IF YOU ROLL
• PLACE: New China Chinese Restaurant and Sushi Bar
• LOCATION: 1457 W. Yosemite Avenue
• HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Lathrop Road exit off of Highway 99 and head west. Turn left on Union Road and follow it to Yosemite Avenue. Turn right. The restaurant is a half-mile down on the right, just past Save Mart.
• HOURS: Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• INFORMATION: Visit www.newchinamanteca.com or www.facebook.com/newchinamanteca. Information can also be found by searching for the business on Yelp, or by calling 209.825.1518 or 209.825.1517.
The first thing that grabs you is the décor.
It’s a restaurant in a strip mall, and yet when you walk through the heavy glass doors it’s like you’re transported to another world.
Thick, carved wood tiles – painted an intricate color of gold – adorn the ceiling. The wall decorations are so detailed that you almost want to reach out and touch them and a recent remodel – the first in nearly 20-years – overhauled the booths, the wallpaper and the carpet.
The place looks almost brand new.
But the other thing that strikes you about the New China Chinese Restaurant is the bar immediately to the left of the front counter. It used to be for drinking, but as part of the recent remodel, it has become the home of sushi chef Tony Guan.
Behind the wooden bar Guan carves up everything from seaweed to salmon – offering 56 different roll choices and giving customers the opportunity to create something of their own.
Want to take a particular ingredient out of a popular choice? No problem. Want something exotic that’s not on the menu? They can do that too. One of Guan’s specialties – the New China roll – isn’t even on the menu. Comprised of only raw fish, only a certain type of customer will ask for it or any variation of it, and it’s existence validates the tradition of Japanese cook-to-order meals.
“We just enjoy serving the customers and making them the best food that they can,” said owner Ben Yeung. “We want them to eat good, and we do that making things as fresh as we can – doing things a little bit different than what you’ll find at other restaurants.”
Back in December Yeung formally opened the sushi portion of the restaurant after remodeling the interior of the building for the first time since he opened the doors in 1995.
He repositioned the way that the tables sat in the area that was previously just a bar, and prepared a kitchen area where a chef like Guan could go to work.
So far business is booming.
Through a social media blitz and the setting up of the restaurants first website, New China has seen an influx of new customers coming in from places like Tracy, Stockton and even Oakdale to enjoy dinner. The bar, according to Derrick Yeung, didn’t even make enough money last year to cover the cost of the liquor license. In the first three months of this year he had already surpassed that.
And a lot of that has to do with Guan’s handiwork.
To be a sushi chef – a good one anyway – takes time. Just like any other profession, there’s an apprenticeship-like period where you have to learn the tools of the trade and the secrets of doing what it is that you intend to do well.
Guan did his apprenticeship under the guidance of his father and other accomplished chefs in the Bay Area. He started small – working on easy rolls and preparations – and worked his way up into the more complicated orders.
Today there isn’t anything that he can’t do – either on the menu or off of it.
“We want to be able to provide something that our customers want,” Derrick Yeung said. “And so far we’re doing okay with that.”