Aug. 24, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
A beloved traditional Japanese sushi restaurant is set to close for good after an 11-year run in Sunnyside.
Takesushi, known for its exceptionally fresh fish imported from Tokyo, will close its 43-46 42nd St. location in late October, having never fully recovered from the pandemic-era lockdowns, according to its owner Robin Kawada.
Kawada, 74, said he has struggled to turn a profit over the last three and a half years and feels that the current economic climate — with rising costs and inflation — is too much of a burden to overcome.
He also said that the 42nd Street establishment has fallen into disrepair and he has been locked in a bitter dispute with his landlord who he said refuses to fix the problems. Kawada said leaks and other problems have gone untended for years.
“There’s too much trouble with the building,” Kawada said. “I have been spending my own money fixing things.”
Takesushi has gained a reputation for offering high-quality fish at low cost with its sushi and sashimi being customer favorites.
Prior to the pandemic, Kawada, who is the face of the business and a pioneer in the New York sushi industry, would travel to Tokyo every fortnight to purchase the fish. Most seafood imports would be available to eat after 48 hours of being caught but his trips reduced that time to 18 hours.
The rest of his fish offerings are mostly sourced from the New Fulton Fresh Fish Market in the Bronx, where he makes regular morning trips and hand-selects high-quality fish based on seasonal variety and freshness. He also takes into consideration their regional waters, seasonal habits and other aspects.
“So many people come from Manhattan, Long Island — from all over,” Kawada said.
He said that some high-end restaurants in Manhattan charge up to five times more for sushi compared to Takesushi.
Takesushi offers a wide range of fish including tuna, squid, oysters, sea bass, soft shell crab, octopus, sardines, shrimp, salmon and horse mackerel.
Customers looking to visit Takesushi before it closes can still savor top sellers like its special fish rolls and cooked dishes, including pork katsu over rice and the salmon teriyaki dinner.
Robin Kawada preparing fish at Taeksushi (Facebook, Sept. 2022)
News of the closure was first announced via the company’s Instagram business page earlier this month.
“We would like to thank all those who have supported us… this was an exciting journey, and we are grateful to have had the pleasure of serving you all,” the post reads.
The post sparked a big reaction online, since Takesushi is very popular among local residents having amassed a 4.5-star rating (out of a possible 5) on Google based on nearly 370 reviews.
“So sad to hear this!” wrote one poster. “You were the best sushi restaurant in Queens and you will be sorely, sorely missed!”
“This is so sad to hear it. Sunnyside is losing an institution,’ wrote another.
The closure will bring an end to Kawada’s foray into Sunnyside for now — but it won’t necessarily mark the final chapter in his decades-long career in the industry. Kawada, at one time, had establishments at 230 Park Ave, at 54th Street/2nd Ave, as well as one in Great Neck and in Woodmere, Long Island.
He says he was among the first sushi specialists in Manhattan when he opened a restaurant in April 1974. Kawada also operated a seafood import and export company in the past.
Kawada, who moved to the United States when he was 21, said he intends to open a new Queens location in the future, once he finds a suitable space.
He said he was offered financial backing from investors to continue operating at the Sunnyside location, but relations with the landlord have become untenable, so he decided to close.
“So many people offered me money to continue but I said ‘no, no, no,'” Kawada said. ” I want to finish my job at the end of October and after that, we can think about it.”
In the meantime, he intends to take a short vacation and use the time to go on his honeymoon — 25 years after getting married. He said he intends to explore Japan, as he never got the opportunity to do so before because all of his trips there were for work purposes.
“I don’t know anything about Japan because I came here when I was 21,” Kawada said. “I just went to Japan for business only,” he said laughing.