The former Pizza Hut location at 4347 Lafayette St. in Marianna has been undergoing a transformation and speculation about the new restaurant — Yamato Steak House of Japan — coming in has been ongoing for a couple of months.

When I asked owner Ming Wu and manager Lin Chen how they came to Marianna, they relayed a nine-year dream journey that started in the Fujian province of China and went to New York City. Then, the couple traveled to Kentucky to help open Wu’s brother’s restaurant. Next, they moved to Mississippi to assist Wu’s sister in starting a Yamato steakhouse in Bay Saint Louis.

Wu said he learned about Marianna from “a friend of a friend.” The couple now has an apartment here, where they will reside with their three young children. They look forward to settling in Marianna and becoming a part of the community.

Wu and Chen have been finishing up the final touches on their restaurant, which is set to open in the coming weeks.

Yamato, also the name of a city in Japan, will feature appetizers like “Tuna Pizza,” a six-inch pancake topped with raw tuna, avocado, jalapeno peppers, eel sauce and spicy mayo. Salad-lovers will want to check out the “Rocky Salad,” which doesn’t have traditional American lettuce, but features spicy snow crab, cucumber, shrimp tempura and spicy mayo sauce.

Wu recommended the “Pink Lady” entrée, a combination of snow crab, crawfish and avocado fried in a pink soy wrap with spicy mayo sauce. Chen recommended the “Yamato Roll,” which is made of a variety of raw fish, snow crab, cream cheese, avocado with spicy sauce and eel sauce in a tempura flake masago.

There will also be a Hibachi grill and sushi bar for guests to enjoy, but if you’re not in the mood for Japanese cuisine, traditional American seafood and steak dishes will be available, as well as some tantalizing desserts.

Yamato will be open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 20.

Shop locally, support Marianna businesses and get your appetite ready. Visit Yamato and welcome this fun couple to the community. For more information call 850-372-4860, and visit the City of Marianna’s website at www.mariannafl.city/335/New-Businesses-and-Other-Community-News to learn more about new businesses.

Kay Dennis, MBA, MPA, A.I.C.P., is the director of Municipal Development for the City of Marianna.

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