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Sushi even for squeamish diners

CJ's new sushi chef says anyone can love it

Lucas Wortelboer is the new sushi chef at CJ's Village Cafe and Sandbar. Photo by Megan Collier.
October 07, 2009 - No more road trips just to find good sushi says Carl Slomczenski, owner of CJ's Village Café and Sandbar. Now sushi enthusiasts and adventurous eaters can find it in the heart of downtown Lake Orion in his restaurant.

"I'm making it better than anyone else," said CJ's new sushi chef, Lucas Wortelboer. "Nobody's coming close to what I'm pulling off. I can make it real tasty and I can make it real pretty."

While sushi is a daunting culinary adventure for many diners, Wortelboer says he can make it to suit anyone's tastes. According to the chef, "sushi" only describes the style of rice used and doesn't have to include raw or alien seafoods; even peanut butter and jelly can be used in sushi, he says.

Since sushi is so new to CJ's and to Lake Orion, Wortelboer noted that he kept the ingredient list on the tame side. Right now, he uses Yellow Fin tuna, shrimp, crab, eel, avocado and cucumber. His menu includes sushi staples like spicy tuna and dragon rolls both of which he recommends and as time goes on, Wortelboer says he'd like to incorporate more exotic things.

The chef says his ultimate goal is to start a restaurant of his own featuring Asian cuisine in an authentic atmosphere.

Wortelboer's family used to own Third Wave, a seafood restaurant in Oxford, where he was a real fish monger, gutting and cleaning huge fish. Wortelboer wants to take the skills and connections he acquired at Third Wave to his future restaurant venture.

He learned the art of sushi from a Korean mathematics professor while living in Troy. Wortelboer is also a painter, and the pair painted a mural together. When the professor saw he had artistic ability, he decided to teach Wortelboer the art of sushi.

"He trained me viciously for two years had me speaking Japanense," Wortelboer said.

Until the chef starts his own restaurant, Slomczenski says he's happy to have him at CJ's.

"What better place than to start here?" said Slomczenski. "I'm happy to help young people. In these times, it's good to help each other."

To accompany Wortelboer's sushi, CJ's is now offering sake, or Japanese rice wine, and Japanese beer.

"It's been selling like crazy," Slomczenski said.

The CJ's owner also notes the possibility of offering sushi more hours and days of the week. Currently, it's served Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m. Slomcenski says CJ's might offer it seven days a week or for lunch in the future.

Prices range from $1.50 to $3.50 for sushi pieces and $3 to $9.50 per roll. The menu also includes a sushi bowl, for $10, that's similar in assembly to a cob salad, but with rice instead of lettuce.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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