By Ryan Cornell
WINCHESTER -- Hibachi chef Kuper Li cuts an onion into slices and stacks them like a pyramid on top of his grill. He pours oil into a nickel-sized opening at the top and uses a lighter to ignite the miniature volcano. Flames shoot out, licking the air several feet above the vegetables and noodles sitting on the grill.
For Li, working at the hibachi grill isn't just about frying rice and searing steaks, it's about putting on an acting performance. Earlier, he might've accidentally cracked three eggs while trying to balance them on his spatula, but it's all part of the entertaining show.
He said he spent half a year training to become a hibachi chef and has done it for more than 10 years.
Li is an owner and one of three hibachi chefs at Okinawa, which opened across from the Winchester Commons on Sept. 15. The restaurant features a sushi bar, a full liquor bar and a private room for birthday parties, in addition to its hibachi grills.
The other owner, Anna Chen, lives in Stephens City and has experience running the Ginger Asian restaurant there. She said there aren't many places in Winchester that offer as many choices as Okinawa.
The restaurant's menu offers Chinese food such as General Tso's Chicken and Sesame Chicken, Thai food such as Drunken Noodles and Pad Thai and Japanese tempura and teriyaki dishes.
She said the specialties favorited most by customers seem to be the Yellow Submarine Roll and the Japan One Roll. The Yellow Submarine is lobster tempura and asparagus tempura topped with mango and seaweed salad and served with mango Thai chili sauce. The Japan One has shrimp tempura and avocado topped with spicy crabmeat.
The two sushi chefs working behind the bar, Jeff Zhang and Andrew Li, also prepare a decorative garnish that graces each plate.
"We put a design on every dish so people feel hungry, and we put a fresh flower into the dish to make it pretty," Chen said.
"This is special to Okinawa," Kuper Li said.
Chen said they get their orchids along with the fish from their food supplier, who delivers to them three times a week.
Zhang, Andrew Li and Kuper Li have experience working together at Mt. Fuji, a restaurant in New York City.
Chen said she first started working in restaurants when she came to the U.S. from Fujian, China, about 14 years ago.
She said Okinawa is currently looking to hire a bartender.
Where: 571 Adams Drive, Winchester
When: Lunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday; Dinner, 4:30-10 p.m Monday through Thurdsay and 4:30-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
Cost: $11-$13 for signature sushi rolls
Call: 540-542-0300, 540-542-0400
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org