Originally printed in the December 2019 issue of Produce Business.
Cuisine: Vegan sushi
Beyond Sushi is a chef-driven, globally inspired vegan sushi concept that uses unconventional pairings of fresh fruit and vegetables with whole grains in creating colorful, fish- and meat-free sushi rolls, rice paper wraps, dumplings, salads, and soups. Its mission is to eat clean and to leave a lasting impact on the planet.
The brainchild of Israel-born chef Guy Vaknin, Beyond Sushi launched in July 2012. The popular brand has evolved into a six-strong chain across Manhattan, with a focus on full-service dining, a new upscale catering division and plans to expand.
“Only 40% of our customers are vegan. I think that says a lot about our food — it has mass appeal,” says Vaknin, explaining the goal is to help people incorporate plant-based alternatives into their diet without sacrificing anything.
Chef-driven means Vaknin develops the menu himself. He spends time daily in the kitchen, inspired by his global travels. He introduces flavor profiles through unusual ingredients such as burdock root, daikon, chayote, hijiki and yuzu. Vaknin likes to experiment with cooking methods — from charring, roasting and toasting, to torching, braising and pickling.
“When you’re working with whole foods, you need to know how to best coax out the flavor, while maintaining their integrity,” says Vaknin. Over the summer, he introduced dehydrated Moroccan olives as a garnish with an interesting salty/briny crunch. “You can really do a lot with different cooking techniques if you know how to get creative,” he adds.
Catherine Aust, catering and events director for Beyond Sushi, agrees. “In all our dishes, we try to incorporate a range of textures and flavors,” she explains. “The Pickle Me sushi roll has pickled carrots and daikon (a bright crunch), black rice (a chewy, nutty texture), avocado on top (a mellow creaminess), and a carrot ginger sauce (a punch of fresh flavor). We think about all these elements when crafting a dish,” says Aust.
Beyond Sushi’s all-time most popular dish is the Spicy Mang sushi roll. “I can definitely see why,” notes Aust. “It has mango, cucumber, avocado, a veggie slaw topping, and a house-made toasted cayenne sauce. Savory, spicy, and sweet is an undeniably good combo, plus you have the fresh crunch from the veggies and creaminess of the sauce. You really can’t go wrong.”
Another popular roll is the Mighty Mushroom, which has braised shiitake, portabella, and enoki mushrooms with baked tofu, served with a shiitake truffle sauce. “Overall, it has such a satisfying umami flavor that our customers love,” notes Aust.
The menu is updated at least yearly, and it features rotating seasonal specials, such as the current fall menu. “It’s been wildly popular so far with our customers,” says Aust. “One of the most popular new plates is our Kefta Kebabs — our own blend of Impossible meat, seitan and Moroccan herbs, served with campfire potatoes, torched broccoli, ground mustard seed, harissa and toasted pine nuts.
Above all, Vaknin loves incorporating Mediterranean and Morrocan ingredients since they evoke childhood memories. “Vegetables like eggplant, artichoke, and mushrooms are just homey and delicious,” he says. “I also love using spices like za’atar, sumac and saffron. They bring so much life and flavor to the food.”
BEYOND SUSHI (37TH STREET)
134 W 37th St, New York, NY 10018
Tel: (212) 564-0869
Hours: Mon-Weds: 11.30 a.m.-9.30 p.m.; Thurs-Fri: 11.30 a.m.-10.30 p.m.; Sat: 12.00 p.m.-10.30 p.m.; Sun: 12.00 p.m.-9.30 p.m.