Monterey Herald 2010.

Americans share a long legacy of taking traditional foods from other countries and adding their own cultural twist. We put orange cheese and iceberg lettuce on burritos, we add chicken and pineapple to pizza, and in a ghastly assault on Italian food, we canned ravioli with the label Chef Boyardee.

Witness now a wave of Western-style sushi, where we stuff a sushi roll with cream cheese, dip it in tempura batter, deep fry it and drizzle it with spicy mayonnaise — a roll any self-respecting Japanese diner would throw into traffic.

This ever-popular sushi treatment is on full display at Monterey's Yama Sushi, which ushered out the long-standing El Indio restaurant at Del Monte Shopping Center earlier this year.

This family-run restaurant is owned and opend in 2009 by Elizabeth Kim, with Yama Kim serving as head chef and general manager. Yama Kim, who hails from South Korea with the experience of being a heard chef for more than 15 years and working at 50different restaurants, paces intently behind the sushi bar, making mostly nontraditional fare for a hip, youthful audience who appreciates the bargain brought by half-price rolls 

Yama Kim strays well beyond sushi, however, offering a full-scale menu of Japanese favorites (ramen, udon, teriyaki, tempura and donburi) and more than 20 selections of nigiri sushi (fish over rice). He also offers a smattering of Korean food, such as bulgogi (marinated beef), hweh dub bab (Korean rice bowl topped with raw fish) and kimchi (fermented cabbage).

The Kims and their crew completely transformed the space into a well-appointed, chic concept in line with the mall's recent move toward upscale tenants. Outside the front door stands a large, vertical drum, and a sign that encourages arriving diners to beat it in order to announce their desire for a table. A dozen stools line the sushi bar, and on most nights the bald-headed, warriorlike Yama Kim shares the space with two decked-out assistants.

Ignore the menu prices for all rolls (most of them above $10) because they are half off — all the time. Yama also offers a wide assortment of Asian beers, vareity flavors of Ramune(The Japanese Soda),  and a few select wines.

1290 Del Monte Center Suite # 92 Montery, CA 93940 l 831. 646.9262 l ©Yama Sushi & Food, Inc. All rights reserved