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FLO Japanese Restaurant & Sake Bar Celebrates 19 Years in Bellevue

February 17, 2022 - by Sandy Vo

FLO Japanese Restaurant & Sake Bar Celebrates 19 Years in Bellevue

As Downtown Bellevue continues to grow, mom-and-pop shops are becoming a rarity. FLO Japanese Restaurant & Sake Bar is one of the few remaining in Bellevue. Owners and Bellevue residents Steve and Jia Mooko opened FLO in February 2003, looking to bring a flair of traditional Japanese cuisine to Downtown.

Steve and Jia Mooko

"We wanted to offer new Japanese cuisine to Bellevue by serving higher quality ingredients," Steve Mooko said. 

The Mookos moved from Hawaii to Bellevue in the late 1990s. From the beginning, they saw economic growth potential for independent restaurants. 

"You had global corporations moving in alongside rural residence," Mooko said. "We were in the perfect location to reach a wide audience." 

This year, the Mookos are celebrating 19 years of offering a unique dining experience in Downtown Bellevue.

The concept of FLO was inspired by small traditional Japanese plates focused on fresh ingredients. The atmosphere inside the restaurant is spaciously comfortable, with neutral lighting and soft colors.

Mooko explained how loyal guests over the years contributed to the success of FLO.

Sashimi and vegetable tempura dish

“We’ve been very fortunate to survive over the years and build personal relationships with people,” Mooko said. "We’re grateful to benefit from Bellevue’s growth."

While the beginning stages of their business were a hit, the pandemic caused a detour. Like many small businesses, FLO learned to adapt and survive. They stopped serving lunch entirely and shortened their operation to three hours a day.

Although tough times continue, the Mookos see a light at the end of the tunnel. In the springtime, they plan to extend the hours and release new food and bar selections, including unique Japanese whiskey and fun cocktails. 

“The Bellevue community is so important to us,” Mooko said. “We’ve watched generations of families eat and grow up here. That’s the best thing about Bellevue, we’re in a big city atmosphere but there’s a great small-town setting. We see ourselves here for many more years.”

This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.