When you visit Owen and Iris Chen’s newest restaurant at the Village Shoppes in Montgomery, you won’t quite be stepping into the deep woods. But, says Owen, “we hope that your dining experience will be so enjoyable and relaxing that it will feel like being somewhere in a peaceful forest.”

That was the Chen’s vision when they named the restaurant Mori Sushi. Mori, in Japanese, means forest. Opened this past May, it is the Chen’s third restaurant in the greater Princeton area. The first, opened in 2006 in Lawrenceville’s Manors Corner Shopping Center, is named Masa 8, and the second, which opened in 2012 in Nassau Park, is named Masa Sushi. The meaning of Masa is “straight forward.”

In the tradition of the Masa restaurants, Mori Sushi offers an All-You Can Eat sushi buffet, $18.95 for lunch and $24.95 for dinner; kids, half price. The “regular” menus include appetizers, soups and salads, sushi and sashimi, cooked entrees with meat, fish or vegetarian choices, and hibachi dinners.

All three restaurants are known for serving a rich variety of Japanese cuisine with a bold and modern flair. The chefs take pride in their artistic creations and the freshness of the food. Their produce is purchased locally, often from Terhune Orchards and the Trenton Farmers Market. Their fish comes from a Japanese seafood company named True World Food located in Elizabeth.

Chefs Owen and Ming enjoy coming up with new dishes unique to the Chen restaurants. Owen recommends their Mori ceviche and eggplant sandwich. A dinner favorite among customers is the Mori Special from the sushi bar, which includes two pieces each of yellowtail, salmon, blue fin tuna, fresh water eel and one spicy tuna roll. Highly popular with the lunch crowd is the bento box including three rolls, salad, soup, Shumai, and white rice. The Tonkatsu Ramen is popular any time of the day.

Both Owen and Ming received their sushi training at well known Japanese restaurants, including Haru, Bond Street, and Ootoya in New York City.

Owen’s interest in becoming a Sushi chef goes back to his teenage years when he was dating his high school sweetheart, Iris (who would become his wife). They both enjoyed sharing sushi, which they would pick up from a Manhattan market near where they lived. One day he had a thought that it would be a sweet, romantic gesture to make sushi for Iris. But first, he’d have to learn how to do it right. So, he did, learning from masters in New York City.

Eventually, he and Iris married and opened their own restaurants, one in Manhattan and one in Lawrenceville. After starting their family and wanting to spend more time with their kids, they decided to sell the Manhattan place and move to central New Jersey where they now own and operate the three restaurants. While Owen chefs, Iris focuses on the business side of things. And to think that all this started with a romantic thought!

Speaking of romance, the ambience at Mori Sushi is “contemporary, chic and tasteful,” says Owen with a smile, “a great choice for a date night.”

Mori Sushi at the Village Shoppes at Montgomery, 1378 Route 206, Skillman 08558. 609-683-2222. www.morisushinj.com. See ad, page 19.

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