Dinner and a show: Soho Japanese Bistro focused on food, fun

Published 9:36 am Monday, March 10, 2014

Photo submitted by Jon Lin

Photo submitted by Jon Lin

GRANGER — When it comes to the restaurant business, the Lin family has a lot of experience. So, when they opened their teppanyaki and sushi restaurant, Soho Japanese Bistro, in Granger about 5 years ago, they knew what they were doing.

“We have another restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio,” said Jon Lin, who manages the restaurant for the family. “We opened that one about 9 or 10 years ago. My brother Jay manages that one.”

Prior to that, the Lins, who immigrated from Fuzhou, China, owned a Chinese buffet for about 9 years.

“We’ve been in the restaurant business all our lives,” said Jon, who recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in photography.

A real family affair, the Lin brothers’ parents also work in the restaurants when they have time. Their aunt and uncle were also involved with the restaurants until they moved out of the area.

While teppanyaki and sushi have developed a large following in other parts of the United States, the Lin Family chose Granger as a location for Soho because there were few similar restaurants in the area.

“This area hasn’t had much of the attention that other places have had,” Jon said. “There are not many other restaurants that offer what we do.”

Although Soho Japanese Bistro has developed quite a local following over the years, there are still some misconceptions and confusion regarding the meaning of both “teppanyaki” and “sushi.”

First, teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cooking that uses a large, flat grill, or “teppan,” and it is often confused with hibachi style cooking. The difference is that a true hibachi grill has a grated cook top whereas a teppan has a solid surface. The fuel source may also be different, with the teppan relying on propane or electricity and a hibachi using wood or charcoal.

“There are very few teppan restaurants around here,” Jon said. “We’re one of the very few that offers that experience.”

For guests, that experience not only includes eating the grilled foods, but also watching the chefs prepare the food, which is often performed with great showmanship and flair for diners who are seated around the edge of the grill.

“We get the most business on that end,” Jon said. “Our ‘VIP’ is very popular. You can pick three of the meats that we offer. The chefs put on a show in front of the customers and try to entertain them as much as possible.”

Sushi, on the other hand, is often thought of as “raw fish.” While there are some raw styles of sushi, there are also cooked versions. Sushi can be made with any number of types of seafood, and there are a number of types that do not contain any meat, such as the California roll, which is made with rice and seaweed.

California rolls are among the most popular types of sushi that Soho Japanese Bistro serves, but there are many other popular styles as well, including the Crunchy Roll.

“We offer salmon, shrimp, squid — pretty much anything you can think of when it comes to sushi,” Jon said. “We serve pretty much anything people could want. If there’s something they want that we don’t make, they can suggest it, and we will make it for them.”

Jon’s personal favorites include the Angry Dragon, the Volcano Roll, the Hawaiian Roll and the Soho Roll.

“Customers like the sashimi combinations, too,” Jon said. “A lot of people enjoy those.”

Because sashimi is made with raw fish and other types of meat, it is very important that it be served fresh.

“Our sushi and sashimi are both really fresh,” Jon said. “We work hard to make sure that everything we serve is fresh.”

Another element that the Lin family prides itself on is the selection of craft beers that they serve at Soho.

“We have over 60 beers on our menu,” Jon said. “Our many craft beers are one of the things that we’re known for.”

Located at 7225 Heritage Square Dr. in Granger, Soho Japanese Bistro opens at 11 a.m. every day of the week. On weekdays, they close from 2 until 4 p.m., reopening for dinner until 10 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, and until 11 p.m. on Fridays. On Saturdays and Sundays, Soho is open all day, until 11 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., respectively. They can be reached for reservations at (574) 272-2292, but walk-ins are also welcome.