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Wally Kennedy: Han the Sushi Man moving to new, larger location

Mar. 15—When I first noticed that the "Han the Sushi Man" sign had been removed from a storefront at 1901 E. 32nd St., my heart sank.

Could we be losing another sushi restaurant?

Fortunately, my fears were short-lived. Han the Sushi Man has relocated to a storefront in the Landmark Center at 2640 E. 32nd St. This move will permit the owner, Hein Han, to take his creative skills with food to a whole new level. The kitchen is three times larger than his previous kitchen, and he has doubled his help. The dining room is four times larger, and the parking is convenient.

The enlarged kitchen has permitted Han to experiment with another staple of Japanese cuisine — ramen. He is introducing a new bowl and five new ramen dishes, including one called Cry Baby Ramen. It's so hot it will make you cry. Another reflects his home country of Myanmar. This ramen dish features coconut chicken curry, egg, bean sprouts, green onion, cilantro, bamboo shoots and fried garlic in a chicken broth for $15.99. The Big Bang Shrimp Bowl features fried shrimp in bang bang sauce, with carrots, cucumbers, avocado, edamame, green onions, sesame and rice, also for $15.99.

To the best of my knowledge, he is the first to offer these ramen dishes in Joplin.

Said Han: "My goal is for people to try different foods. I want to offer something special, something new and different, every week. Just this week we added fried rice to our menu."

You are given three menus from which to order. One of them is the new ramen menu. Another focuses on the traditional choices that Han the Sushi Man has always offered. The third is a binder that contains 36 illustrated pages of sushi creations. The creators of these rolls are identified.

I couldn't help but notice that one of the rolls was created by Sam Giarratano, an experienced sushi chef who helped Han open his restaurant 10 years ago. This is a roll I want to try in the future. I bet it's excellent.

When I visited the restaurant this week, I ordered the usual suspects — miso soup, a small house salad with ginger dressing and an eight-piece cream cheese sushi roll. My total bill with tax came to $13.56. My order was a lot like the bento boxes I used to order from Ichiban Sushi, which closed a couple of years ago. Han said he might create his own version of the bento box.

Han got his start in Joplin in 2005 as the sushi preparer for the former Price Cutter grocery store at 1850 S. Maiden Lane. His journey to Joplin began in 2001 when he fled the violence in his homeland of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. He sought political asylum and eventually found his way to California. When he arrived in the San Jose area, he was offered a job rolling sushi. He perfected his skills in California and continued his craft in Oklahoma City, Chicago and Detroit before arriving in Joplin.

When Han opened his restaurant 10 years ago, he had 22 sushi choices available as well as soup and salad. Han the Sushi Man has now perfected more than 100 custom rolls. The restaurant has a grab-and-go counter for those on a short leash for lunch.

Hours are from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The restaurant is closed on those days from 2 to 4 p.m. to restock and do prep work. Saturday hours are from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Another drive-thru lane

For the longest time, the Chick-fil-A restaurant at 2127 S. Range Line Road was so busy with customers entering and leaving the establishment that it affected traffic in both directions on the busiest strip in the city.

The opening of a new Chick-fil-A at 3509 S. Range Line was supposed to fix the problem by taking care of the Interstate 44 travelers who frequented the restaurant at 2127 S. Range Line.

The new restaurant helped, but the restaurant at 2127 S. Range Line is still too busy. A $1.4 million project could begin at any time to add a third drive-thru lane and make some changes to parking.

Rick Starkweather, spokesman for the local Chick-fil-A restaurants, said the project is all outside work and that the restaurant will be closed for 10 to 12 weeks.

The restaurant at 2127 S. Range Line was among the top performers for Chick-fil-A based on transaction counts three years ago. At the time, the chain had about 2,700 locations in the United States.

Closing sale

The Forget Me Not Flea Market, 1702 S. Main St., is having a closing sale that will continue through March 30.

The market, which specializes in antiques, crafts and collectibles, has had as many as 100 vendors over the past six to seven years. That number has decreased recently, but the place still has a lot of stuff left to check out.

The vendors in most cases have reduced prices by 20% to 50%. For some, it's 75% off.

Contact Wally Kennedy at wkennedy@joplinglobe.com.