Inside Inatome Japanese Steakhouse and Seafood on Fifth Street in Valley Stream, there is little to indicate that the building was once a restaurant. But there is also little evidence that the building was, less than a year ago, the site of a massive fire.
Construction is well under way to rebuild the once-thriving hibachi restaurant, destroyed by flames last Halloween. The fire, which started a few hours before the restaurant was set to open for dinner, burned almost everything inside and devoured much of the roof. Investigators ruled that it started accidentally, but were never able to pinpoint the exact cause because of the extensive damage.
Right now, the floors are plywood, the walls are framed by two-by-fours and a few light bulbs hang from the ceiling. There is a layer of sawdust throughout.
Owner Keiji Inatome, with the blueprints laid out on a plywood table in the middle of the building, talks proudly about his plans. He will be bringing back the hibachi grills, but there will no longer be exhaust hoods above the tables. Rather, he will use a downdraft system, the first of its kind in Nassau County.
Inatome said it took time to get approval from the fire marshal for the downdraft system. He had to appear at a hearing, and received a variance in April.
The new system will be better, he explained. Inatome said that one of the biggest complaints from customers in the past was the smoke from the hibachi grills. “The downside of the conventional ones is the smells — it’s unhealthy, it’s very hot for the chef,” he said.
The downdraft system will pull smoke into ducts below the floor. It will also be less noisy, he explained. Inatome said that once he received the approval for the system, major reconstruction began.