SOUTHINGTON — Serving a fusion of traditional and contemporary sushi dishes, a chef with 10 years of experience crafting Japanese food has located his first restaurant on Queen Street.
Gohan Japanese Cuisine, 405 Queen St., opened last week, with owner Will Cheng saying his vision is to provide high quality Japanese food at an affordable price. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 4 to 9 p.m. for dinner.
Cheng use a wide variety of fish, as well as high quality vegetables and rice. Much of that carries over to the chirashi bowls he makes, which are distinct from Hawaiian-style poke bowls in the number of ingredients and the use of stickier sushi rice. He also serves rolls, katsu, fried rice and tempura, with most of the dishes on the menu priced between $10 and $15.
“The whole idea of the chirashi bowl is from traditional Japanese cuisine,” he said.
Rachel Lin, Cheng’s wife, said they’re getting started with a “soft” opening for the first few weeks and then will start advertising and planning an official grand opening. Despite having been open about a week, she said some customers have already returned, saying the quality of the food matches the high end omakase sushi restaurants in New York City.
Cheng said sushi may seem easy to make, but it’s a lot more than just cutting up fish and putting the ingredients together. Over his 10 years as a chef specializing in the dish, he’s learned how to properly marinate and age the fish and select and cook the rice. The restaurant’s name comes from the Japanese word for “rice.”
He had been keeping an eye out for a spot to open his own restaurant for around two years before he saw a “For Rent” sign in the window where Asian Taste was previously located, in a plaza that is also home to Nardelli’s sandwich shop, Fancy Bagels and The Fresh Monkee.
Cheng enjoys having customers dine in the restaurant where they can enjoy the dishes straight out of the kitchen, presented with some flair. The restaurant offers both in-person dining and takeout.
Lou Perillo, the town’s economic development coordinator, said Queen Street is in high demand for both small, locally owned restaurants like Gohan and national franchises. The diversity of the town’s restaurants and entertainment options have made it a destination for visitors from across the state.
“Queen Street’s been doing quite well. … It's still in high demand, it’s been proven for over six decades now,” he said.
The demand is now overflowing to other areas of town as well. Perillo said the town is working with multiple businesses looking at West Street.
“We’re very excited about our future because West Street can be a planned corridor, whereas Queen Street developed on a plot by plot basis,” he said.