Astoria’s restaurant row on 30th Avenue has a new addition with the soft opening of Pink Nori this week.
The family-owned Japanese restaurant has a unique feature: make-it-yourself sushi. The idea was the brainchild of front man Jesse Tang, a 22-year-old recent graduate of Stony Brook University.
“I’m very picky when it comes to sushi. I love all kinds of fish, but I’m not too crazy about shellfish, especially shrimp. If I like to make it my way, I figured the customer would, too,” Tang said.
The innovation became a hard selling point in winning this year’s Long Island Youth Entrepreneur Challenge on Tang’s second try. The popular contest allows students between the ages of 17 and 22 to submit business ideas to a panel of professionals. Tang will use the $10,000 prize for marketing his first restaurant.
Pink Nori, at 36-06 30th Ave., is named for mamenori, processed soybean paper that is used to wrap sushi, an alternative to the traditional nori, that is made with seaweed, Tang explained. He has another innovation in store for his customers: Non-traditional flavors are introduced to other dishes, like sashimi.
“I like to use jalapeno with the yellow tail, salmon with cream and cherry tomato. I use jalapeno and even potato chips,” Tang said.
A resident of Fresh Meadows, Tang chose to open his 50-seat restaurant in Astoria because of its reputation for fine restaurants.
Tang pointed out that “30th Avenue is bustling right now and it’s only getting better. The neighborhood is big with young people because it’s close to Manhattan but cheaper to live there. It’s very big with recent graduates.”
He is following in his father’s footsteps. Danny Tang, 55, has owned three traditional-style Japanese restaurants and he did not understand Jesse’s make-it-yourself sushi idea.
“He thought the idea was crazy, but now he thinks it will catch young people’s attention because young people today like to try different things with their food,” Tang said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718.260.4538.