Guy Vaknin, a finalist on Hell's Kitchen, has opened his dream restaurant on 14th street in Manhattan, on one of the busiest blocks in town. I went to the opening party last night and got to sample the fare. The "Sweet Tree" roll was divine: six grain rice with avocado and sweet potatoes topped with alfafa sprouts and toasted cayenne sauce. The crowd, veg, vegan and omnivores alike, was loving it too. Beyond Sushi is planning to take over the world!
How did you come up with the idea for Beyond Sushi?
I wanted to create something more than sushi by combining great flavors, colors, and textures. Beyond Sushi was born to offer a healthy product to New Yorkers. I love attending the farmer's markets and finding new inspirations there so don't be surprised if Beyond Sushi's menu is reinvented seasonally.
What's up with the eggs? Why not make it all vegan?
I'm a recently converted vegetarian and I created a mostly vegan menu so that we can appeal to a large market of people. We are hitting the gyms and fitness centers with our product and therefore, we needed to implement some items on the menu that are high in protein, there for in some parts of the menu, we use organic eggs. But, we are definitely in the process of creating a fully vegan menu. It is a work in progress, we are trying to find a great substitute so that we can keep the flavors tasting great and please everyone.
Why 14th Street? I mean, you are right there with 7Eleven and IHOP!
You may have just answered your own question. There clearly needed to be a healthy food option in this location. We try to keep our menu very affordable. If people can afford unhealthy food at a low price, why can't they have access to healthy food at a great price too?
Where do you get your inspiration for your super creative sushi rolls?
Mostly from the local farmer's markets. I like to keep the rolls bright and happy but also tasting good. We are always refreshing our menu with the "roll-of-the-month". Our customers are welcome to give input as to what flavors they would like to see in this roll as well as some fun kitchy names for them. The winner each month gets a free sushi dinner for two as well as the name they created for that roll published.
What is your plan?
We are hoping that this store will create so much buzz that we can open another one next year, and the year after, and the year after that, etc., etc.! The next location is a debate between Chelsea and Soho and we certainly want to hit the Upper West and Upper East sides too. There are a lot of families in those particular neighborhoods, and did I mention that this product is excellent for pregnant women who can't eat fish for 9 months? We offer them a totally different experience than going and getting a mundane avocado and cucumber roll.
Beyond Sushi, 229 East 14th Street (between 2nd and 3rd), www.beyondsushinyc.com
Photo credit: Beyond Sushi