Japanese-style restaurant chain YO Sushi! – which specialises in the seafood and cooked rice delicacy – is to open soon in Belfast's Victoria Square Shopping Centre, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The UK-based chain, which has around 70 restaurants across the globe and is famous for its conveyor-belt service, is expected to move into a ground floor corner unit on Ann Street within the Victoria Square complex.
A planning application for a change of use from retail to restaurant was made by CGI Victoria Square Partnership at the end of last month.
A spokeswoman for YO! Sushi refused to comment while Victoria Square also said it was too early to confirm the opening.
Speaking earlier this year, YO! Sushi's property director Kieran Sherlock said: "We have identified Belfast as a great opportunity for YO! Sushi and have viewed a number of locations.
"We are currently in discussion with Victoria Square regarding possible opportunities within the centre and hope to confirm a definitive location in the coming weeks."
The high-end shopping centre is already home to other family restaurants, such as pan-Asian Cosmo, Tex-Mex chain Chiquito, Pizza Express and chicken restaurant Nando's.
Healthy fast food restaurant Slim's has also opened up in Victoria Square – making it the second independent cafe or eatery in the Square, along with restaurant The Ivory.
Belfast Telegraph food critic Joris Minne has described YO! Sushi as "the Nando's of Japanese food".
"It's as Japanese as a sausage soda, and its success is based on cheerful service, a bright, modern environment and dishes which seem exotic but rely on the four pillars of successful catering: saltiness, sweetness, sourness, spiciness," he said.
Meanwhile, MPs in Northern Ireland have renewed their call for a lower rate of Vat for hospitality and tourism businesses – including restaurants – in the region.
Their call comes after a report by Deloitte commissioned by tourism body Failte Ireland found that the Republic's lower 9% rate of Vat on tourism businesses had created 30,000 jobs.
Last year DUP MP Jim Shannon, along with SDLP MPs Margaret Ritchie and Mark Durkan, tabled an Early Day Motion urging the government to cut Vat.
In response to Deloitte's report, Margaret Ritchie, SLDP MP for South Down, said: "I welcome the Failte Ireland report because it clearly demonstrates the benefits to the economy in the south of Ireland and shows quite clearly what opportunities are available for tourist establishments and attractions, including hotel accommodation, in the north of Ireland."
Restaurateurs Bob and Joanne McCoubrey of Mourne Seafood Bar have joined the call for a lower rate of Vat.
Mr Coubrey told the Belfast Telegraph last month that he had noticed a major difference in running costs for their two Northern Ireland restaurants, compared to the venue which they have opened recently in Dublin.