Thoa Nguyen
Owner of Wabi Sabi Sushi Bar & Restaurant
4909 Rainier Ave S, 721-0212

You're the owner of Wabi Sabi Sushi Bar & Restaurant. You also own the popular pan-Asian Chinoise, and Thoa's, which mainly offers Vietnamese cuisine. What made you want to open a more sushi-oriented-though-still-eclectic restaurant?

I was an artist for six years. I did printmaking, oil, and watercolor. Cooking is a creative outlet for me, so I always need to be trying new things and changing what I'm doing.

The name "Wabi Sabi" translates as "beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete." How does this fit your restaurant?

It's a personal thing. It has to do with the aging process, loss, change, and the ways I've evolved as a person.

I've never seen yam fries and aioli share a menu with sushi. You also serve Hawaiian-style rib-eye steak. How do you select such surprises for your otherwise sushi-focused menu?

I love to travel. I've spent a lot of time in Tokyo and Hawaii, and I've learned about the flavors that make different styles of cuisine unique. I don't think a restaurant should necessarily be restricted to one style of cooking. Japanese cuisine, for instance, has a lot of vinegary flavors and is traditionally very lean, but sometimes vinegary flavors go well with something fatty. I just try to put the menu together in a way I think people will like.

One of the more unusual items you offer is Spam musubi with egg tamago. How did you develop a taste for Spam?

It's very popular in Hawaii. More people eat Spam than you think. It's funny, people get so excited when they see it on the menu. It's a novelty.

Clearly you have a passion for a wide variety of foods. Is there anything you absolutely won't eat? Personally, I think eggplant is disgusting.

I will not eat wild game, like rabbit or venison. I won't eat okra, either—it's slimy! recommended