The partners in the downtown and east-side Wasabi Japanese restaurants are opening a new Korean restaurant in Old Town.
Korean food – particularly Korean barbecue – is a trend around the country, says Wasabi manager William Kim.
“But why not in Kansas?” he says. “Why not in Wichita?”
He and Wasabi owner Soomi Nam hope to change that with Jinji Korean Grill and Bar, which is scheduled to open in March at 210 N. Washington. It’s in the building immediately to the south of Joe’s Old Town Bar and Grill.
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Kim and Nam are both natives of Korea.
“Soomi’s a certified Korean cook,” Kim says.
He has a different focus, though.
“I’ve been eating it a lot.”
Jinji’s dining areas and menu will be split between barbecue and other food.
The 4,000-square-foot space will have nine tables for barbecue, each with small grills at the center of the tables.
“They can cook if they want to themselves,” Kim says of diners.
Or, he says, they can opt to have their food cooked for them instead.
The idea, though, is that diners can casually grill small pieces of brisket, tenderloin, short ribs, pork belly and chicken as they eat it. There are vegetables to pair with the meat as well.
In addition to the 50 or so seats around those tables, there will be 24 other seats at Jinji where diners can order noodle and rice dishes, such as the popular bibimbap, among other things.
There will be an outdoor patio as well.
Leisa Lowry and Bradley Tidemann of J.P. Weigand & Sons handled the deal for the space.
Kim says he’s noticed that Wasabi customers seem to like Korean culture, so he thinks Jinji will be well received.
Soomi and Kim will keep their two Wasabi restaurants in addition to opening Jinji. They continue to make changes to them, Kim says.
The downtown Wasabi now caters to a late-night crowd on the weekends.
“We used to close at 11 o’clock, but now we’re open until 2,” Kim says.
“Some nights it’s just going crazy. Some nights it’s slow.”
Kim says he and Soomi are trying to fill a need.
“Not many restaurants open late in this town.”
The night menu is a little different than the Wasabi lunch and dinner menus. There’s more of a focus on appetizers.
The east-side Wasabi also now has a happy hour from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
There have been menu updates there, and Kim says a new menu is coming to the downtown Wasabi.
Since taking over the Wasabis late last year, he says, “We’ve changed a lot.”