Sushi on Chapel plans soft opening

Brian Graham, owner of Sushi on Chapel, has a simple business philosophy: “Have fun, make money and eat great sushi.”

Surrounded by dark brown walls and square wooden tables at his Chapel Street location, Graham — who plans to open the doors to his new Japanese restaurant in the next day or so — said he is not worried about drawing a crowd, despite his lack of advertising. A good location for foot traffic, the positive reputation of his existing restaurant, Wasabi, in North Branford and, of course, the work of his landlord, Yale University Properties, will be enough to get the word out, he said.

“Yale has big voices,” he said, explaining his lack of advertising.

Plus, Graham said he has experience with the college-going crowd. Although Wasabi is about a 20-minute drive from campus, the owner said he often sees students sitting at his tables. Saki bombing on Mondays, when he offers free saki to customers, tends to draw a particularly large crowd.

Graham said that although he will not continue free-saki Mondays at the new location — “We don’t want to be mobbed,” he laughed — he anticipates that saki martinis at his full-service bar, laid out in a rich, dark-colored marble, will more than make up for the change.

But many students said they were unaware that Sushi on Chapel was opening at all, let alone this week.

“I happened to see the sign from the window while I was eating in Union League,” Simone Jensen ’11 said. “But I don’t think too many people have noticed it.”

To compete with existing Japanese restaurants, especially Samurai, which is just around the corner at on College Street, Graham said he will keep prices middle-of-the-road, ranging from a simple vegetable roll for $3.50 to a $13 “Sexy Shrimp Roll” of lobster and avocado topped with cooked shrimp. A full to-go menu will also be available.

Jensen said while she might try the restaurant if it gets good reviews, she has always been a loyal customer of Miso, just a short walk away. New Haven, she said, does not need another sushi restaurant.

But University Properties Director of Marketing Shana Schneider ’00 said the soft opening that Graham is planning for Sushi will allow the new business to get its footing and work out kinks before the grand opening, scheduled for late April. She said Denali, which opened in mid-March, is saving its grand opening ceremony until Trailblazer opens its doors on Broadway within the next two weeks.

“That’s why we haven’t seen a big to-do about it yet,” Schenider said.

Street-side traffic has been a key business strategy for University Properties, landlord to many new local storefronts including Sushi on Chapel, Woodland Coffee & Tea and the recently opened Denali and The Devil’s Gear Bike Shop II.

Mai Power, assistant manager at Denali on Broadway, said about half of the store’s customer base consists of Yale students, especially those drawn in by the window displays.

“People were curious,” she said, “and that was enough for people to come in and see what he have.”

Powers said being highly visible to Broadway traffic has been a huge plus. Power also cited the reputation of The North Face brand as a draw for customers. She said Denali has been able to rely on Trailblazer’s existing customer base, since people know where to go to pick up a new backpack, fleece or jacket.

“The location is publicity enough,” Lizzy Nadai ’10 said.

Graham is no stranger to these sentiments. Since posting a menu on the wall at the top of the stairs leading down to the restaurant’s front door, Graham said people walking along the sidewalk stop by daily to check out the restaurant’s progress.

“It’s been a big tease for the past three or four months,” he laughed. “Every day, people are knocking on my door, looking in the window.”

Schenider said students will be seeing a number of new stores and restaurants opening their doors in coming weeks: Woodland Coffee & Tea, Trailblazer, Traffic and Thali Too.

“Everyone is pushing to open before students leave,” she said, “but that first impression is very important. We don’t want to sacrifice quality by opening too soon.”

Schneider will lead an official grand-opening ceremony and ribbon cutting for Sushi on Chapel on April 24.


  • Justin

    Why can't we just have a Burger King? Does anyone else think that there are more than enough low- to moderately priced pan-Asian eateries in New Haven already?

  • Anonymous

    I ate there last night - it was delicious and the service was super attentive. I'll definitely go back, certainly trumps Samurai.

  • martynsee

    Singapore’s reputation does precede itself, for better or worst. But the truth falls somewhere in between. This is a compilation of our censorship and human rights record over the last 18 years.


    Just some examples to savour :

    Jan 2006: The police warn a group of schoolgirls that the wearing of t-shirts en masse might be misconstrued by some as an offence under the law. The students had planned to help raise money for charity by selling white elephant T-shirts at the Buangkok MRT station’s inauguration ceremony.

    Nov 2007 (Asean Summit Meetings): In defiance of a ban, three international students stage a short march in protest against Asean leaders’ “tacit” approval of Myanmar’s fatal crackdown on demonstrations. A newswire reported that the three were followed by 19 reporters and photographers in the area of the Asean Summit, which was protected by 1,000 armed police and soldiers. “A lot of people wanted to come, but they were afraid of the repercussions,” says Daniel Babiak, a student from the National University of Singapore, which had earlier warned the students about Singapore’s laws.

    May 2008: Officers from the Board of Film Censors, assisted by the police, enter the Peninsula-Excelsior Hotel to seize a film which was undergoing its private premiere. Witnessed by about a hundred guests including foreign diplomats, organisers hand the DVD copy of the film to officials. Entitled “One Nation Under Lee”, the documentary was made by artist Seelan Palay and its premiere hosted by the SDP. Palay is currently under investigation for exhibition of a film without licence.

    Sep 2010 : Students at the Nanyang Techological University are informed that those who create webpages or blogs containing information regarding politics and religion must acquire licences from the Government and the university’s written approval. Under the Broadcasting Act, registration is required for websites deemed by the authorities to be propagating political or religious issues relating to Singapore. Local paper Today notes the last time a website was told to register as a political site was in 2001.

    Mar 2011 : The High Court dismissed an appeal for a constitutional challenge against Section 377A of the Penal Code, which makes “gross indecency” between two men an offence punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment. Human rights lawyer M. Ravi had filed the challenge following his client’s conviction for a sexual act in a public toilet in 2010. Speaking in Parliament in 2007, PM Lee Hsien Loong had said, “We do not harass gays. The Government does not act as moral policemen. And we do not proactively enforce section 377A on them.”