New Izumi’s owner rose from dishwasher to restaurant owner after immigrating 

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All hibachi-style entrées are served with onion soup, steamed rice, grilled vegetables, and a trio of housemade dipping sauces.
All hibachi-style entrées are served with onion soup, steamed rice, grilled vegetables, and a trio of housemade dipping sauces. Mike Antonelli/Tualatin Life
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In the half of his life that’s passed since Felipe Acosta immigrated to the United States as a teen, he’s worked his way from dishwasher to restaurant owner.

Felipe Acosta
Felipe Acosta

But Acosta, who took ownership of the popular hibachi-style Izumi Japanese Steakhouse at Tualatin Commons earlier this summer, didn’t always have his eyes on the food industry.

As a kid growing up in a small rural village near the center of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, Acosta’s sights were set on teaching. He’d finish high school, then college, and settle into the classroom.

When the high cost of higher education in Mexico derailed that dream, the then 19-year-old headed north in search of opportunity and found a place for himself in the kitchen.

 “I like (restaurants) because of the customer service,” he said. “I like to talk to them and make them feel comfortable.”

At 38, he’s now a citizen of his adopted country, a married father of five – two biological kids and three stepchildren, and after years of sharpening his knife skills and business acumen as a sushi chef and food cart owner, Acosta is learning the ins outs of hibachi style cooking in the dining room of his new place.

Elmore Doses fires up the table top, teppan grill at Izumi Japanese Streakhouse
Elmore Doses fires up the table top, teppan grill at Izumi Japanese Streakhouse. Mike Antonelli/Tualatin Life

And, he has a few veteran Izumi grill masters to teach him the art of Japanese teppan table cooking.

Izumi fans will find that the look, feel, and atmosphere that has drawn them over the years is largely unchanged but slightly shinier these days.

 Acosta put a heap of elbow grease into the original traditional décor, knocking off the dust, polishing the floors, and restoring the gorgeous dark hardwood trim to its original luster.

“There was a lot to fix around here, because the old owners, I think they just gave up on the place,” he said. “It was really messy when we took over.”

Though the staff is small, and he’s currently only using a handful of the restaurant’s 14 tables, his roster of chefs brings the same humor, entertainment, and dazzling knife skills that have been a hallmark of the Izumi experience since it opened in 2016.

He kept the grill menu essentially the same, upped the sushi, and trimmed some of the saki and specialty drink offerings.

On a quiet Tuesday afternoon, chef Elmore Doses jokingly introduced himself as Justin Bieber before giving up his real name and getting to work.

Doses, one of two chefs who worked under original owner Allen Song, is an easy-going showman who brings continuity to the change. His grill work is punctuated with laughs, flames, and banter built for a party.

At its peak, Izumi staffed 15 chefs with grill skills like Doses’. On a busy night, all 14 tables were ablaze, with patrons around the hibachi, watching as fresh food was cooked to order before them.

Acosta is working to build the restaurant back up to full capacity.

And he’s no stranger to upping his skills, taking risks, and building a business.

He spent six years at a Tualatin sushi restaurant, his first restaurant job, learning the kitchen inside and out while rising from dishwasher to sushi chef. In 2012, he took on managing Sushi Hana’s Lake Oswego location, where he remained until early 2020, when pandemic closures impacted the business.

After a short stint as an ironworker, Acosta took equity from his house to buy a food cart and returned to the kitchen with Sushi Roll’n, stationing the cart in Monmouth and Oregon State Fair.

Izumi is his first step into a brick-and-mortar spot. He sold the cart to finance half the purchase and partnered with another local businessman, Juvenal Farfan, who owns La Barca Guerrero in the same building, to make it a reality.

With his deep knowledge of fresh fish comes an expanded sushi menu.

“I’m the one who makes the sushi,” he said, noting the Izumi’s Scorpion Roll is a personal favorite and a frequent go-to lunch.

Izumi Japanese Steakhouse is located at 8125 SW Nyberg Street in Tualatin.
Open 11:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. 7 days a week. For info, call 971-770-1688

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