The Queens Courier recently got a chance to visit Pink Nori, Astoria’s brand new “make your own sushi bar.” We were fortunate enough to get an intimate afternoon alone with Jesse Tang, the 22-year-old owner. The most surprising thing he revealed is the fact that as a child, he didn’t even enjoy seafood and he didn’t clam up – he said he still doesn’t even enjoy shrimp very much at all, although shrimp appears all over the menu at Pink Nori (we counted at least 20 shrimp items). But what he enjoys has very little to do with the menu at Pink Nori, where Jesse describes himself as the “X factor.”
“I know the business, marketing, and social media aspects,” he explains. And that is the very thing that won him $10,000 in the Long Island Entrepreneur Challenge. That money was just a tiny fraction of what has been invested into the company in total. There are actually several investors, including Tang’s parents and brother, along with his executive chef. It sounds like there are a lot of people to answer to. Tang disagrees.
“My customer base is the real boss,” smiles Tang. He has surrounded himself with people who know Japanese food, restaurants and service much better than he does. Take his head sushi chef, Andy Tan, for example. Tan has over 25 years of experience, including significant time at such notable restaurants as Morimoto, Gari, and Nobu. Put quite simply, the man knows his stuff.
Jesse Tang’s mother, Shirley, and father, Danny were born in Taiwan and Hong Kong, respectively.
So what, precisely, keeps drawing customers in?
“It’s the ‘make your own sushi,’” explains Tang. Customers can choose from a whole list of unique ingredients to instruct the chef as to how to prepare the rolls. Ingredients include taro chips, guacamole, jalapeños and mangoes, and several varieties of seafood and other veggies. The theory is that someone can personalize their own roll, and return to have it again, or try something new. But that’s all merely the hook to get people to come.
The hope is that guests will try building a roll, and then return for all of the other unique dishes, like Peking duck sliders, filet mignon tarts, and a whole range of homemade dumplings. They even have a line of “New Style Sushi” also called “sushi with flavor.” It features single pieces with combinations like amber jack with yuzu jelly and potato chips, or octopus with a vinaigrette jelly. It is dishes like these which Tang hopes inspire guests to become returning patrons.
“In many Asian restaurants,” explains Tang, “guests just come in, eat, and leave. I want to get people involved.”
Then there is the restaurant itself, decorated with pink walls, white furniture, and neon accent lighting. Everything at Pink Nori is shiny and new—from the ambiance, to the ingredients, to Tang’s promising, budding career.
36-06 30th Ave., Astoria
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