Kennewick eatery offers 'fast, fresh' Asian flavors

KENNEWICK — Kennewick has a new Asian fusion restaurant, J's Asian Flaming Grill.

The name might be familiar if you work at Washington State University Tri-Cities or one of the businesses in the Port of Benton Industrial Center in Richland.

Owners Jerry and Seung Hee Park of Kennewick opened their first J's in the Tri-Cities in that area 10 months ago, after selling their J's restaurants in Yakima.

"We're really popular with Hanford workers," he said. "We're fast, fresh and flavorful."

Jerry Park is head chef for both sites, and he's taught his wife and employees how to follow his recipes, which he said are a mix of flavors spanning many countries, including China, Korea, Thailand and Japan.

"Which is why I call my restaurants Asian grill, not Chinese grill or Vietnamese grill," he said.

The Parks opened their Kennewick restaurant Jan. 8.

Menus in both restaurants are the same, a selection of flame-grilled meats, teriyaki, stir fry noodles and various Asian dishes cooked to order.

Park grew up in the restaurant business. When he was young his parents had a Japanese Teriyaki restaurant in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island and, later, one in Denver.

"I worked in the Denver restaurant all through high school," he said. "I washed dishes, waited tables -- I learned to cook there. I have lots of hands-on experience from working in a lot of different Chinese restaurants."

After leaving Colorado he worked in restaurants throughout the West, including Montana, Seattle, Friday Harbor, Alaska, Yakima and the Tri-Cities.

Over the years, Park has refined his recipes, picking out a sauce he liked from one cuisine, a stir fry from another.

After he married Seung Hee, his mother-in-law, Mun Meezhee, now of Richland, began teaching him how to cook Korean cuisine.

"She was a professional chef in Korea," he said. "I took some of what she taught me and mixed it in with other Asian foods.

"She's the reason I began making my own sauces," Park said. "I'm open ears to learning new things. If it's good and it works, I'll take it in and use it."

Sauces and seasonings are made from scratch and he avoids using monosodium glutamate (MSG) to enhance flavors. He said he instead relies on fresh, healthy ingredients.

As a result meals served at J's are a bit different from other Asian restaurants, he said. He added, "I'm known for spicy food. Not overly hot, but tasty."

Prices range from $8 to $9.

The Parks do some catering from the Richland location for weekday business meetings in the Port of Benton area, but only within two to three miles of the restaurant.

"I want to be sure the food gets there hot and fresh," he said. He said there are no plans to add catering at the Kennewick site.

Neither restaurant has a liquor license, only soft drinks are served.

The Richland restaurant, at 451 Hills St., is open from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

The Kennewick restaurant, at 2632B W. Kennewick Ave., is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. -- or later, if business is brisk -- on Friday and Saturday.