From this industrial warehouse-filled block in Flushing, a cloud of pink cherry blossoms appears to float from inside Kaizen, located at 33-70 Farrington Street between 35th and 33rd avenues. The restaurant — a sure sign of the ongoing gentrification in the neighborhood with its elegant decor and focus on high-end Japanese hand rolls — is opening on June 24 with an omakase option to launch later in July.
Kaizen anchors the ground level of the Farrington, a new high-rise mixed-use property completed last year by the Century Development Group that’s surrounded by Asian food importers, and distributors of spa equipment, beauty supplies, and kitchen appliances. The complex currently includes the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, a luxury condominium where a two-bedroom apartment solicits a $1 million price tag, and additional retail spaces that will be leased out. It’s part of a luxury real estate boom that’s been ushering in a younger, deeper-pocketed demographic of Asians and Asian Americans. To serve them, upscale restaurants like Che Li, Jiang Nan, and Szechuan Mountain House, have cropped up in recent years. Kakurega Sushi is currently the rare omakase sushi restaurant in the area, and offers its tasting menu for $168.
“We should really jump on this opportunity,” co-owner Robert Dorsky recalls telling his Kaizen partners two years ago as the Farrington was building out the spacious 2,000-square-foot storefront where his restaurant currently presides. A construction veteran from Long Island and a Flushing resident for the last 13 years, he’s witnessed the local landscape shift. Residents want to spend money on the fancier fare that’s now available in their backyard, curtailing the need to trek out to Manhattan, Dorsky says.
To cater to this changing audience, Kaizen aims to differentiate itself from the new crowd of restaurants with a focus on creative and meticulously executed hand roll combinations. The chef in charge is Ben Chan, whose resume includes Michelin-starred dim sum chain Tim Ho Wan, in Hong Kong, and New York sushi hot spots O Ya, Sushi Seki, and Kissaki.
For a crab temaki, Chan steams a whole stone crab, cracks it, and pulls the meat out by hand. On the side, he creates a sauce by combining miso powder with the eggs and entrails of the crab, and brushes that on the crab meat before wrapping them altogether in a paper-crisp sheet of seaweed.
Other items on the menu include yuzu-accented barracuda, and a lean tuna with a creamy tofu puree and chile crisp that nods to Chan’s Hong Kong heritage.
Similar to other omakase parlors, the foundation for sushi comes down to the rice. And at Kaizen, what looks like brown rice is white rice tinted by Kyushu-kuro vinegar, a fermented brown rice wine, or sake, combined with about 20 vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, and shallots.
Chan’s temaki are served a la carte (ranging from $6 to $28 per roll) and as two five-roll sets priced at $35 and $60 for premium ingredients like lobster. A $100 omakase menu of six rolls and a red miso clam soup will launch next month.
Bronx-bred general manager Louis Santini — formerly a bar manager at Japanese steakhouse, Edo, in Pelham Manor, New York — oversees a beverage program with the likes of creative cocktails like one combining mezcal, winter melon, and oolong tea.
The modern aesthetic is embodied in the decor, too: from the blue velvet banquettes to a live sea moss wall over the bar to a real petrified tree with fabric cherry blossoms flown in from the U.K. It stands as the centerpiece of the omakase counter to beckon guests on an otherwise industrial street.
Kaizen launches on a staggered schedule. It opens for dinner from 5 p.m. to midnight on June 24 to 26; reopens for dinner only on June 30; and expands for lunch and dinner service on July 7.