Right on the heels of a closure announcement by the high profile Osteria Mazzantini last week, this week, we found out that another restaurant is set to close: Donald Chang's Nara Sushi and Korean Kitchen in the West Ave complex in Upper Kirby will serve its last meal this coming Saturday evening, January 31.
The announcement, which came via press release and was first reported by Greg Morago at the Houston Chronicle, attributes the closure to a disagreement with the landlord, Northwestern Mutual from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which operates the property in conjunction with Gables.
"It's disappointing because I loved the concept, loved the restaurant, gave it my all," Chang said. "I poured my heart and soul into it. With everything we were trying to accomplish, I really did not expect the difficulty to come from the landlord side. It wasn't something that was anywhere within the realm of possibility in my mind, but unfortunately, that's what happened."
"Gables has been nothing but love - nothing but sweet to us - but I just don't understand what the disconnect is (from Northwestern). Unfortunately we just can't continue investing more and more money in a place that's not investing in us."
The closure is all the more disappointing because Chang and his business partner recently completed a remodeling project on the property that totaled more than $100,000. The changes included relocating the entrance, which was tucked in a corner that was hard for guests to find, prominently onto the Kipling Street side of the restaurant. It also converted Nara's semi-private Korean Grill Room into an entrance and bar area, turning the original bar and entrance into a private dining room.
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In December, Nara requested some concessions from the landlord that they felt were necessary to make them successful, with the intent to close that month if the concessions were not met. The landlord persuaded Nara to stay open until January 31, hinting at a resolution in the interim, which was never forthcoming. Instead, the landlord served Nara with a 10-day notice to vacate by January 31.
Nara's Facebook page reads: "Our last day of service will be Saturday, January 31st. Thank you Houston for all your love and support the past 14 months, but never fear: When one kitchen door closes, another one opens, stay tuned for details. Join us as we celebrate our last week of service here at Nara Sushi & Korean Kitchen. We are open for lunch from 11am to 2pm and dinner from 5pm to 10pm (M-W), 5pm to 11pm (Th-F), and 11am to 11pm Saturday! For reservations, call us at (281) 249 5944 or visit www.narahouston.com."
If you haven't been in to try Nara's incredible spicy pork jowl buns, or indulged in one of Chang's sharing plates of Texas Wagyu Tomahawk Steak seared on the hot rock, or his unforgettable Korean style pork shank with kimchi sautee and fried soft tofu, you have until Saturday evening to do so.
For his part, Chang is sad about the closure, but remains positive. He already has a new project in the works, with details to emerge in the coming weeks.