Hibachi style dining returns to Brownwood this fall as the Tokyo Steakhouse Hibachi and Sushi Bar completes its final health and building inspections before a forecasted August grand opening.

Looking to shake off the previous reputation of the Sawa Japanese Steakhouse, which received a dozen health code violations in 2015, Tokyo Restaurant Manager George Shi said he and Owner Simon Shi (no relation) completely gutting and renovated building and hopes to bring a relaxed dining experience to Brownwood citizens.

“We want to have the customer come here and enjoy their dinner comfortably, not like before,” Shih said. “Before the restaurant was called Sawa and people thought it was old and dirty. When Simon, who is the owner, bought Sawa he shut it down to have everything remodeled.”

At the time of the interview, Shih had only been in Brownwood for two weeks and was living in Houston when he received a call from Simon Shih with an opportunity to manage the restaurant. Shih said he has nearly 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry, working in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and various other cities across the U.S. before coming to Brownwood.

“I have worked in Chinese restaurants for 28 years,” Shih said. “… Simon looked at me and said ‘Can you come down to Brownwood and help me to start a business. He had the money to build a restaurant, but he didn’t how to put in a system and get a restaurant running.”

In further contrast to the old Sawa Japanese Steakhouse, Tokyo replaces the graffitied, oil stained walls with earth tones and dim lighting, which seem to exude an inviting, relaxing atmosphere where customers can stay and converse long after they finish their meal. Shih said that is no coincidence.

“I want to make this restaurant where people can chill out,” Shih said. “I want it to be someplace where people don’t just come to eat. Someplace quiet, where people can sit down and enjoy their food. More of a family restaurant, but with life, where our older customers can come in a maybe have a couple of beers and eat some sushi.”

Angel King recently became Tokyo’s first hired employee and assisted in the renovations until she begins training as a waitress. She said the help wanted sign seemed a divine intervention and felt compelled to apply.

“It looks beautiful inside. These people are going to run this restaurant well,” King said. “I’m excited. I have never tried sushi. I was praying God will lead me in the right way and they welcomed me with open arms … This is going to bring a lot of great memories for kids, memories they would not get at any other place – like they’re in another country.”

Shih said his restaurant plans will not stop at the Tokyo Steakhouse Hibachi and Sushi Bar. Once Tokyo takes off he hopes to bring a taste of Japanese nightlife to downtown Brownwood.

“I go to downtown and it’s quiet,” Shih said. “Someone told me at night in downtown there is nobody there. I said ‘That’s good. I can use that whole space for parking.’ Maybe people here like the quiet life, but I like something with a Japanese-style nightlife.”