New Perennial Favorites, Part Three—This edition of "The Dish" is devoted to established Albuquerque chefs who are stepping up to the range at new projects. Go here and here for first two installations.
Want Sum Dim Sum? Hyangami Yi's first job after emigrating from Korea to the United States was at AmerAsia (301 Cornell SE at Lead). She spent 23 years working in the itsy-bitsy dim sum restaurant—then she bought the place. By the time AmerAsia turns 30 in November, she'll have extended the AmerAsia brand to a second dim sum spot and a completely new sushi restaurant Downtown. She's calling the dual-restaurant concept AmerAsia and Sumo Sushi. That's one building, two restaurants.
Come July, the antique filling station at 800 Third Street NW (at Slate Street, just east of the federal courthouse) should be fully transformed and open for business. The two eateries will operate side-by-side in a split 3,500-square-foot building, with a combined capacity of 150 people. It's taken a full year of construction to get the place shipshape. "I want to do something nice," she says. "It used to be an auto parts store and now—oh my god! It's so beautiful, I love it."
Hyangami will do the cooking at both AmerAsias—though she concedes there'll probably be "a lot of work running between them." Her brother, Woo Youn, a sushi chef from California, will oversee the Japanese side. He's promising traditional dishes like sushi, udon noodles, tempura and teriyaki, plus his own touches—like a little steam engine train to scoot sides of ginger and wasabi out to guests. "We're right by the train tracks," explains Hyangami.
It's not the first time AmerAsia has opened another location Downtown. Fifteen years ago, founding owner Mickie Sharp attempted to open Amerasia II in a space at Fifth Street and Copper, but it didn't last long. The area wasn't ready, Hyangami says. But are people in the area ready now? "Oh, yes, definitely!" she says. "Sushi and dim sum are both really fast. With dim sum you sit down and in five minutes, you have your food. And Downtown at lunch, people don't have a lot of time."
Both Sumo Sushi and AmerAsia will be open six days a week for lunch, with Sumo up late for dinner as well. Hyangami has been at work on the new restaurants for so long, she even has a beer and wine license ready to go. Guests will be able crack open an Asahi on her new patio as soon as the doors open. "Everything's ready," she says, dreamily.