Tuscola County’s Sambuca Cafe has won over local residents and media from outside the area with its unique selection of coffees, teas and food offerings.
Now, the downtown Vassar business is taking it to the next level by offering patrons another option: sushi. “We kinda threw something out on Facebook a while back about who would like it, and the response of people wanting sushi around here was quite amazing,” said Brian Derscha, 42, who co-owns the business with his wife, Katy Derscha. “Pretty much the only place you can go to get sushi is either Flint, Saginaw in this area. It’s kind of nice to bring that to Vassar.”
The Derschas added sushi to the cafe menu on a limited basis as of Friday.
Specifically, the plan is to serve sushi 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays.
Sushi is a type of food originating in Japan made with vinegared rice that’s combined with ingredients such as meat, vegetables, seafood and rolled in seaweed, according to foodreference.com.
Katy and Brian Derscha said they will be starting off small adding only three rolls at a time: a spicy tuna, California and specialty house roll fully cooked for those not used to sushi.
All rolls will be made by Sambuca employees. Other ingredients will be handmade, as well, including the accompanying yum yum and spicy mayo sauces.
The tuna roll is placed inside of a bed of white rice and inside rolled up with the meat is avocado, cucumber and a spicy mayonnaise.
A California roll is sushi rice on the outside with sesame seed on top and inside is crab stick, cucumber and avocado.
The Derschas said it would be the only restaurant to serve sushi in the county, with the nearest restaurants in Saginaw, Hello Sushi, 2575 Tittabawassee Road (24.1 miles); in Flint, Chubby Duck Sushi, 300 E. 1st Street, (28.8 miles); and in Bay City, Fusion 1 Cafe, 813 Saginaw Street (23.3. miles), according to Google Maps.
The Derscha’s sushi journey started several years ago when the two were in Bowling Green, Kentucky for an educational Bible event.
“We had some friends that we met there and they wanted us to try some sushi, and we’re like ‘Of all places, Kentucky’ — it was really scary,” said Katy Derscha, 32. “But it was in Bowling Green, which is a melting pot…and they had an amazing sushi restaurant. And so we’re always on the search for another place to eat sushi.”
Marlette resident Chelsea Mata said having sushi added to the menu is a great idea because it would make Sambuca more marketable to the area.
“I like that they don’t have to travel too far to get it,” said Mata. “It makes them stand out than other local businesses. You don’t normally associate Vassar with having sushi.”
Prior to adding sushi, Katy Derscha already took a few sushi making classes under Hiroshi Kikumori, Japanese food specialist and chef with Sysco Corp.
The employees also received a few 30-minute to hour-long training sessions and a class with another Sysco chef, Jim Woolsey.
Katy Derscha said learning the techniques wasn’t difficult but perfecting them took the most effort — she insisted on serving customers authentic sushi in a beautiful presentation.
Sambuca employee Christopher Malow, 19, said before having a professional teach him, he did it a couple of times on his own.
“I learned how to roll it, prepare it and how to keep stuff safe for people,” said Malow. “When you’re dealing with raw fish it can be pretty dangerous so you follow the (instructor) procedure.”
Malow said having the professional chef has taught him what it was like to have a hands-on experience, making it easy to learn.
Katy Derscha said other Japanese cuisine could be in the works for Sambuca Cafe, such as edamame, seaweed salad and their own eel sauce.
Admittedly, the Derschas said it might take some time for patrons to warm up to offerings that are unique to the area.
“When you’re dealing with farming communities, it is hard for them to change,” said Katy Derscha. “They’ve lived a certain way for so many years it really is hard for them to adjust to that change, but when you have this younger generation that’s taking the first steps and they’re willing to make that change I think it’s slowly bringing that older generation around.”
For more information visit Sambuca Cafe on Facebook at http://bit.ly/2httKT8 or call 989-882-9202.
Debanina Seaton is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.