Kern Street has a sushi restaurant again.
Umi Sushi opened last week at 2321 Kern St., the space across from the Fresno Convention Center that Sushi Hana left behind when it closed several months ago.
The restaurant serves all kinds of sushi, including vegetarian rolls, rice bowls and bento boxes that feature a collection of items in a box. The owners say the soft shell crab wonder is a highlight. It's a roll that includes crab tempura, spicy tuna and cucumber.
They also made sure to put Chinese chicken salad on the menu, noting that the previous restaurant used to sell out of its chicken salad, co-owner Tracy Wayte says.
Customers may recognize the two sushi chefs behind the counter: Ketut Sutama and Wan Takian. The pair have worked together at Sushi Day and Roll One for Mi. Wayte, who is Sutama's wife, has dubbed them the "Odd Couple." They like to have fun with each other and with customers, she says.
A cousin of one married a cousin of the other, so technically, they're family.
They have fun with the food, too.
"They like to play. Sushi is art with food," she says. "Sometimes [Sutama] will create things for customers based on what he knows they like."
The owners hope to serve beer and wine and possibly sake-based "sakeitinis" when their liquor license is approved.
Umi which is Japanese for "ocean" is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. It also will be open on Saturdays during special events, such as the "Les Miserables" performance at the Saroyan Theatre.
You can find more information about Umi Sushi on its Facebook page or (559) 515-6636.
One of Fresno's top fine-dining restaurants is headed for closure: The Ripe Tomato Restaurant.
The 37-year-old restaurant has spent its entire run in Fig Garden Village, tucked away in a spot near Jamba Juice. Its last day will be Feb. 15.
Chef and owner Rudy Liebl said there are several reasons for the closure.
The restaurant is packed on Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and other special occasions, but not on other days, he says. The sluggish economy plays a role, and young people aren't seeking out fine dining, he says. Also, Liebl is 74 and ready for a break.
You can bet this restaurant will be packed with well-wishers before it closes. Customers also will be saying goodbye to Sam Cheah, who has been the restaurant's manager for 26 years.
It may not be the last we see of Liebl.
"I'm going to be 75 years old, so it's probably time, but I don't know how I'm going to handle retirement," he says. "After 60 or 90 days I might do something else."
The Ripe Tomato Restaurant will be replaced with Pieology Pizzeria, a growing California-based chain that makes custom pizzas in under five minutes. It is scheduled to open this summer.
Details about Ripe Tomato are available on the restaurant's Facebook page or at (559) 225-1850.
Pinot Wine Bar
Changes are happening at Pinot Wine Bar in the Tower District.
Most notably, the business has started serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.
Taste Kitchen, the food side of the business led by chef Martin Franco, is serving its local and organic dishes and meat raised without antibiotics or hormones.
On the menu this week are salads, burgers, free-range chicken wings, a steak sandwich and his grilled cheese royale with a red wine/onion jam.
Pinot also has started opening at 4 p.m. for the evening instead of 5 p.m. It's also beefed up its beer offerings and now has six beers on tap and 20 bottled beers. They range from craft beers such as a Tangerine Wheat to old standbys such as Coors and Bud Light.
Pinot has always had a full bar, but it now has a bar manager who "knows everything there is to know about beer and spirits," says Pinot owner Daniel Renteria.
It's starting to sound a lot like a regular restaurant and bar, isn't it?
Maybe, but Renteria says it will always be a wine bar at its heart, he says. That's his passion.
But like many businesses, he is evolving to serve what customers want. He noticed wine sales dropped off after 10 p.m. and beer and cocktails picked up, so he decided to beef up that part of the bar.
Pinot also is hosting the Tower Beer Run from 1-5 p.m. Jan. 25. It's like a wine walk, except with craft beer no actual running. Pinot kicks things off on its patio selling a small plastic glass for a dollar.
People can then get a glass of beer for $1 each at 10 participating Tower restaurants. It gives them a chance to try out several craft beers.
There will be prizes and other fun stuff, too.
More details are at facebook.com/PinotWineBar.
Four Seasons Chinese
Clovis has another option for Chinese food now that Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant has opened.
It's at 342 N. Clovis Ave., at the southwest corner of Clovis and Herndon avenues.
It looks like some pretty nice work has been done on the building.
The restaurant serves dim sum all day.
Details: (559) 324-8438.
The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6431, email@example.com or @BethanyClough on Twitter. Read her blog on fresnobeehive.com.