ASTORIA — A budding entrepreneur and business contest winner is hoping to hook Astoria residents with his vision for a sushi joint — where patrons build their own rolls and get to snack on goodies from a Nobu-trained chef.
Jesse Tang, 22, of Fresh Meadows, is the owner of Pink Nori, a new Japanese eatery at 36-06 30th Ave. where customers can pick and choose ingredients to order their own customized rolls of sushi. The restaurant is in soft opening mode, and is planning an official grand opening in February.
A business management major who graduated from Stony Brook University in December, Tang opened the restaurant with his family after netting a $10,000 prize in a contest last spring that recognizes aspiring business owners aged 22 and under.
Tang, whose brother and father both worked in the restaurant industry, was one of two winners in the FrontStreet NY Young Entrepreneur Challenge, where he impressed judges with his idea of a sushi restaurant with a pick-it-yourself roll menu.
An avid sushi fan, Tang said he got the idea based on his own experiences dining out — he doesn't like shrimp, and frequently found himself wishing he could swap it for another ingredient when ordering special rolls at restaurants.
"They have all the other ingredients, like salmon, avocado, masago in the roll, but they have shrimp in the roll too, and i don’t like it," he said. "What if I had the option to make my own?"
Pink Nori's build-your-own menu — available for dine-in patrons only — lets customers choose up to three types of fish or meat and three types of vegetables and other fillings.
The eatery also offers "sashimi with flavor," — pieces of fresh sashimi fish, paired with different foods and sauces on top. The red snapper sashimi, for example, is served with tomato, garlic and shiso leaf, while the tuna comes with a taro chip and a vinegar tofu sauce.
The restaurant also offers traditional sushi and its own special rolls, as well as appetizers and hot dinner entrees like sake-miso Atlantic salmon, pork katsu and udon noodles.
Chef Andy Tan has years of experience cooking in Japanese restaurants, including Moritmoto and Nobu, Tang said.
Tang and his family live in Fresh Meadows, Queens. The young owner said they decided to open Pink Nori in Astoria because of its reputation as a thriving, growing neighborhood.
"I love the people, I love the places around here — 30th Avenue, all the restaurants and bars, I also like Steinway Street, Broadway. I feel like it’s a very bustling area," he said.
"It's definitely a great area to do business."