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The Short Version: Couples don’t have to be vegan to be intrigued by the concept of vegan sushi. Nearly 60% of the customers at Beyond Sushi, a vegan restaurant in New York City, aren’t vegan but recognize the importance of eating healthy, high-quality food. The innovative eatery offers an extensive and interesting menu, including pasta and desserts for date nights. Beyond Sushi menu items are so authentic that some customers forget they’re vegan.
One of the top trends for restaurants in 2020 is adding more vegan options to the menu. Vegans follow a diet and lifestyle often focused on the moral and compassionate treatment of animals. That means they don’t consume any animals or animal byproducts. They don’t eat butter, cheese, honey, or eggs, and they don’t wear leather or fur products.
Two decades ago, there were barely any vegetarian options in restaurants, making it tricky for vegans to order anything other than plain salads. Even today, a recent survey found that just 5% of American adult respondents identify as vegetarian, and only 1 in 4 of those are strictly vegan.
Yet, the vegan trend has grown because many people recognize that it is one of the healthiest ways to eat. Studies show that vegans have a 15% lower risk of dying prematurely than people who eat meat — even occasionally.
“People realize it’s more important now than ever to shift our diets to plant-based sources,” said Catherine Aust, Catering and Events Director for Beyond Sushi, a vegan restaurant in New York City. “Even if folks aren’t becoming fully vegan, they are still more aware of what they are consuming and open to incorporating more vegan food into their diet.”
Beyond Sushi offers a memorable place where couples can enjoy a healthy vegan meal while connecting in a unique atmosphere. Its locations in NYC offer extensive menus that are both vegan and kosher, making the restaurant worth a visit, even for non-vegans.
The restaurant was founded by Guy and Tali Vaknin, who worked at a kosher catering company in New York City. He was the executive chef, and she was working in sales.
They started to recognize a growing interest in vegan cuisine and came up with the concept of a vegan and kosher sushi spot. When they tested their menu at the NYC Veg Food Fest, they were overwhelmed by the interest.
Shortly after they opened the first Beyond Sushi restaurant, Guy and Tali got married and started a family.
“We have a pretty small corporate team, and we all wear a lot of different hats to keep the place running,” Catherine said.
Chef Guy remains the executive chef and owner, and continually tests new recipes and creates new methods to streamline kitchen production. He loves to plan and innovate the brand. Tali helps with opening new locations and drives business and sales initiatives.
The restaurant’s operations manager, Christina, is a former teacher who oversees staff management. Catherine works events, catering, and communications.
While the team works hard to create a special experience for its vegan customers, it’s worth noting that about 60% of the people who visit Beyond Sushi aren’t even vegan.
“That speaks to the quality of the food, which is a big part of our philosophy: If you make great food, people will come back — vegan or not,” Catherine said. “Sharing beautiful moments over food, and spreading our plant-based mission along the way is why we do what we do.”
If you can’t imagine sushi without fish, it’s time to place an order. Beyond Sushi is famous for its innovative vegan sushi that incorporates vegetables, fruits, custom sauces, and antioxidant-rich black rice.
Mushroom-lovers can try the Mighty Mushroom, made with shiitake and enoki mushrooms, baked tofu, and micro arugula with a shiitake truffle sauce. For a tangier option, the Pickle Me rolls up pickled burdock root, daikon, carrots, avocado, and black rice with a carrot ginger sauce.
But the menu goes beyond sushi, too. It features a full dinner menu at all eight locations.
“In addition to our staple menu of sushi, dumplings, rice paper wraps, and salads, we also have hearty entrées that are perfect for a nice dinner,” Catherine said.
Some favorites include the house-made Smoked Kale Ravioli, Stuffed Artichoke with seitan and green pea mint sauce, Oyster Mushroom Tacos, and Pasta with “meatballs” made from Impossible products and their blend of spices.
Couples should always leave room for dessert, as Beyond Sushi offers a popular vegan warm chocolate chip cookie, topped with coconut-based chocolate ice cream and peanut butter sauce.
When indoor seating is available, the vibe is warm and inviting, with frequently changing dinner specials and crafted cocktails. Instead of cozying up inside, the restaurant has been offering patio service for a safe outdoor date.
Beyond Sushi has found success with both vegans and non-vegans in New York City. And recently, the team launched its new full-service catering division called City Roots.
“It’s the first 100% plant-based catering and events company in New York City,” Catherine said. “We’re looking forward to growing that brand in the future.”
Party planners can go online to get a quote for full-service catering and contact-free drop-offs at events. The restaurant even rents out its venue space for private parties and caters lunches for casual or corporate affairs.
City Roots caters everything from weddings to corporate events. It offers modern sushi stations, hors d’oeuvres, vegan charcuterie boards, and selections that range from Far East Fusion to Mediterranean Mezze.
In 2019, Beyond Sushi’s flagship location even hosted a wedding ceremony and reception. The midtown restaurant can seat 75 guests in its 3,000 square-foot space, while its Nolita site can accommodate 32 guests. The Upper East Side location, meanwhile, offers a full bar and room for up to 50 guests.
“The couple had their first date at Beyond Sushi, and they are very passionate about veganism,” Catherine said. “We were so honored to host their special day. And of course, we made all their Beyond Sushi favorites, plus some special items for the occasion.”
The team often receives messages from loyal customers who hope that they’ll open locations throughout the world. In the meantime, they are planning ways to open more restaurants in New York.
“We appreciate that we have fans waiting for us in their cities,” she said. “NYC is our home, and there’s still so much ground we want to cover here.”