By Brenda Ladun 

Photos by Untold Imagery

Jinsei Sushi is a romantic, relaxing setting for anyone looking for a special meal to experience with friends and family.

Some find a mini get-a-way at the restaurant nestled in the heart of downtown Homewood. Some say it feels like being half a world away from Birmingham when passing over the threshold.

Walking into Jinsei Sushi, one is transported by the sounds of conversation and laughter, the clinking of merry cocktail toasts and the aroma of exquisite dishes. Restaurant goers can dine on the front porch while catching up on sports with an enormous outdoor T.V., or they can enter the inside of the restaurant, which embraces guests with relaxed lighting accented by a red and black motif.

It instantly feels like a warm hug with an upscale flair.

Guests can choose to sit at an intimate table or at the sushi bar to be amazed by the artistry of the chefs. Attendees can also sit in front of the bartender, who offers friendly conversation and unique twists on old favorites.

But, more than the artistic dishes and elegant presentation of sushi rolls is the inspiring story behind the owner of the restaurant, Pa Ebou Houma, or “Abe” as he goes by.

Abe started at the restaurant in 2006 as a bus boy when the restaurant was owned by John Cassimus. He worked his way up to being server and did just about every job.

Abe’s journey to the United States from West Africa landed him at Jefferson State Community College, where he studied business. He says he came to Birmingham specifically because his brother was studying at UAB.

Abe’s passion for the business world, his hard work and his desire to create the perfect dining experience for his customers led him to success.

Perhaps more importantly than his success financially is his success giving back to the community. At a recent fundraiser for Pathways of Birmingham for homeless women and children, he provided a percentage of the evening’s profits to the charity.

Abe’s desire to bless others in need comes from his beginnings in The Gambia. While his parents held good jobs, he saw others in need. His mother taught him to be hospitable and share with others who are hungry.

“My mother would say if someone is visiting and they are hungry, you give them what you have, even if it means you go hungry yourself,” Abe says. “She taught ys to share.”

That hospitality and caring for others shows up in the warmth exuded at Jinsei Sushi Restaurant. But, more than that, Abe is an inspiration through his work ethic and pursuit of excellence in his business.

“I was prepared by not having a lot of debt,” Abe says. “I also prepared by having a good credit score, so when opportunity presented itself, I could own my own restaurant.”

A good lesson for all of us to learn. Have a dream, prepare and when the opportunity is there, grab it.

Abe’s top-grade sushi comes from Japan and is the same top-grade sushi one will find in the best restaurants in Los Angeles and Atlanta for a much higher price. Abe offers 20 types of fish, while other restaurants offering the same fare locally may only offer five.

His sushi chefs follow the training of the Nobu Chefs, which is the gold standard of training. Abe also doesn’t just manage his staff, he is their biggest cheerleader.

“Think of yourselves as employees,” Abe says of his message to his team. “You might have done the same song hundreds of times, but the customer or the concert goer is experiencing your talent for the first time. You have to make each presentation and experience the best, so they will come back. You have one shot with each customer. It has to be your best effort each time.”

Abe wants to make the dining experience exceptional. From the Red Spyder Roll to the Saki Toro, most diners agree Abe has achieved that perfection.

On Sundays, Abe says he cuts five dollars off the price of each roll to give more people an opportunity to enjoy his high-grade sushi. He has added a Sunday brunch menu with dishes that are literal works of art.

Now, there is a new lunch menu to offer more people the opportunity to sample his cuisine.

Visit Jinsei Sushi Restaurant at 1830 29th Avenue South. Restaurant goers can visit for a full menu.