Today we’d like to introduce you to Yamato.
A sign hangs behind the sushi bar that reads, “Yamato Bait Shop and Sushi Bar,” and was made as an affectionate joke by a local regular, who Yamato converted into a sushi-lover. Owner Yih Chern Lo, lovingly called “Lo” by his frequent diners, tells the story.
“This man would always come in at dinner time and eat on that side,” Lo says, pointing to the hibachi dining room, “and I would always say, ‘Why don’t you come over here [to the sushi side] and just try it?’ He would say, ‘No way! That’s not food, that’s bait!’” Lo laughs. “But then after many years, finally, I got him to try it. And he said ‘Wow!’ And now he never sits on that side anymore, he always sits on this side,” Lo beams, his arms resting proudly atop his gleaming sushi bar, lined with the finest cuts of fish.
“Freshness was always my priority,” Lo continues, and explains that he has fresh fish flown in from all over the world, from three different companies, three different times per week. Lo’s impeccable standard of quality stems from both his extensive culinary experience and his utmost regard and respect for his clientele. Originally from Taiwan, Lo became a chef at the age of eighteen. He procured a position with a local restaurateur who was expanding his enterprises into the United States, and Lo opened a restaurant for him in Tennessee. It was then he decided to branch out on his own, much to the chagrin of his boss. He told me, “Don’t go, don’t go,” Lo remembers, “And then he said, well, if you are going to go at least don’t go to Texas!” Fortunately for Galvestonians Lo did not heed his mentor’s advice. “This is my hometown now,” says Lo “this is the first place I lived in the United States, I was the first generation to come here. The first five years were tough,” he admits, but recognizes the community, and local businesses such as American National and The University of Texas Medical Branch, for supporting him and carrying him through those early years.
Yamato is run by Mr. Lo & Lisa. You will also see their 3 sons lending a helping hand. Daniel, Steven, & Michael. They are all able to help take your order, make sushi, and cook.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Yamato was open in 1988. Back then people were hesitant to have a California roll.
Galveston did not have a very diverse Asian community then.
When Lo tried to convince some regulars to try sushi, they would joke and say,” Bait is for catching fish!”
One day those regulars were convinced to give it a try and they immediately became sushi lovers.
Til this day Mr. Lo & Lisa still drive up to Houston 2-3 times a week to pick up fresh hand selected fish and produce. The drive can be tiring and they have been doing it for almost 3 decades.
Yamato – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Almost 30 years in business. Lo and Lisa are at the restaurant EVERYDAY. We have some of the freshest seafood in Houston. We even have many regulars who frequently drive down from Houston to eat.
We serve some premium fish… some that are not always on the menu such as kinmedai- golden eye snapper, live scallops, King Salmon, & Toro- bluefin belly.
We also make a lot of signature cold appetizers and sushi rolls.
What people love about yamato is that if you’re with a party, and some people aren’t fans of sushi, there is a fantastic hibachi menu. The chef provides a show and cooks everything right in front of you. Definitely very popular for birthdays, bachelorette parties, and other special events.
The Lo family is especially proud of their employees (most have worked with us for about 10+ years) and their customers. We have many customers that we have taken care of since they were teenagers, then parents, and even some grandparents!
This all sets us apart. What also sets us apart is that people may call yamato a “hidden gem.” From the outside, it’s located in the middle of 61st… all you see is a red canopy and a lit up open sign… when walking in, you immediately feel the energy and everyone is treated like family. There are many locals that frequently dine in.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success… the feeling you get when people are excited to eat your food and you see them bringing in friends/family who haven’t had the chance to experience our style of cuisine.
It’s always a blessing to see people who have moved very far away, still come down to the island and they tell us Yamato is the first place they have to stop by.
- Address: 2104 61st Street,
Galveston, TX 77551
- Website: YamatoTX.com
- Phone: 4097442742
- Email: YamatoTexas@gmail.com