Kenzi Hibachi Express is coming to Pekin at least partially as a result of a Google search on the part of the restaurant’s co-owners.
When Ikomang Kembaryasa and his wife, Niwayan K.S. Utari, decided to relocate from Rockford and open a Japanese restaurant, they were searching for a community where they could break new ground. They chose Pekin because it was a community where they could be the first to offer Japanese cuisine.
“I was searching for places that don’t have a lot of Asian food,” said Kembaryasa. “When Pekin came up, we saw they don’t have any Japanese restaurants here.”
Kembaryasa, a chef with 15 years of experience, developed his craft working at a Japanese restaurant in Wisconsin before deciding to go into business for himself. Kenzi will feature the cuisine typical of a Japanese steakhouse — including steak, shrimp, scallops, salmon and noodle dishes — but will offer it from a mobile kitchen rather than cooking it tableside in a sit-down restaurant.
“It’s a hibachi restaurant without the show,” Kembaryasa said. “Hopefully, the community will welcome us and come and try our food.”
Kembaryasa and Utari plan to open Kenzi Hibachi Express early this month. Kembaryasa added that he intends to offer free soft drinks, including Japanese sodas, with each order for the first two weeks. Utari believes the restaurant’s location at 3324 Court St. will give it the advantage of visibility.
“I think Pekin’s an interesting place,” she added. “It’s a unique city, and we’re looking forward to serving its people. I hope people will come and try something different.”
Kenzi Hibachi Express will operate on a carryout-only basis, said Kembaryasa. A native of Indonesia, he chose to offer Japanese cuisine partly because that’s where his cooking experience lies and partly because he was not sure there would be a local market for Indonesian food.
“Japanese food seems to be more popular,” he said.