl Strawberry, Danny Glover, Peter Faulk and Stevie Wonder. It was there that he perfected the California Roll, now a staple in sushi restaurants around the world.

Home, and with Yoshihachi restaurant as his playground, Maekawa caters the thousands of Americans on the bases surrounding his Chatan Town location. He’s known far and wide, though, and his customers have included former Prime Minister Shinjo Abe and his wife. His ability to blend traditional Japanese flavors with the more diverse tastes of Americans makes Yoshihachi a ‘must stop’ restaurant for visitors.

Maekawa blends traditional Okinawan styles with those catering to foreigners, including special wells for feet under low tables, allowing a customer to stretch his or her feet while still enjoying the traditional tatami mats.

While mainstay sushi does contain raw fish on rice, as opposed to sashimi which is simply sliced raw fish, Yoshihachi’s intertwines beef, chicken, tempura and even shark into the menu. What’s more, Maekawa works hard to keep his prices as reasonable as possible. Yoshihachi California Rolls run ¥600, Rainbow Rolls ¥1,100, and both Chatan Rolls and Soft Shell Crab Rolls go for ¥800.

Reservations are recommended, particularly after 7 p.m., when Yoshihachi’s begins getting crowded, 098-936-2359. Yoshihachi’s, which has plenty of free parking, is open 4:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. The restaurant, which is open daily except Tuesdays, accepts yen and U.S. dollars.

Getting to Yoshihachi sushi restaurant is easy. From Kadena Gate 1, turn left onto Highway 58, then turn onto Highway 23 at the second traffic light. Under the blue overpass, turn right, then park in the large parking lot. Coming from Kadena Gate 2, turn right toward Highway 58. After passing a convenience store, look for the blue pedestrian overpass, turn left, and look for the restaurant about 300 meters from the intersection.

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