Sushi Lovers Are Clamoring for Reservations at Old Greenwich’s Sushi Bar

In the two years since Chef Rio Yonathan’s Sushi Bar opened on Sound Beach Ave in the heart of the village of Old Greenwich, it has become a dinnertime hot spot for locals and a destination sushi aficionados further afield.

Last Friday, as staff prepped for two dinner seatings – there were 38 reservations on the books – Chef Rio took some time to share his story.

“Sushi has been my calling. I love working the sushi bar. I’m always behind the bar interacting with people,” he said. “Making good food is my passion but connecting with people and seeing them enjoy what I make is a true pleasure.”

Chef Rio Yonathan in his Sushi Bar at 242 Sound Beach Ave in Old Greenwich. March 22, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Born in Indonesia, Chef Rio moved to the United States 20 years ago. “My father is Chinese-Indonesian so I speak Indonesian and Chinese,” he continued, adding that his restaurant beginnings were humble.

He recalled that like many immigrants, he started at the bottom as a dishwasher and rose to become a server.

“I always worked in restaurants. They were mostly sushi restaurants, but also American and French restaurants,” he explained.

“I thought to myself, I can do that,” he recalled, adding that when his paperwork was in order he was able to secure an apprenticeship and move to increasingly upscale sushi restaurants. Along the way he attended culinary school.

“Hard work pays off,” he added with the quick smile he is known for.

Old Greenwich resident Alessandra Messineo Long, said in an email, “I can’t believe this little gem of a place is right in my neighborhood.”

Messineo Long, who recently scored a Friday night reservation at the sushi bar with her husband Scott, added, “This is a welcome addition to  the thriving food scene in our little enclave.”

“We love to have sushi when we can watch the chefs actually prepare it, and were so impressed by the quality of the sushi and the unique types Rio had to offer from the Sea of Japan and from California,” she added.

Indeed, this reaction is what motivates Chef Rio.

Very popular is the Nigiri Maki Deluxe: One tuna, salmon or yellowtail maki roll and seven nigiri.

“Something about making sushi in front of people – I can see the response right away,” he said. “I feel like sushi is what I enjoy the most.”

Chef Rio said he was fortunate to source fresh fish from the same supplier he had used at a previous restaurant in Manhattan, though the company was reluctant at first. Fortunately, he explained, the supplier started traveling to a large restaurant at Mohegan Sun called Tao, and Old Greenwich was conveniently on the route.

Sushi Bar’s menu features a lot of traditional Japanese fish varieties including Shima-aji, Hamachi (yellow tail) and Murasaki Uni, but Chef Rio likes to balance the Japanese fish with local fish.

“For the white fish – Fluke, Snapper Striped Bass – I like to use fish from Montauk on Long Island to stay sustainable – and because it’s fresh and high quality,” he said.

About 10% of the menu mix is Salmon from New Zealand or Alaska. The Tuna is from Spain.

The menu is further diversified with delicious cooked food options, including the Black Cod Miso, we enjoyed very much.

“You don’t have to be a die hard sushi fan to enjoy the menu,” Chef Rio said.

Cooked Alaskan Black Cod, sweet miso marinated, pickled burdock root, carrot slaw. March 22, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

The response from day one has been positive, and Chef Rio said at first his patrons were mostly locals, including commuters who like to call in their orders from the train on the way home to Old Greenwich from New York City.

The clientele has grown and now draws from all parts of Greenwich as well as Stamford, Darien and even Westport and Westchester.

We found Sushi Bar immaculately clean and bright, and the staff were warm and welcoming.

Paramount for Chef Rio is that his sushi is consistently super fresh and sustainable.

That value extends to the organic packaging he selected for take-out and delivery, which are extremely popular options. There is minimal plastic, for starters, and the containers start with eco-friendly bamboo. Even the Sushi Bar logo is burn-stamped rather than a sticker.

“We get a lot of compliments on our packaging,” he said.

Patrons who dine in are provided washable wood chop sticks and an option of silverware.

“I’m so grateful for all the support from the community,” Chef Rio said, adding that Sushi Bar is BYOB.

“When people make a reservation we let them know it is BYOB,” he said. “There is a liquor store just a few doors down that sells sake, as well as beer and wine, so it works out well.”

Reservations are important for Fridays and Saturdays. Sushi Bar is closed on Sundays.

Sushi Bar signature appetizer: Yuzu Hamachi. yellowtail, pickled mustard stems, chili, scallions, yuzu soy. March 22, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Sushi Bar is located at 242 Sound Beach Avenue in Old Greenwich 06870.

Hours: Mon – Sat 5–10
Tel: (203) 990-0162
Email: [email protected]

Sushi Bar is located at 242 Sound Beach Ave in Old Greenwich