In Dining

Kanpai 2 will move into the Izumi's space next year.

Izumi's will leave long-time sushi legacy as it clears way for Kanpai 2

Milwaukee will lose a longtime East Side staple as Izumi's Japanese restaurant prepares to close its doors.

Meanwhile, this spring, the owners of Kanpai izakaya in Milwaukee's Third Ward, will open a second location in the space as early as late February or early March.

Jongsoo Kim, co-owner of Kanpai, confirmed the news in a phone conversation today, indicating that the new restaurant will have a very similar look and feel to the Third Ward location, and the menu will be "nearly identical," with the potential for a few additional Korean entrees. Once open, Kanpai 2 is expected to be open daily for both lunch and dinner.

Izumi's owner Fujiko Yamauchi did not respond to our requests for comment on the closing of Izumi's. However, a number of sources have indicated that the restaurant will remain open through the end of December, giving folks a bit of time to bid their farewells.

Farewell to a sushi trailblazer

Izumi's closing is one that is likely to strike many long-time sushi lovers with a bittersweet feeling.

The sushi restaurant, which opened in 1993, has not only been Milwaukee's longest-running sushi restaurant, but owner Yamauchi has blazed some trails of her own.

Originally from Fukuoka, Japan, Yamauchi began her Milwaukee career at Seigo's Japanese Steakhouse in Brookfield, before moving on to work as a manager at Koto, a restaurant which made history as the first sushi restaurant in Wisconsin. There, she did something unusual: she honed her sushi-making skills.

Female sushi chefs are a relative rarity today, but they were even moreso in 1990s. So, when Yamauchi opened Izumi's and assumed her place as sushi chef, it was a matter of significance. And – in an era when sushi was still an exotic menu item for many – she invited her guests to indulge in something fresh and new.

Yamauchi developed a following of folks who would persist through long waits just to indulge in her sushi. Even as sushi and Japanese cuisine grew more popular, Yamauchi always maintained a dedication to traditional Japanese recipes and techniques.

Yamauchi has seen the restaurant through 25 years of ups and downs, including a move from its original location at 2178 N. Prospect Ave. (now Seoul Korean Restaurant) to its current location. Over the years, Izumi's won numerous "Best of Milwaukee" awards and Yamauchi herself was honored with a Wisconsin Woman Entrepreneur of the year in 2005.


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