H. A. Café, a popular Asian American café and tea house in Storrs Center, is revamping its style with new management, a new look, new options and a new name: “Love Art Sushi.”
The name “Love Art Sushi” was effective as of Sept. 18, though general manager Prima Mote says plans for the café’s grand opening are set for sometime late in October.
Though Love Art Sushi is currently still in its soft opening phase, the café has been operating normally, allowing for a lot of experimentation with new ideas. So far, there are two new inventions for customers to try, Mote said.
Customers have the option to sear their sushi bowls, which changes the entire flavor of the bowl creating a tender consistency, Mote said.
Another new option on the menu will be the “makiritto,” which is an uncut sushi roll that can be dipped in any of their house made sauces. There is also an option to substitute the fish in the sushi roll with fried chicken for anyone who does not like traditional sushi.
Though there are many new things on the menu, the café still serves sushi bowls as one of its three main dishes, alongside sushi and bubble tea.
One of the more popular sushi bowls from H. A. Cafe, the Husky Bowl, came to fruition when Ronald Liu, one of H. A. Café’s cofounders, had a friend on the UConn football team come in during a rush looking for a quick, filling meal. In a hurry, Liu took a bowl of rice, threw some fish on top and sold it to his friend. The makeshift sushi bowl became a hit among the football players, and H. A. Café’s signature Husky Bowl was created, Mote said.
“It wasn’t even like, okay I’m going to spend 12 hours, and I’m gonna come up with the greatest invention,” Mote said. “It was really like [Liu] was panicking, and he was like all right this is my friend, I need to hook him up. How do I do that? And then he made the Husky Bowl.”
The restaurant originally opened in 2013 with more traditional dishes, but the owners, Liu and Jessica Chiep, both UConn alum, wanted to have a menu that would allow them to change and adapt to the constantly changing demographic of UConn, Mote said.
They eventually decided to revamp the menu to cater to mainstream UConn. The change opened up their original menu to an array of choices that were more familiar and approachable, Mote said.
The restaurant was very successful, Mote said, but it was not the original vision Liu and Chiep had. Love Art Sushi, the third transformation in three years, captures their true vision, Mote said.
“So if you can imagine caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly, we’re at the butterfly phase,” Mote said. “So this is something that I think is going to be the lasting final form of their big dream.”
Liu and Chiep are currently in the beginning phase of expanding their business in Boston as well, Mote said.
“The biggest challenge right now is to create a new identity all on its own separate from (H.A. Café),” Mote said. “That’s the toughest part. Trying to create a new identity while also catering to our loyal following that we had before we made this huge change.”
Alexandria Stefanou, a seventh-semester education major at Eastern Connecticut State University, said she had not been to the café since it was revamped, but was pleased with the change because it was more efficient.
“I liked the sushi rolls [from before], but it’s kind of nice cause it’s like Chipotle,” Stefanou said.
Rhyza Velasco, a seventh-semester computer science and engineering major at UConn, said she has been a long time customer of the café and said she preferred the older menus.
“They kept reinventing their dishes until they were no longer original,” Velasco said.
Mote said he is working to make Love Art Sushi’s presence known on the UConn campus by offering promotions and fundraising opportunities for student organizations. He expects their official website to launch at the same time as their grand opening.
Love Art Sushi is active on social media where they announce all of their promotions, including the opportunity to win free bubble tea. They can be followed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and will be launching their Snapchat in the near future. The restaurant also does business through Hungry Huskies and will accept Husky Bucks after the grand opening.
Emma Casagrande is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .