Metro, Food

New Eatery Spreads Love and Sushi

Hop off the Green Line at Hynes Convention Center, walk for about two minutes, and end up at an exposed-brick foodie gold mine that will add one more item to the growing list of foods that can be found in a customizable bowl: sushi. Located just around the corner from the Berklee College of Music, Love Art Sushi, an Asian-fusion gem in the heart of Boston, holds true to the popular fast-casual build-your-own-rice-or-salad-bowl concept, but in Japanese and Hawaiian fashion.

Immediately after entering the bright, clean-lined space, customers will notice the bold Asian-inspired paintings, custom hanging lanterns, and quote wall created by the managing partner, Jessica Chiep. But their attention will be drawn to the large counter in the center of the the store where the skillful staff prepares these innovative bowls.

Head over to the food counter and ask your stomach how it’s feeling. Just looking for a light bite? Get the snack size. Ravenous? The large bowl is for you. Now it’s time to choose your base—greens or sushi rice (or a little bit of both). Next, pick your veggies. Love Art Sushi has the typical Sweet Green selections, like grape tomatoes, sweet corn, onions, etc., but stays true to its Asian roots and suggest options like shiitake mushrooms, pickled ginger, and kimchi. Then, cap it off with a dressing and one of its signature toppings, like marinated ahi poke tuna or wild salmon. For those wary of raw fish, Love Art Sushi offers toppings such as tangy seaweed salad, fresh avocado, and hard-boiled egg. Watch them take a culinary torch to your creation and enjoy.

Customers on-the-go can also stop for a refreshing drink and get creative by mixing their many flavors of house-made bubble tea. Chiep recommends mango and strawberry basil, her personal favorite.

Although the idea of a sushi bowl might seem obvious given the modern popularity of customizable options, Chiep and fellow creator/managing partner Ronald Liu developed the concept by accident. It was a product of supply and demand. Liu explained that, after opening H. A. Café, a small tea and sushi shop at the University of Connecticut, they struggled to keep up with the rushes of students who would come into the shop for their sushi fix. One afternoon in particular, the traditional sushi rolling method seemed so impractical that Liu asked the customers if he could just through the normal sushi ingredients into a bowl instead. The customers got more food for the same price, and Liu dramatically cut down on production time—it was a win-win that quickly became their most popular menu item.

As their UConn café began to grow in popularity, Liu and Chiep rebranded their original shop, and decided to head back home to Boston to open another location dedicated solely to these customizable sushi bowls. For Lui and Chiep, the return was a kind of homecoming, for they were eager to reenter the Boston community.

“The community here, and the openness and willingness for food was here,” Liu said. “In Boston, you find something, you like something, and you appreciate it.”

When asked if they planned on expanding to a chain level, Liu and Chiep made it clear that they will not sacrifice quality for quantity. Liu explained that, although they hope to open up many more Love Art Sushi locations, they want each storefront to “have the feel of a mom-and-pop restaurant.”

“We want to get to know the regulars and have each location stand on its own,” Liu said.

While the locally sourced food is to die for, Liu stressed that the true charm of Love Art Sushi is in the culture. Liu hopes to attract the local community and artists by creating a space known not only for its food, but also as a comfortable spot where a student could go to study, or where a group of friends could come to catch up.

“It’s just not food,” Liu said. “We want you to feel you are a part of us.”

For Liu, this ethos is evident from the shop’s name, which places the value on love and art just as much as sushi.

In the future, Chiep and Liu mentioned Love Art Sushi engaging with the Boston community through events and collaborations with local artists—they even plan to launch an apparel line. In the meantime, however, Love Art Sushi is in a soft opening and is experimenting with the menu and architecture to get it just right for its customers.

Nonetheless, Love Art Sushi is still open for business. So for customers eager to build their first sushi bowl, maybe even documenting the event at the restaurant’s Instagram station, Love Art Sushi is just a short trip down the Green Line.

Featured Image by Madison  Semarjian / Heights Staff

February 9, 2017