First Look: Shogun

The past couple of months have drawn attention to that particular stretch of sidewalk from the corner of Lark to Madison, with Lark Tavern reopening (as not the Lark Tavern but as Any Other Bar in Random Small Town USA) and the former Art Room building next door going under a mysterious facelift. On Tuesday, the renovations were unveiled and the Albany location of Shogun was officially open to the public for business.

As stated in past reviews, going to a new business during their soft opening or opening day/week can potentially result in you not wanting to return again. Sometimes it’s smart to wait until a business gets in the groove of things, iron out any kinks, etc. but we were all pretty excited that the Lark St. neighborhood is now home to a sushi spot that we decided to check it out on its opening day.

Here’s the full gallery from Andrew and check out the rest of KC’s review beneath the cut.

Even if we were abiding by Foodie Law 101, Shogun Sushi & Sake Bar would have been an exception from any former avoid-the-opening-week predetermined notions. I went with a couple friends who are big into sushi and know way more about it than I do. I, myself, experience constant social backlash because I avoid sushi because of shellfish allergies and a flawed closed-minded tendency with food, but I was able to find at least three things I wanted to order off the menu almost immediately. The menus themselves were gorgeous and also laid out well (not too overwhelming given their diverse and wide-range of items). From what I’ve heard, the menu is very similar to the original location.

Upon being seated immediately, the owner Frank Lee, who also owns the original Shogun location in Delmar, introduced himself and happily welcomed us. We also were introduced to several members of the staff throughout the course of our meal, which made it seem like their staff really has the “team effort” thing down already but effortlessly. Also of note to restaurant owners: if your wait staff is friendly and appears as though they are having a good time, it makes it that much easier for the customer to enjoy their company and meal without question.

The interior design was done by artist Tommy Watkins and is probably one of the most attractive and intricate restaurant settings I’ve ever been in. This restaurant very well could be picked up and placed down in the city somewhere and would still stand out. But lucky for us, it’s in Albany.

We had the pleasure of casually talking with Tommy while we ate, learning about his vision and talking about how much of an asset Shogun will be to the neighborhood.

“I was going for something unlike typical Albany restaurants,” said Tommy. “There’s a lot of pubs and bars in this area, as well as buildings with lots of historic significance. With this building, which used to be the Art Room, there wasn’t any historical significance, so we were able to do things like raise the ceiling, while other places simply can’t do those renovations. This building formally had a lot of space that they weren’t utilizing and I wanted to really utilize the space properly.”

“I’ve done a restaurant for Frank before in the past and what’s great about working with him is that he really turns the space over to me, in the sense that I was able to have creative control and that makes my job easier. Sometimes business owners will have ideas that might not be the same as the designer, which can make it not as smooth as a process like this experience was. We worked together on the vision of the place and in a way, I feel like this is our gift to the neighborhood.”

“With this spot specifically, I wanted to make it feel as though even though you are sitting in one restaurant, there are three different atmospheres within. I focused on different textures and I wanted to get creative with the wall space. I made sure that I didn’t use the color red in excess, for example, because red can be very overpowering and even lose its uniqueness at times. So I balanced it with other colors.”

Due to his career as an artist, Tommy has experience in the art gallery world. He told us a bit about what people watching is like at art openings and how people typically scan the space and walk in a circle, spending a mere two seconds looking at each piece. He talked about how he feels that if someone spends more than two seconds looking at something, then they are connected to it and how interesting it is to see when people stop to soak it in instead of just looking at it. During the entire duration of our meal Tuesday, I found myself noticing new details pretty much every time I looked up from my plate and also will say that Tommy has original paintings on display at the restaurant which definitely deserve more than two seconds of your viewing pleasure.

During our meal, the restaurant wasn’t overpoweringly busy but it was still pretty packed and was operating as if it had been open for years. It was cool to hear what other people were saying during their first meals at Shogun as well. I’d say so far so good.

The presentation of our food was also great, and I thoroughly enjoyed my pad thai both for dinner and for lunch the next day.

Overall, I think we agreed that Shogun is an excellent date spot, because it feels fancy but it’s not only-go-there-on-your-birthday fancy. Our meal also fell under the fine-dining-without-fine-dining-prices category, which is awesome.

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