FAIRFIELD — Jay Coleman got his first taste for sushi when he visited Japan as a boy, part of a trip to see his mother’s ancient homeland.
Now the Fairfield man swears by CJ Fusion, though like many of Wei Tandy’s longtime customers, he still refers to the restaurant simply as Tandy’s.
“Best sushi restaurant in the area,” said Coleman, who is supported by the fact the CJ Fusion, once Sushi Tandy, has been regularly part of the “best places” lists in the area. “I think it rivals many of the places I’ve eaten at in San Francisco.”
The historic roots of sushi is a bit of a mystery, confounded a bit by legend and folklore and literary license. What is not disputed is that it certainly originated in Southeast Asia – and is most often linked to Japan.
Tandy, however, is Chinese. He was born about a 20-minute drive south of Hong Kong, and is heavily influenced by the cooking styles of the region, which emphasizes lighter uses of sauces and healthy ingredients.
Tandy said the philosophy is quite evident in his restaurant’s most popular dish, the Super Travis Roll.
“You can taste the fish and you can tell it is fresh,” Tandy said.
Each roll is seasoned with his sauce as opposed to simply covering the whole dish with soy or the many sushi-specific sauces, he said. Too many sushi places overpower the food with spices and sauces, he said.
Tandy came to the United States in 1993. He was 20 years old.
“I came here and I had nothing,” Tandy said. He subscribed early on to the idea that if you work hard, you can build a good life. “(America) can change your life.”
The path to his restaurant ownership started as a busboy.
“Even when I was in school, and finished school, I was doing computer sales, but I still came back to restaurants,” Tandy said.
His first experience in the kitchen came when the chef at the restaurant suddenly walked out, and the owner asked him if he wanted to learn how to cook sushi. He said he did.
Tandy opened his first restaurant in 2001 in Richmond. He had a place in the Central Valley town of Newman from 2002-04. He soon found his way to Fairfield.
“I had been in Fairfield many times and had tried a lot of the sushi (places), and they were all traditional sushi,” Tandy said.
He felt there was a niche for his style of food, Tandy said. He opened Sushi Tandy in 2006 on North Texas Street, but as the neighborhood changed, he decided to relocate. A dispute with the landlord resulted in Tandy losing the name of his restaurant.
Tandy did not move too far away, however. He’s now located at the corner of Travis Boulevard and Wilson Street.
He brought with him his strong beliefs of offering the healthiest of ingredients, which means his prices may be a bit higher than some places, but also a philosophy that if his customers want the food prepared a specific way, he will make all efforts to do that.
That, Tandy said, is his secret of success.
“Some customers complain . . . say our prices are not low,” Tandy said. “But I say, ‘no,’ because we want to use the best ingredients with the healthiest food.”
Coleman does not think the prices are out of line, and said if they are a bit higher, he will pay the extra.
“It is just good food,” Coleman said.
Tandy runs the business with his wife and two children, as well as several other employees. He and his family, through the restaurant, have focused on the city and community, helping out individuals in need, supporting the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, the University of California, San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland and various breast cancer awareness organizations.
He has tried to do his best since the start of the pandemic to keep the restaurant open. CJ Fusion is putting safety first, and not yet offering in-house dining. Tandy said he hopes to bring it back in the future.
“For me, I just want to stay here till I retire,” Tandy said. “I love Fairfield, and I love the people.”
• Address: 201 Travis Blvd. (corner of Wilson Street)
• Phone: 707-427-2434