New sushi

Illustration by Mark Stivers

Lou Lou lemonade: Lou Valente, the former chef and co-owner of Lou’s Sushi (2801 P Street), hasn’t been there since April 8 because of a pending legal dispute.

“I have no control over what’s happening,” he said. “So if I dwell on that, then I’ll be in the fetal position in bed all day long. So I’ve just been trying to have fun while I have this little break.”

Currently, Valente takes the night shift from Thursday to Sunday at Shige Sushi (5938 Madison Avenue in Carmichael). When he left his restaurant, Valente only wanted to work under owner and seasoned sushi chef, Shige Tokita. And Tokita hired him because he needed a helping hand—though he played things coy when Valente came into his restaurant to have lunch and more or less beg for a position.

“I told him I’d work for minimum wage if I had to, and he didn’t say a word,” Valente recalled. “Then towards the end of my meal, I see him looking at the calendar, and he’s holding his finger there. He comes back, and he goes, ’You start Friday.’”

After working 15-hour days as the head of his own restaurant, Valente’s new role as a part-timer for Tokita has taken adjustment. He said Tokita, who also trained Taka Watanabe of Ju Hachi (1730 S Street), prepares his fish, rice and workstation in a drastically different fashion than Valente’s.

Occasionally, this prompts some nostalgia when Valente’s muscle memory from his old job kicks in and he has to remind himself that the plastic wrap is on the left now, not the right.

Valente said he misses the “busy-ness” of running a restaurant, as well as his core group of employees, some of whom quit after he left. But after 17 years in Sacramento, the white guy who worked his way into the exclusive guild of sushi chefs can now count on his loyal clientele to pop into Shige’s, the present home of Lou’s sushi.

“The best part is that I get to see my customers who I miss and love so much,” he said. “Being able to have them come see me just makes dealing with this whole situation much easier.”