This story is part of Tri-Cities Best, a viewer vote-driven section of News Channel 11’s community coverage. Hundreds of nominations and votes placed several local businesses within reach of the title of Best Sushi:

  • Cafe One 11
  • iEat by ChopstiXpress
  • Stir Fry Cafe

Each nomination is a privilege, and each vote is an honor.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Yuimaru Kitchen exists due to the cooperation of two men and the support of the people around them, and now they’ve won the region’s Best Sushi title.

The name Yuimaru comes from a Japanese concept of mutual help and community, and owners Richard Nguru and Ryan Hojung Kim wanted to bring that spirit to Johnson City by opening their restaurant at 3020 Franklin Terrace.

“We opened when COVID started, it’s kind of really rough,” Nguru said. “But the community, all the customers, all the support we have, I’m really really blessed.”

Nguru and Kim opened Yuimaru Kitchen in 2019. (Photo/WJHL)

On an average day, you can find dozens of people visiting Yuimaru for lunch or enjoying a special experience at one of several hibachi tables. Leaping flames and juggling chefs are good to catch the eye, but Nguru said a lot of the real art is going on behind the sushi bar.

“Just keep it simple and fresh,” Nguru said in an interview with News Channel 11. “Everything fish is fresh. Tuna, salmon, sea bass, yellowtail, we do fresh fish.”

Fresh selection and precise preparation only make up half of the perfect bite, however.

“Sushi is about the rice, you know,” Nguru said. “If you have good rice, you’re gonna have good sushi that gets along with fish as well.”

The often-raw dish isn’t always for everyone, but Nguru said he’s always able to find something that suits a new customer.

Many of Yuimaru’s sushi chefs have been with the business from its conception. (Photo/WJHL)

“I got a lot of customers, they don’t like sushi, they never try sushi,” Nguru said. “And then I try to make what they like.”

Whether that’s a cooked roll or a completely custom chef’s special roll, Yuimaru’s team of sushi chefs can whip something up that’s to your liking. If you’re dead-set on something hot, then Nguru’s hibachi chefs step in.

“The biggest challenge at this point of course is employees, everybody is on and off,” Nguru said. “But we stick with the good team we have, like the sushi chefs and stuff like that. They’re really, really solid.”

When it comes to sushi, businesses like Yuimaru Kitchen have strong competition. Fresh fish comes at a premium in a landlocked state like Tennessee, so Nguru and his team work hard to deliver.

The business offers a wide selection of specialty rolls. (Photo/WJHL)

“The chef’s special roll, most people are like ‘I like this, this, this, this and this with this sauce,'” Nguru said. “And sometimes we can make it a little bit more extra than what they’re asking for.”

Nguru said he’s thankful for a lot in the Tri-Cities, but he’s especially grateful for the business’s fans.

“I want to say thank you to the community that supports Yuimaru,” Nguru said. “We’ve been open for four years. Without them, without their help, without their support, we’re not going to be standing up here right now.”