A party of 14 dines at Casa Oinari in Parlier. Image via Casa Oinari Instagram page
Written by Edward Smith
Two men are on a mission to bring sushi to small towns across the Central Valley.
Carlos Alvarez and Garrett Nishinaka, co-owners of Casa Oinari in Parlier, hope to open the next iteration of their restaurant this month in Sanger, according to Alvarez.
Casa Oinari in Sanger will open at 775 Bethel Ave. at Jensen Avenue near the Walmart Supercenter. It will be significantly larger than the Parlier location and offer an expanded menu. Alvarez said the prime location offers much-desired foot traffic.
Sanger’s Casa Oinari will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner and employ 12-15 people.
They have wanted to locate in Sanger from the start, Alvarez said. “It’s a strong community that wants something of their own and we think Casa Oinari can bring that to them,” he said.
The Sanger location will have more walk-in fridge space, enabling them to offer more seafood than what is possible in Parlier.
The original Casa Oinari at 13699 Manning Ave. in Parlier has only been open since February, but it has served as a model on how to grow quickly and expand.
Even the opening was fast. Alvarez and Nishinaka began talking about the concept in August 2017. By December of that year, a location opened up when Alvarez’ uncle decided to retire. He ran a Chinese and Japanese restaurant called Yoshi’s in that space. With money they had both saved, they picked up the lease and bought the equipment. By February 2018, they were open for business.
“I think we put ourselves in the right place at the right time,” Alvarez said.
They wanted a place for people to experience cuisine outside of their culture.
The pair grew up in Reedley, and felt they were missing out on food offerings in larger cities, Sushi being one of them.
“At the end of the day, a city wants something to call their own,” Alvarez said.
One of the reasons for the second location was the space limitation in Parlier. Not having much in the way of refrigeration or even dining space meant needing a high turnover rate in order to “maintain their goals,” Alvarez said.
“Every business wants to have a certain level of comfort when it’s running,” Alvarez said.
They hope to be able to tap into the rural and Hispanic demographics in small towns with their “fusion” cuisine. Alvarez always craves Japanese food and Nishinaka craves Mexican, Alvarez says, and out of that combination came the inspiration for many of their dishes.
The fusion even goes so far as the name, combining the Spanish word for house and a Japanese deity.
They have jalapeño poppers that are popular, they say. They also have bento boxes and sushi rolls.
They make most of their sauces in-house, including their own teriyaki sauce and spicy mayonnaise.
For now, Nishinaka and Alvarez will be focusing on making their Sanger location successful, but they don’t plan on stopping there. Though they wouldn’t elaborate, they said they have other ideas they want to explore.
They partnered with the Fresno Foxes this year, providing team. They got really good feedback, Alvarez said, and are in talks about longer-term deals should a stadium be build to house the new soccer team.
“We know that they’re going to grow,” Alvarez said. “And they know we’re ready to do something big as well.”