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New eatery adds Asian flair to the dining-out experience

Tracy Zhu, manager, left, and Chen Garden owner Wei Dong are pictured Wednesday at the restaurant in Willmar's Kandi Mall. Tribune photo by TJ Jerke

WILLMAR -- Willmar is home to a new restaurant that will offer a mix of cuisine uncommon in this region.

The Chen Garden, a hibachi-style grill, sushi and Asian buffet, will open its doors today at the Kandi Mall.

The restaurant will be the first of its kind and size to serve west central Minnesota, according to a news release from the Kandi Mall.

Chen Garden owner Wei Dong said he is excited to open the doors after about four months of renovations and can't wait for the community to experience the hibachi grilling and array of food.

"We just want to bring the best Chinese and Japanese food to each customer," Dong said.

The hibachi restaurant will have two chefs using a small round grill that will fry customers' personal dishes mixed with meats, vegetables, pasta and sauces, Dong said.

The sushi bar will include sushi rolls made of tuna, cucumber, California rolls and hand-rolled sushi. The various sushi will include shrimp, eel, surf clam, smoked salmon and more.

Dong said the takeout menu and dine-in buffet will also offer more than 200 different foods.

Dong said the restaurant is very reasonable, with prices starting at $6.75 per person for a lunch buffet, sushi and the hibachi grilling.

There is a children's menu as well, and a seafood buffet on the weekends. The restaurant does not serve alcohol.

The new business has 20 employees that were trained at the original Chen Garden in Dixon, Ill.

Dong said the Willmar restaurant will be the 14th added to the family-owned business. Dong, along with his uncles, have Chen Garden restaurants in malls across the country, with the closest being in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and Waterloo, Iowa.

Desiree Weinandt, marketing director for the Kandi Mall, said the Chen Garden will add a new experience to the community.

"We are excited to offer this concept to the community," Weinandt said in a news release. "Hibachi cooking style will be a pleasant surprise to mall patrons."

With the past four months of renovations, Dong said he is more than happy to open his doors to the Willmar community. He said the community has been very receptive to him and the restaurant.

"People are very nice in Willmar, the community members are very helpful," Dong said. "Everybody is so kind and they always have a smile on their face."

The Chen Garden is open 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.