His name is Binh Tran, but if you like sushi, you can call him Jacky Chan.
He’s the energetic force behind Jacky Chan Sushi, a tiny but tidy sushi restaurant that opened in April in the former Sit at Thai Express space at 4910 E. Central. The restaurant, which seats 26, is easy to spot thanks to its new, bright red paint job.
Tran, whose nickname is Jacky Chan, was the longtime sushi chef at Kwan Court, which closed in 2011. He also made sushi for his brother’s restaurant, Sakura at 7820 E. Harry, which closed last New Year’s Eve.
Now, Tran is going it alone, preparing colorful and delicious dishes within reasonable driving distance of downtown and the east side.
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• On the menu: One thing that’s not tiny at Jacky Chan Sushi is the menu. The restaurant offers seven pages worth of Japanese specialties, from nigiri and sashimi to specialty sushi rolls to appetizers to noodle dishes.
It also has a long list of temaki, seaweed cones overflowing with rice, seafood and vegetables. And it has a lunch menu, a vegetarian menu and lots of teppanyaki grill dishes.
• Don’t-miss dishes: We went to Jacky Chan Sushi expecting to be wowed by the bright and beautiful sushi rolls we’d seen pictured on the restaurant’s Facebook page. The rolls were good, but the Japanese teppanyaki dishes we sampled were even better.
The best was the teppanyaki shrimp, an beautiful serving of tail-on shrimp grilled with garlic, onions, green peppers and oyster mushrooms and garnished with chopped scallion. The sauce was smooth, and the flavor profile was complex. We tried it as a lunch special, and it came with a crispy crab rangoon, a small fried spring roll, a generous side of white rice and a serving of perfectly balanced hot and sour soup floating with big chunks of mushroom, all for $6.50. This might be the best deal on a lunch special offered in Wichita.
We also were surprised by the quality of the $5.99 teppanyaki udon with chicken, an attractive mixture of juicy chicken chunks stir-fried with cabbage, onions, julienne carrots, peanuts and thick udon noodles and topped with chopped scallion. It also came with hot and sour soup, a spring roll and crab rangoon. The quality to price ratio was in the customer’s favor with these two dishes, and larger versions of both are available after 3 p.m., as are additional teppanyaki dishes made with red snapper, salmon, beef and soba noodles.
We started the meal with an order of edamame ($3) and a serving of shrimp tempura and vegetables ($7). The edamame was a little limp and served salt-free, which was a disappointment. The tempura batter looked heavy on the shrimp and vegetables, but the flavor and texture were right on. The dish came with three shrimp spears, a huge onion ring with two circles of onion inside, a sweet potato medallion and a floret of broccoli. Each person at the table was given a personal soy dipping sauce to enjoy with the tempura.
The sushi rolls were so bright and colorful, they were almost too pretty to touch. The Jacky Special roll ($13.95), which gets a full-page color photo in the front of the menu, is topped with alternating and contrasting bright red tuna and green avocado with a streak of orange smelt row across the top.
We also tried the rainbow maki roll ($10), a basic California roll topped with large slices of different colored fish, from cooked shrimp to raw tuna. And at our waitresses’ recommendation, we ordered the shirokuro roll ($10). It was the most unique, filled with a mixture of spicy tuna, smelt roe, avocado and cilantro and topped with a creamy, almost nutty sauce, chopped scallion and black and white sesame seeds.
All of the rolls were fresh and delicious, though I wished they were a little colder. The fish was pretty close to room temperature by the time it arrived at the table. The rolls also were cut extra thick so that each one was at least an inch and a half across, making them a little difficult to eat without effort and awkwardness.
We also sampled the yellowtail nigiri, which again could have been colder, but the meat was thick and firm. Two large slices were $5.95.
• Ambiance: The dining room is small – really small – but the tables are arranged to comfortably seat 26 and can accommodate one larger group. It’s nicely decorated, with black chairs, white walls and pink accents. Behind the counter, a case filled with fish is visible, but the sushi counter is set too far back to see Tran in action.
• Price range: Lunch specials, served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, are $5.99 and $6.50, though there are also a couple of $9.99 sushi combo meals and three bento boxes ranging from $8.99 to $15.99. Appetizers are $3 to $7. Dinner-sized teppanyaki entrees, served after 3 p.m., are $8.99 to $11.99. Sushi rolls range from $5.25 to $12.95.
• Service: Our waitress was friendly and attentive, and Tran would occasionally pop out from the kitchen to see if customers needed anything. During our visit, he was working the kitchen alone, and it was interesting to see how he prioritized the tickets. Our appetizers and warm dishes arrived quickly, followed soon after by the nigiri. Then, Chan prepared the dishes of the other two parties seated nearby us before starting on the sushi rolls. The wait for the rolls was lengthy, but they were clearly made fresh. Customers should be prepared for their meals likely not arriving at the same time.
The restaurant also has a drive-through.