After renovations that took months longer than expected and a concept that is different from what was planned, the restaurant formerly known as Prime Deli is expected to reopen this summer, pending city and county approvals, and hiring enough staff.
Sato Sushi & American Fusion will be just as the name implies; a sushi counter up front, with seating where it had been prior to Prime Deli closing. There will be some kosher meat restaurant standards, like burgers, hot dogs, and schnitzel.
The big change from when the closure and revamp of the space was announced last August is that acclaimed chef Stewart Woodman will not be a part of the project. Sang Hun Kwon will be leading the sushi preparation.
The big plus in being a Japanese restaurant: there is no pricing up-charge for kosher fish versus non-kosher.
“When you deal with meats, the price differential is just too high to be able to pull in anything from the outside market,” said Mayer Roberts, the restaurant’s owner. “The prices [for fish] are similar, meaning we’re getting the fish from the same places that the next place is getting from, which allows you to be a lot more competitive than you are in the meat market.”
The restaurant’s owners worked with high-end designers in New York to give the interior a facelift. Once the restaurant opens, however, the work isn’t done; a private dining room/event space and overflow seating. The space – which is the storefront between the restaurant and Kosher Spot – had been used for storage. “The only thing holding that back now is permitting,”
Roberts said that the city has been helpful in trying to help the restaurant move forward with what he’s calling Phase 2.
“We are not planning at all on closing down; we’re planning on building out the space there and then opening it up,” he said.
The area that had been the food display case is now where the sushi prep counter is, which opens up the rest of the kitchen to do the American food.
“Since sushi is pretty much a bar area that you turn into a food prep base, you don’t really lose your kitchen,” he said. “If you had to open a Japanese concept, but you’re utilizing your own kitchen for it and you lose room to be able to do what you would like to do in an American restaurant. Since you have the bar area, for him to be able to do his sushi and you have room for you know, two, three, maybe even four people [to work].”
Amy Zagar, a senior environmentalist with Hennepin County, said she had requested a new review of the restaurant’s plan as there was a change from the original plan that was submitted last fall. The St. Louis Park planning department has reviewed the building permit application on file for Prime Deli that will be issued when a parking plan is submitted. City ordinance requires 58 parking spaces are required, but city staff is working with the owners to reduce the number by showing that the two uses in the development – the restaurant and Kosher Spot – will not have a combined parking need that exceeds 58 parking spaces. City Communications Director Jacque Smith said that the city code allows this when it is shown that the uses have compatible and non-competing parking demands. Once the governmental entities are satisfied, then the restaurant will be allowed to open.
Originally, the plan was to have a new restaurant up and running within a couple months of the closure. The change in the chef driving the project helped delay that, as well as things like pandemic-related supply chain issues. But Prime Kosher Catering, which had been operating out of the kitchen at Prime Deli, was also a factor. The catering business is now operating out of Knollwood Place Apartments.
Prime is CRC kosher-certified, but Sholom wasn’t, so it required “months of preparation,” according to Roberts, before starting in earnest in February. ”There are many different little parts of the puzzle, then we took about a month to six weeks of getting ourselves comfortable over there. And then we were able to start focusing on the restaurant and getting that done because nothing was able to be done in the restaurant until we were functional somewhere else.”
He said that running two businesses out of one kitchen created a large challenge because there simply isn’t enough space.
“Besides trying to find the right person to chef and to work with, we also had to find the right kitchen, the right partnership to be able to move catering out and further the catering business,” he said. “We want to be able to offer kosher catering as well.”