The mission statement of the new Midori Restaurant was created by founding chef Michael Lee. It also defines why he chose Tehachapi. It defines the design of the interior atmosphere. It is reflected in the foods he has chosen and how he purchases them.
After a 20-year career in San Francisco you might wonder how he decided on the Tehachapi valley, how he decided to open a fusion-style sushi and Japanese grill in a rural area. The top-of-mind reason was because he sought to live in an area with four seasons. He wanted to return to a country setting that mimicked his country living as a child in Korea. But there are other regions with this quality in California.
So what made the difference?
It turns out that there are two other distinctions, found nowhere else, that captured his heart and solidified his decision to invest the rest of his life here: the trains and the mountain.
His professional goal is to provide the customer with a comfortable, family-orientated place to eat good, fresh food. And he means fresh, fresh as they eat in Japan where he was trained. He rises between 3 and 4 a.m. each day to get to the markets along L.A. Harbor. There, at places like True World and Harbor Fish, he personally examines the fish he will use to cook and serve that day. If the fish is still in the restaurant after 48 hours, it is thrown out. Even fresher, still, is fish like abalone which swim in the restaurant's tank until ordered. Then it is prepared.
Lee said, "I want anyone who enters this restaurant to feel comfortable asking questions about the food and comfortable about eating it for its quality. I want them to think of it as eating out of the hand of their grandmother, to feel that safe and comfortable. I know that that would make me feel like I am home... and that's where I want to be too: home."
Lee and his sister You Jin Yoo have worked together for the last 10 years. She is his partner in Tehachapi as well. Midori is a common name for other businesses, including restaurants, but the Tehachapi restaurant is not a franchise or part of a chain. Midori means fresh, green, organic, clear and clean in Japanese.
Midori is located at 414 W. Tehachapi Blvd., in the new mall adjacent to Best Western Mountain Inn. It was scheduled to open on Monday.