How Cucumber Sushi took a new approach to Pan-Asian cuisine, and why Islanders just can’t get enough of it
By Taylor Hersh • Photos by Premier Digital
Given the slew of high-end, often over-the-top sushi joints emerging over the past decade, Cucumber Sushi owner Calvin Yum and his partner Sophie Tan had something else in mind. “The vision of opening a simple, delicious, franchiseable sushi place was a dream we both shared,” Calvin told us. And after opening their first gourmet eateries in Princes Bay in February 2012, just one year later a second location was already up and running in Great Kills…the Cucumber Sushi brand was quickly becoming an island favorite. Today, the franchise is such a hit that Yum’s working on an additional satellite kitchen on the North Shore that would enable borough-wide delivery
This all follows, in a way, as Yum’s family owned and operated multiple restaurants back home in Malaysia.
Both the Princes Bay and Great Kills locations have small, trendy dining areas that seat about 40 people. The simple décor has an Asian, linear, contemporary feel. The comfortable, inviting atmosphere has “no over-the-top pressure from servers eagle-eyeing every move you make,” the owner added.
Known and loved for sushi rolls, the business also sports other regional favorites, such as the 303 Blvd. roll, Sex on the Beach roll, Sushi Sandwich, and Harajuku crepes. Pan-Asian cuisine, such as Thai and Vietnamese-inspired dishes, are also served; Thai Coconut Curry with Pad Thai Noodles has become its signature entrée, and the Oreo Doughnut, Fried Ice Cream, and Banana Ala Mode have become among of the most lusted-after desserts.
Lunch specials are offered in 5-course or 3-course options, including a variety of everything from noodle bowls to sushi or sashimi, soup and salads, and chicken, beef, and shrimp dishes prepared multiple ways. A salad bar is on hand, too, and salads can be eaten as a side dish or main course.
Freshness is key for all dining establishments, but has a particular resonance for sushi eateries, and, “Not to toot my own horn,” Yum offered. “But we do serve the freshest sushi possible. We order everything in small batches and have more-than-enough volume to move the fish all day between dine-in eaters and deliveries, so our sushi and dishes are always fresh…that is guaranteed.” This freshness declaration, along with the talents of Head Chef Wen and help from managers Michael Yum and Tiffany Qiu, combine to create the vision Tan and Yum long dreamt of.
“We believe in quality, and strive to provide the absolute best for our customers,” Yum explained. “We might be small, but our quality definitely surpasses a lot of the big guys.”
5834 Amboy Rd., Princess Bay / 718.966.1118
4215 Hylan Blvd., Great Kills / 718.605.9500