Old School Friends Bring New School Flair to Plans for Asian Restaurant

Co-owners Tom Wang, Jessica Chiep, and Ronald Liu (from left to right) pose in front of their new Asian restaurant Haru Aki in the newly constructed Storrs Center on April28, 2013. (Max Sinton/UConn Photo)
Co-owners Tom Wang, Jessica Chiep, and Ronald Liu (from left to right) pose in front of their new Asian restaurant Haru Aki in the newly constructed Storrs Center on April28, 2013. (Max Sinton/UConn Photo)

SHARELINES

Recent alums, from left, Tom Wang, Jessica Chiep, and Ronald Liu pose in front of One Royce Circle at Storrs Center, the site for their new Asian restaurant, which will open in the fall. (Max Sinton '15 (CANR)/UConn Photo)
Recent alums, from left, Tom Wang, Jessica Chiep, and Ronald Liu at Storrs Center, where they plan to open a new Asian restaurant in the fall. (Max Sinton ’15 (CANR)/UConn Photo)

UConn alumni and childhood friends Ronald Liu ’11 (BUS), Jessica Chiep ’12 (CANR), and Thomas Wang ’11 (BUS) will open a Japanese restaurant, Haru Aki Café, at Storrs Center in the fall, adding Asian cuisine to the range of dining options at the growing downtown complex.

“The transformation of Storrs is an invitation for people to get out and be where the action is,” says Liu. “We want to be a part of this excitement with a modern, authentically inspired Japanese café.”

Haru Aki – a Japanese expression that translates to “Fall and Spring” – plans to serve authentic Japanese street fare with traditional elements. They also hope to synthesize these dishes with influences from all over Asia.

Haru Aki Cafe Logo

Liu says the restaurant will serve tapas – small, carefully prepared dishes inspired by Pan-Asian fusion themes, as well as specialty items such as hand-crafted sashimi salads, house-made curry dumplings, gyu-don (Japanese shaved beef with scallions and sweet onion over rice), teppanyaki (dishes cooked on an iron griddle), and okonomiyaki (savory pancakes containing a variety of ingredients).

“This blend of old and new creates a culture that becomes an important part of the dining experience,” Liu says. “The environment of Haru Aki will be similar to edgy restaurants you would expect to find in major cities such as New York, Chicago, or San Francisco.”

The transformation of Storrs is an invitation for people to get out and be where the action is.

The entrepreneurs, all recent graduates of UConn, plan to offer school-friendly hours and a delivery service. They are confident that students will welcome a Pan-Asian alternative to other eateries on campus.

“We want to stay away from cliché foods,” says Chiep. “When we were here, we went to places like Sgt. Pepperoni’s for convenience.”

The concept for the restaurant includes plans to present Asian food and culture in a unified way.

Says Wang, “It’s not your standard Japanese place.” He believes the restaurant has the potential to revolutionize how Asian food is presented to American consumers.

The trio will schedule monthly Saturday morning workshops featuring activities such as sushi rolling, fresh mochi tastings, and dumpling making, as well as anime screenings and introductions to various Asian art techniques.

Haru Aki Café is expected to open in September 2013, in the One Royce Circle building at Storrs Center. For more information, visit the restaurant’s Facebook page at facebook.com/HaruAkiCafe, or www.haruakicafe.com (coming soon).