2018 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Jason Liang of Brush Sushi Izakaya

2018 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Jason Liang of Brush Sushi Izakaya
January 2018

Born in South Carolina and raised in Taiwan, Jason Liang grew up with a reverence for Japanese cooking and culture, and he worked his way up in Taipei’s hotel kitchens under the tutelage of strict, classically trained Japanese chefs. When Liang moved back to the United States in 2006, he settled in Atlanta and worked in mom-and-pop sushi spots. Baffled by America’s spicy mayo version of sushi, he dreamed of bringing Tokyo-style traditions and fish to Atlanta. In the meantime, Liang helped open One Sushi Plus and sharpened his skills at Craft Izakaya in Krog Street Market. 

In 2016, Liang struck out on his own and opened Brush Sushi Izakaya in Decatur, where he offers Tokyo-style sushi and sashimi, spectacular omakase, ramen, and robata-grilled izakaya fare. It’s the sushi, though, that defines Liang. He believes in sourcing peak season seafood, instead of pandering with ubiquitous tuna, salmon, and yellowtail. And in line with Tokyo’s counters, his omakase isn’t about freshness—it’s about preparing fish to its best state though aging, curing, marinating, or smoking with hay. Authenticity is his highest aim. Fortunately for Atlanta, Liang also make a mean kara-age and chicken-seafood ramen, and he’s opening a second quick-serve concept, Momonoki, to feed the masses in Tech Square.



Interview with Atlanta Rising Star Chef Jason Liang

 

Caroline Hatchett: How would you describe your sushi style?
Jason Liang:
Tokyo style. We source the best quality ingredients, in peak season, instead of getting just basic tuna, salmon, and yellowtail. I pre-order all my fish, every week, and 90 percent to 95 percent is from Japan. The sushi menu changes daily, because every week we have different fish and only a certain amount of fish we can do. Tokyo style isn’t about freshness, it’s about preparing fish to its best state. Some need to be cured, some marinated, aged, or simmered. Nothing is just cut up and served. We probably have best omakase in the city for price and quality.

CH: Who’s your mentor?
JL:
I don’t have one. A lot of stuff I learned by myself. I did have a couple of good teachers and chefs in Taipei. 

CH: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
JL:
Trying to get more customers. Traffic here on weekdays is hard. There are a lot of families, and this is considered a higher-end destination for people coming during weekends. We’re packed Friday and Saturday, but most nights are kind of quiet. Hopefully, more apartments and more businesses—bigger businesses—will be moving in. Atlanta is growing in general. But, the cuisines I’m doing are still … not made for everyone. I have [sushi] rolls, but no spicy mayo all over the place. I offer it, but it’s not the focus. 

CH: What's your five-year plan? 
JL:
I don’t want to be under the spotlight. It’s about surviving, doing what you love. We want to keep doing what we’re doing. I have a second restaurant, Momonoki, next to Tech Square that will serve ramen, onigiri, Katsu-sandos, and be quick service fast casual. We just want two for now and want to try to make sure both restaurants are running smoothly. Once we pay back our debt, we’ll see where we can go from there. We don’t have any investors. 

CH: What do you want to bring to Atlanta? 
JL:
For a long time, I wanted to bring sushi and Japanese restaurants. It was never about being a chef. What I’m trying to show is Japanese restaurants can be locally sourced, crafted, and that it’s not about just making money. You can save the trip to Tokyo, just come here to have the same quality experience. It’s not too intimate or fussy. It’s relaxing, casual, good quality. You can taste my cuisine, my ramen, my sushi. Everything here is based on authentic dishes, some with a twist and others the same. I am taking a risk opening this restaurant, in this location because this style is new here. No one charges $13 to $20 for sushi. This is what it costs when you pay for quality. People will know when they see menu that this is real menu. I’m here trying to change the game, to get people to copy us.