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Japanese restaurant with modern twist opens on 31st Avenue

Dec. 16, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan

A new Japanese restaurant officially opened in Astoria this week, bringing high quality sushi to the neighborhood.

Gaijin, an upscale modern sushi eatery at 37-12 31st Avenue, held its grand opening Tuesday night, after perfecting its service and food since its soft opening at the end of October.

“We want to offer high quality sushi at a reasonable price,” said chef and co-owner Mark Garcia, known professionally as Chef Mark. “We feel that there are a lot of great places in the City, but you have to pay a lot to get in the door, and I feel uneasy about that. We don’t want to alienate anyone in neighborhood, and we want to offer the highest possible experience and still give everyone to have a chance to come eat with us.”

The restaurant focuses on offering “omakase,” which is a series of sushi dishes chosen for each customer by the chef. It also has a sushi menu and a hot menu, which features “robata,” or a Japanese grilled meat and vegetables.

The restaurant seats 30 people, eight at the sushi bar and 22 at tables, and will have an outdoor patio and event space open in the spring that will seat an additional 45 people.

Garcia and co-owner Jay Zheng met while working at upscale restaurants in Chicago, and have been planning to open their own place for five years.

The pair searched for locations in Chicago, but decided to open in New York because of its openness to unique takes on Japanese food.

“Our restaurant is Japanese inspired, with a bit of a modern approach,” Zheng explained. “In Chicago, Japanese cuisine is still fairly new, ramen is just getting started, but when I came to New York I saw everything here was more developed and accepting,” he said.

They ended up finding the location in Astoria by accident. After spending a day searching for locations in Long Island City, Zheng was on his way home to Flushing when he spotted an open storefront in Astoria, where they ultimately opened Gaijin.

“Astoria is very up and coming, with new buildings and new people, and we thought we could be one of the first restaurants to offer the omakase experience and upscale Japanese cuisine in the area,” Zheng said.

The owners decided to name the restaurant “Gaijin,” meaning “outside person” in Japanese, to represent their outsider status. “The idea behind the name was that me and partner are both not Japanese and not from New York, so it represents our outsider approach on Japanese cuisine,” Zheng said.

The restaurant is open from 12 to 3 p.m. and from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 12 to 3 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday, and from 5 to 11 p.m. on Saturday.

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Aaron Quigley

I’ve lived in Japan twice. This place has some of the most inspired, delicious and inventive Japanese cuisine I have ever tasted. This is not predictable Japanese food it tantalises and moves beyond what you might expect. Mark is a remarkable chef and I think he is destined for greatness.


Why do some articles say there are comments but when you go to the article there aren’t any posts? So strange this website. Some articles they allow comments others there are not.

Lies all lies

No i dont know about the zoning thats why i asked. How do you know unless you ask, astoria girl?


The tea / coffee house is in the ugly building next door.
This spot is in the ugly building to the left of the ugly building on the right.

Also, which no one pointed out, JJ’s is basically across the street from here
It’s not expensive and i have never had a poor dining or takeout experience there. Ever


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