Wasabi, a fast-casual sushi chain based in London, is planning to open its second New York City restaurant in March 2015, the company told Nation’s Restaurant News.

The concept opened its first New York City location in Times Square in February. The second will open downtown at 7 World Trade Center.

“We’re very, very pleased to have a site in the World Trade Center,” said Wasabi head of facilities Mark Lerego. “It’s a compliment to the gravitas of the company.

The company is also in negotiations to open at Manhattan’s downtown Fulton Street subway station, which is currently under renovation, Lerego said.

Dong Hyun Kim, a South Korean entrepreneur and former accountant for Samsung, founded Wasabi. Kim got his start in restaurants with a fish-and-chip stand in London’s Camden neighborhood. He expanded with stalls offering chicken, Italian food, Japanese food and other items before borrowing money from his sister to open the first Wasabi location in central London.

“Apparently, from day one people were queueing out the door to get the food,” Lerego said.

The chain continued to expand over the next 10 years, and now has 38 locations in the United Kingdom, plus the New York unit.

Wasabi offers individually wrapped nigiri sushi, sushi rolls and onigiri — rice triangles stuffed with chicken or fish and wrapped in seaweed — along with ramen and other noodles, Japanese-style curry dishes and prepared hot chicken dishes including teriyaki, sweet chile chicken and spiced chicken.

The sushi is displayed in custom-designed refrigerated cases, and is constantly refreshed throughout the day. More than 50 varieties are available, starting at $1.50 for two pieces.

A pork tonkatsu dish is exclusive to the New York location, as well as a wider variety of sushi items such as squid. It also has unique drinks, including a lemon-ginger beverage and plum tea.

Guests spend an average $8 in the New York location, compared with the £6.23, or $10.62, customers spent in the United Kingdom locations. However, unlike the British locations, the New York unit has “a very strong evening trade,” Lerego said, noting that he has visited the Times Square unit at 8 p.m., “ and there wasn’t a seat in the house.”

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
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