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Although Abe is a well known sushi chef, the group is trying a different take on Japanese food with Izakaya Zero. Below, Ted Lee answers some questions about the new restaurant, how business is going so far and what's next for the partners. Before investing in restaurants, Ted Lee worked as a stock broker and commercial real estate agent. David Lee is an architect.
1. Why forgo sushi for izakaya style of food?
"We were looking for a unique concept that would be a good fit for the casual, social and fun environment of downtown Main Street. You can find sushi just about everywhere. Izakaya is a popular "tavern style" format found in Japan that started with the working class. It's casual Japanese comfort food, served on small plates, meant to be shared. Izakaya is a great way to socialize with friends while experiencing a wide variety of flavors by acclaimed Chef Takashi Abe. The experience is further elevated by the pairing of world class sake, wine and specialty cocktails."
2. Has business met projections so far?
"We realize that introducing a newer concept to an area, such as Izakaya, requires a longer start-up curve. While business has been good for the amount of time we have been open, we see a need to educate people on the Izakaya format. Foot traffic should definitely increase when the hotel and retail project opens across the street from us sometime next year."
3. Is it challenging managing two locations - for both the Lee cousins and Takashi Abe?
"The start-up of a new restaurant is always a very challenging, time consuming and stressful proposition. Once a restaurant has opened, the staff trained and management put into place, the operation becomes much more manageable."
4. Can you tell us about your plans for a restaurant in San Clemente? What kind of restaurant, where it will be and when it will open?
"The new restaurant will be named Sea Smoke. This restaurant, located in the Talega Village Center, will consist of a traditional sushi bar and grill, done with Abe-san's flair. The projected target opening for this restaurant is April 2008."
Here's a review by my friend Iris Yokoi at SqueezeOC.com. You have to scroll down a bit once you're on the site to get to the review.