When I heard yesterday’s news that Alex Stupak of Empellón Cocina had taken over the former Sushi Lounge space, it felt like I’d gotten a little wasabi in my eye.
Sushi Lounge was the first place that didn’t card me. I started drinking green apple saketinis there when I was 17. From 10 ‘til close, beer and saketinis were $3. My friends and I would get there around 9:45 p.m., order Golden Dragon Rolls, switch our soy sauce with a low-sodium bottle from an empty table, start eating and then order drinks. Since we were underage, I thought it was too suspicious to go in right at 10 and ask for booze. But that 15 minute wait made me feel like one of those real women, the kind with a doorman and a gynecologist, someone cavalier enough to set aside her chopsticks mid-meal and, what the hell, order a cocktail.
All Sushi Lounge sushi was delicious and they had a limited-time offer where you could order $15 or maybe $20 worth for half price. That deal was in place for the entire eight years I was a customer. So was the offensive yellow exterior.I went on dates there with three guys, wanting them to love the joint as much as I did. And even though the product was great and the price was right, the Sushi Lounge staff tried your patience. Most waiters wouldn’t split a check, or if they did, they acted liked they’d been asked to take a bath in the Gowanus Canal. God help you if you had no cash and you didn’t meet their credit card minimum. I left my driver’s license at the counter a few times — unprompted, just to show good faith — while I walked 20 minutes to my bank to avoid an ATM fee.
During its last couple months in business, Sushi Lounge seemed to be open only on days the staff rallied. And now, news that Alex Stupak has taken over the vacancy at 132 St. Marks.
There’s probably some Japanese mantra about endings and new beginnings. Maybe that’s what the guy wrote on the window.