At Seamless, we’re pretty obsessed with knowing everything about popular NYC restaurants—including the people who run them. With our Couch Convo series, we sit down with the people behind the most delicious local spots. Next up: Jeremy Poon, the VP of Operations at Sanctuary Hotel—home of Sushi Lab.
Seamless: Jeremy, you’re the VP of Operations at Sanctuary Hotel—home of Sushi Lab and other restaurants. What do you think restaurants bring to the table?
Jeremy: Our restaurants are dedicated to not only providing proper service, but they’re also passionate about creating experiences for each individual. They focus on what people enjoy eating, what makes them comfortable in a setting and what keeps them coming back for more.
Seamless: How did you get into the restaurant business?
Jeremy: I started my venture in food and beverage about nine years ago with ownership of the hotel. Along with owners Hank and Brandon Freid, the three of us opened our first food and beverage spot—Haven Rooftop Restaurant. Haven became a very successful full-service rooftop restaurant right in the heart of Times Square.
The following year, we opened Tender Steak and Sushi on the lobby level of the hotel. The focus was on prime grade steaks and other Japanese-inspired delights.
Last year in February, we focused on the omakase concept and opened Sushi Lab. We really wanted a unique dining experience where people could observe the preparation of the food and could feel like they were part of it. Here in Times Square, there are a few good sushi spots—especially at a price point that doesn’t break the bank. We wanted to develop a spot for everyday sushi.
Seamless: Let’s talk food. What are your go-to dishes from Sushi Lab?
Jeremy: Our omakases are our go-to dishes. Omakase translates into “chef’s choice” and often people like the element of surprise. And for sushi lovers, eating omakase means that they can sample a variety of different fish specifically curated with the chef’s very own take on traditional sushi. It’s a good balance of flavors that takes you on a journey for the senses.
Seamless: How has the coronavirus impacted your hotel—more specifically your restaurants?
Jeremy: We have had to change how we offer food. Understanding what travels well and what doesn’t is key. Before closing, Sushi Lab was about being present for the experience—the chef making each piece for you one by one as you sit and watch. We were able to explain each meticulously curated piece to the patron so they understood the balance of flavors and why it was done that way. Unfortunately, we can no longer do that. So the chef puts his best efforts in making everything visually appealing and creating a taste that makes you want more.
Also, the staff is using gloves and face masks at all times. This is for the team’s protection and also for the protection of our customers. Plus, we are constantly disinfecting.
Seamless: We understand that you’ve also been delivering food. Why did you decide to take on that responsibility?
Jeremy: I started Sushi Lab from the ground up. And now with the challenges we face, I still want to see things through. I want to be at the forefront and build a connection with our local supporters. We have been blessed with so many regulars that continue to help keep things alive right now by ordering take-out. For me, delivering to them is the least I can do to show Sushi Lab’s gratitude. I hope they feel happy that good food has arrived and I hope they feel safe.
Seamless: Three words that describe Sushi Lab’s loyal fans. 1, 2, 3…go!
Jeremy: Inspiring, understanding and supportive.
Seamless: Random question: How are you staying positive during this time?
Jeremy: I’m staying positive by continuing to come up with different ideas to put on the take out menu. Knowing that we are able to create something that others will enjoy is very rewarding.
Seamless: Anything else you’d like to tell your customers?
Jeremy: Stay healthy and be safe.