Jul 12, 2022 - Food and Drink

New sushi restaurant Saku now open in Uptown

Second floor of Saku. Photo: Alexis Clinton/Axios

The owners of Saku Yakitori and Sushi Bar hope that opening their new restaurant will bring people back to Uptown. 

What’s happening: The long-awaited sushi and yakitori restaurant Saku will open by the end of this week.

  • After spending a few years in San Francisco and Japan studying the food scene, the local Charlotte owners — Dao Nguyen, Sopha Lim and Richard Tang — wanted to incorporate what they learned into their restaurant.
  • Nguyen tells Axios she noticed a lack of authentic Asian cuisine and a need for more local restaurant owners.
  • “There are Americanized versions of Asian cuisine and we want to showcase true Japanese flavors in our home city,” Nguyen said.

Why it matters: Saku is among the local restaurants affected by the pandemic’s supply-chain and labor shortages that delayed the opening. 

  • We initially reported Saku was coming in 2019, shortly before the pandemic.
  • The owners spent roughly two years working through challenges brought on by the pandemic, such as labor shortages. Now they’re planning around how fast Uptown is changing. 
  • We’ve seen Uptown become a ghost town during the pandemic,” said Nguyen, pointing to the decline of the EpiCentre. “With this opening we’re hoping we’ll add to the foot traffic that will add to bringing life to Uptown.”
Cherry blossoms and digital art designed by locals. Photo: Alexis Clinton/Axios

The menu: Owner and chef Richard Tang incorporates flavors from Japan into the drinks and shareable plates such as specialty sushi rolls and nigiri.

  • The Yakitori is one item from the menu that is grilled on Japanese Charcoal for authentic flavor.
  • Signature drink items like the Melon Smash is mixed with lime, watermelon, mint, and gin that is infused with Thai basil.
Grilled pineapple is one item coked on Japanese charcoal.

The vibe: Since the owners are local, they wanted to ensure local work was included in their two-story restaurant.

  • The hallway leading up to the second floor is covered with a mural by local artist Alex Duncan that also turns into digital moving art you can see on both floors.
  • Each floor has Japanese Cherry Blossoms incorporated into the space. The flowers were designed by Jade Phan Designs and La Petitie Fleur.
  • “Japanese Cherry Blossoms only bloom for two weeks in the spring but you can view them year round in Saku,” Nguyen said.
Mural in the stairway leading up to the second floor of the restaurant.

Thought bubble: Saku’s owners aimed for a carefully curated restaurant aesthetic for customers in search of authentic cuisine. 

To go box design inspired by the West Coast. Photo: Alexis Clinton/Axios

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